Oh those squishy little pearls of goodness. Acclaimed as a superfood, and rightly so, these little seeds used to be a crop stable grown by ancient Aztecs.
A member of the mint family, once chia seeds are hydrated in water, they soak up water and swell into a tiny little ball, making it similar in texture to tapioca pearls, but smaller-and in our opinion-a little smoother.
In case you are wondering, these are the exact same chia seeds that are used to grow a chia pet. But wait until you see all of the health benefits that chia seeds have to offer.
This nutrient-packed powerhouse food is truly a superfood, boasting copious quantities of two nutrients that we know the majority of Americans do not get enough of in their diet-fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Nutrients in Chia Seeds and Associated Health Benefits
1. The first nutrient that chia seeds are known for is plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids. These aren't the same as omega-3 fatty acids that come from fish, but they are still known as an EFA, or an essential fatty acid. Higher intakes of these essential healthy fats can reduce the risk of a cardiac event, and can also decrease triglyceride levels. But probably the most important function of omega-3 fatty acids is their ability to help reduce inflammation in the body, a feature which has countless healthy repercussions in your body.
2. A single ounce of chia seeds contains almost the same amount-5055mg to be exact-of plant-derived omega - 3 fatty acids as 1 oz of flaxseed, which contains 6388mg. This is much more than the USDA's recommended intake of 1100mg per day of the alpha-linoleic plant for of omega-3 fatty acids. Making sure you consume enough of these healthy omega-3 fatty acids each day will go a long way for your heart health.
3. Truly a force to be reckoned with when it comes to nutrient-dense foods-chia seeds contain essential minerals like selenium and potassium, and are a good source of certain b-vitamins, especially niacin. This makes the health benefits of chia seeds stand out and truly a superfood.
4. But one of the most important health benefits of chia seeds-they contain a ton of fiber. A whopping 10 grams in just 1 oz of these magical little seeds. You'll want to soak them in water first, though, to get all the benefits from this type of fiber-known as soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is different from the kind of 'rough' or 'insoluble' fiber you'll find in lettuce or kale, for example. Soluble fiber is a kind of 'smooth' fiber that is perfectly designed to stick to cholesterol and pull it out of your system.
5. Chia seeds have a huge health benefit outside of other superfoods, because they contain another, special kind of fiber. This type of 'gooey' fiber is known as a mucilage and is also found in aloe vera, cactus plants, as well as okra and flax seeds. Mucilages are slightly stringy - think about cutting open a fresh okra, or having some gumbo-and have been studied for health benefits. As it turns out, these fibers are essential to the survival of the bacteria living in our gut. And Chia seeds are a great source of mucilage-type fiber.
How to Use Chia Seeds
There is nothing more fun than introducing a new kind of texture into your favorite foods. For example, if you enjoy yogurt, you are going to love chia-yogurt. All you have to do is hydrate the chia seeds by using about 1 tsp of chia seeds in 1/3 cup water and allow them to hydrate for about 10 minutes. Then, stir into your favorite yogurt! The little beads of fiber will help keep you regular, and will help feed the healthy bacteria in your gut!
Other Chia Seed Uses
Chia seeds can replace an egg as a binder in most baked goods recipes. Just rehydrate them by combining 1 tsp of chia seeds in 1/3 cup of water, and substitute for 1 large egg in your favorite baked-goods recipes.
One of our favorite ways to add chia seeds to our day is to make a chia-pudding! Just add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds to 1 cup of your favorite milk, such as almond milk or coconut milk. Then sprinkle in fresh fruit like pineapple or mango, and allow to gel for about 10 minutes in the refrigerator. Then, viola! You have a delicious-and tropical-pudding containing all of the health benefits of chia seeds.
Mohd Ali N, Yeap SK, Ho WY, Beh BK, Tan SW, Tan SG. The promising future of chia, Salvia hispanica L. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012;2012:171956. doi: 10.1155/2012/171956. Epub 2012 Nov 21. PMID: 2325107