The Health Benefits Of Chia Seeds Explained

Chia seeds.

Chia seeds have long been used in Central America as a staple source of energy and nutrition. This popular little seed has recently been blowing up in the Western world as a “super seed.” What exactly has made it so popular? Get ready for the full run-down here in our new feature in which we discuss the incredible health benefits of chia seeds!

What Are Chia Seeds?

A field with the chia plant.

The chia plant, our source of chia seeds.

A member of the mint family, chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica. Originating in Central America, chia seeds were anciently known as the “warrior’s food.” It is said that Aztec Warriors would consume just one tablespoon of chia seeds a day to sustain themselves during battle.

Providing a day’s worth of energy, chia seeds later became popularly known as “runner’s food,” as many consumed chia seeds to provide themselves with the fuel needed to run long distances. Today, chia seeds are used in a variety of ways for the purpose of taste, texture, and nutrition. These tasty little seeds can even be worked into your beauty routine!

Top 5 Health Benefits Of Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are acclaimed for their several health benefits which include promoting healthy skin, reducing signs of aging, supporting the heart and digestive system, and building stronger bones and muscles. Additionally, a recent study found a link between chia seeds and healing diabetes! It seems like there’s no limit to what chia seeds can do.

Nutrient dense, chia seeds are high in omega-3 fats and fiber. Chia seeds also contain large amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. They are a rich source of thiamine, selenium, and niacin, as well as riboflavin and folate. With so many benefits offered by chia seeds, it wasn’t easy compressing things down to a top-5, but we’ve done our best. Enjoy!

1. Chia For Protein President!

Chia seeds on top of a protein shake.

Chia seeds make a great protein shake topper.

Remarkably, chia seeds are in competition with Spirulina as the highest plant-based source of protein. That’s the kind of protein power we’re talking about! Chia seeds contain 17 grams of protein per 100 grams, which makes up 34% of your necessary daily protein intake!

Behold, gym junkies: Consuming chia seeds can be as energizing and protein-rich as a sports drink or shake. It’s no wonder that chia seeds are prized for their ability to provide sustainable energy. In fact, “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.”

2. Chia Seeds For Weight Loss

Girl looking healthy.

Chia seeds are great for weight loss.

While chia seeds are moderately high in calories, thanks to their healthy omega-3 fatty acids, their fiber content makes them a welcome addition to weight-loss diets. We’re not going to tell you that chia seeds are the secret to quick and easy weight loss. Let’s be honest: no single food, not even one as nutritious as chia seeds, can make or break your weight loss efforts on its own.

Caloric-Intake

To lose weight effectively, and in a healthy manner, you’ll need to follow a balanced diet and have a caloric intake which is less than the number of calories you burn each day. This way, your body naturally borrows energy from your fat storage. A 1-ounce serving of chia seeds provides 138 calories. That’s roughly 9% of the daily caloric limit for a 1,500-calorie diet or 7%  of a 2,000-calorie diet.

Although it’s a significant chunk of your daily caloric intake, you’ll get a lot of nutritional value for your calorie investment. Chia may be a worthwhile addition to your weight loss diet. So, how do chia seeds actually help you in your mission to build a leaner, healthier body?

Dietary Fiber

Chia seeds are jam-packed with dietary fiber — roughly 10 grams per ounce of seeds. That contributes a significant amount toward your daily fiber intake goals. Depending on your age and gender, you will want to consume between 21 and 38 grams daily.

Simply eating more fiber is a great way to lose weight, even if you don’t make other dietary changes, and chia significantly boosts your fiber intake. Additionally, chia seeds are great for detoxing the colon. Rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, chia seeds promote healthy digestion which in turn detoxes the colon.

Colon Health

The modern Western diet is generally devoid of quality fiber. Therefore, our colon begins to back up and become lined with gunk due to poor food choices and poor digestion. Chia seeds are a great addition to re-establish regularity, cleanse your system, and aid in faster digestion and weight loss. Please note: do not attempt too many colon cleanse methods at once. If using other supplements/methods, start with only a single serving of chia seeds per day.

3. Chia Seeds For Digestion and Constipation

As mentioned, chia seeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. It’s the insoluble fiber that aids in curing constipation. Soluble fiber helps bind fecal contents in your gut that can reduce cholesterol. Insoluble fiber helps you have regular bowel movements, which is great for your digestion. The recommended ratio of insoluble fiber to soluble fiber is 3 to 1, and chia seeds have an even mixture of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains all have insoluble fiber. This type of fiber adds bulk to the stool and helps food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines. When chia seeds absorb water, they take on a gel-like consistency, which may help with optimal stool formation – in other words, keeping stools more moist and easy to pass.

When using chia seeds as a digestive aid: mix a tablespoon of seeds in about eight ounces of water and let it sit for five minutes. This will allow the soluble fiber in the seeds to absorb as much water as possible before drinking.

