Chia seeds: they’re black, they’re white, and they’re teeny tiny. They’re also a nutritional powerhouse. But why are they getting so much attention all of a sudden? Do they really live up to the health hype?
“The humble chia seed has been labelled a superfood for good reason,” says Scotty Gooding, former MKR contestant, personal trainer and clean eater. “Originating in South America, these seeds were a rich source of nutrients for the Mayans and Aztecs, and are packed with health benefits.”
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7 health benefits of chia seeds
#1 They’re full of omega-3s
Chia seeds contain around eight times more omega-3s than salmon, making them one of the richest plant-based sources of this essential fatty acid, which is imperative for optimal brain, heart and skin health.
#2 They’re a high source of protein
One serving of chia seeds – around 28 grams – contains over four grams of protein. This is nearly 10 per cent of the daily-recommended intake, making it a wonderful choice for vegetarians or those wanting to easily boost their protein intake.
#3 They’re gluten-free
Chia seeds do not contain any gluten or grains. This is wonderful news for coeliacs and those on a gluten-free diet as they’re free to make use of this superfood’s many nutritional benefits.
#4 They’re packed with fibre
Fibre is a must for digestive health, reducing inflammation, regulating bowel function and lowering cholesterol. One serving of chia seeds contains around 11 grams of fibre – that’s around a third of your daily intake.
#5 They’re rich in antioxidants
Antioxidants help protect the body from free radicals, ageing and cancer. Chia seeds have an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity – a measurement that lists the antioxidant value of foods) four times higher than blueberries. This high level of antioxidants also means chia seeds have a long shelf life of around two years, even without refrigeration.
#6 They’re bursting with minerals
Chia seeds contain a decent daily dose of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese – all of which are vital for maintaining healthy weight, strong bones, preventing hypertension and encouraging a speedy metabolism.
#7 They’re awesome for diabetics
Chia seeds have the unique ability of slowing down digestion, and the gelatin-like coating of chia seeds can help prevent blood sugar spikes when exposed to liquid. This means they naturally have a positive impact on regulating blood glucose levels, which help treat type-2 diabetes.
Now that we know how exceptional this teeny tiny goodies are, how does one easily add chia seeds to their diet? Scott suggests adding a tablespoon – the recommended daily dosage – of seeds to your breakfast or smoothie in the morning, or your lunchtime/dinnertime salad. They’re also a great addition to bread or muffin recipes. “Look out for wraps and bread made from chia, too – they’re a healthier alternative to wheat, are gluten-free and are perfect for lunches,” he adds. Too easy.
Shopping tip: When purchasing chia seeds, look for the black or white varieties. The red ones are immature chia seeds, which may lack all the nutritional benefits mentioned above.
Image credit: @hannasavannah_
*This article has been updated since its original publication date.
Do you eat chia seeds? Are you surprised to hear they have so many health benefits?