Letting the seeds absorb water makes them easier to consume and allows the fiber to function effectively. Consume the chia seeds two to three times daily, either with or right after meals. Regular consumption for 2 to 4 weeks will help to clean your system and establish regularity.

4 & 5. Chia Seeds For Skin And Anti-Aging

Woman with half of her face clear and half showing signs of aging.

Improve skin and reverse aging effects using chia oil.

Tocopherols

Chia oil, when extracted from chia seeds, contains antioxidants called tocopherols – commonly known as vitamin E. In fact, it has highest levels of antioxidants in the oil family—beating out other popular oils such as flaxseed oil. The first role of tocopherols for skin is to protect from environmental stressors.

Tocopherols also help tighten and firm the look of skin, which makes vitamin E the perfect addition to any anti-aging formula. Vitamin E has a strong reputation as an effective moisturizer. Vitamin-E both moisturizes skin and helps it retain moisture, which can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Strengthening the Epidermis

As skin ages, the barrier of the outer layer becomes compromised due to weakening cells, making it harder for the skin to repair itself. Chia oil contains essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, which actively help strengthen the epidermis. Delivering these potent, raw nutrients directly to the skin can enforce the cell membrane and improve the texture and quality of the skin.

Omega-3 Benefits

Additionally, chia oil’s high levels of omega-3s help build collagen, which is key for supporting skin structure and maintaining youthful-looking skin. Furthermore, there’s evidence that chia oil can decrease the formation of skin darkening and age spots.

Omega-3 is not only an anti-aging property, but it’s also an anti-inflammatory. This makes chia oil a great remedy for irritated and inflamed skin. These anti-inflammatory molecules not only soothe inflamed skin, they can even reduce UV damage on the skin’s surface.

Why Buy Chia Oil

To add to this chia magic, you can get more bang for your buck with chia oil. While other oils might go rancid after six months, chia oil typically lasts far longer, sometimes for up to 2 years if it doesn’t contain any additives. Lastly, chia is on the lighter side, as far as oils go.

While other oils may feel greasy and take a while to absorb, chia is ultra light and rapidly absorbs into the skin. Be sure to look out for chia’s Latin name – “Salvia Hispanica” – when looking for chia oil. A number of brands use this moniker as opposed to its westernized, more common counterpart.

How To Eat Chia Seeds

Chia seeds with Greek yogurt, blueberries, granola, almonds and strawberries.

Chia seeds in Greek yogurt.

Chia seeds can be added to many foods. This makes them very easy to eat! The seeds are hydrophilic, meaning they can absorb up to 12 times their weight in a liquid when soaked. When immersed and soaked in liquid, chia seeds develop a gel-like coating, making them easier to swallow in a beverage.

Chia seeds can be used as a topping for yogurt, added to smoothies for an energy-boost, baked into goods for a healthy crunch, or even sprinkled over a salad.

Though they are versatile, there is a wrong way to consume chia seeds. Unfortunately, there have been reports of difficulty swallowing the seeds after ingesting a tablespoon of dry seeds and chasing it with water. One of the reasons chia seeds are touted for weight loss is that they expand multiple times their size in water and help you feel full for longer.

However, taking down a dry tablespoon and chasing it back with H2O is not going to lead to a comfortable experience. Chia seeds don’t always have time to reach your stomach under these circumstances and may irritate your throat or esophagus.

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Negative Side Effects Of Chia Seeds

According to researchers, chia is safe when consumed for up to 12 weeks and when applied to the skin for up to 8 weeks. Not enough is known to declare chia safe or unsafe if consumed for longer periods of time. For pregnant or breastfeeding women, again, not enough is known about the use of chia in order to clear folks for use.

Under these circumstances, it’s best to stay on the safe side and avoid use. Additionally, chia seeds contain high levels of triglycerides. Blood contains several types of fat, including cholesterol and triglycerides. Triglyceride levels are too high in some people, leaving them prone to heart disease and other risks.

Eating some types of chia can make raise triglyceride levels, creating or exacerbating certain health risks. If you have high triglycerides, stick with using a specific variety of chia called Salba which does not significantly increase triglyceride levels.

More so, chia contains high levels of alpha-linolenic acid. Some research suggests that large amounts of alpha-linolenic acid in the diet might increase the risk of prostate cancer. If you have prostate cancer or if it runs in your family, avoid eating large amounts of chia.

How about Pistachios, Mulberries, Brazil Nuts, Pumpkin Seeds, Macadamia Nuts, or Goji Berries? It’s all here at Maple Holistics!

Conclusion

Despite their small size, chia seeds are among the most powerfully nutritious foods on the planet. To top things off, chia seeds are a “whole grain” food, usually grown organically, non-GMO, and naturally free of gluten. Enjoy the incredible health benefits of chia seeds often and as always, thanks for reading!