In a recent survey I performed (not a very scientific one, mind you), I took a look at some health websites to see what some of the popular “superfoods” were.
Then, I went to Pinterest and Instagram to see which health foods users were posting about.
After a few minutes of looking at all these websites, I realized the majority of them talked about chia seeds.
Well, I haven’t written much about chia seeds (hardly at all, actually), and I realized I’ve been depriving y’all of information on this nutritional rockstar.
So, if you’d like to learn about the very popular (and extremely affordable) chia seed, get ready to take the plunge…just don’t blame me when you find yourself at the grocery store in an hour.
Five Unexpected Reasons Chia Seeds Are Great for Your Health
#1 – They’re bursting with high-quality nutrients. What you might not realize is chia seeds have been a part of certain cultures’ diets for thousands of years. These seeds are originally from South America, and ancient cultures like the Mayans used them when they wanted a quick energy boost.
Cool fact: the word “chia” actually means “strength” in the ancient Mayan language.
The reason chia seeds are so highly praised in health circles now is because we’ve realized it’s got a really balanced nutritional profile. That, and they positively overflow with minerals and vitamins essential for good health.
1 ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds contains:
- Fiber: 11 g
- Protein: 4 g
- Fat: 9 g
- Calcium: 18% DV
- Manganese: 30% DV
- Magnesium: 30% DV
- Phosphorus: 27% DV
They’ve also got a fair amount of potassium, zinc, and vitamins B1, B2, & B3 .
If you’ll notice, it shows chia seeds are primarily fat, fiber and protein.
However, while these fats are healthier fats, don’t buy the hype about chia seeds being a “great source of omega-3s” – the fat they contain is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and your body has a difficult time converting it to EPA/DHA (the biologically preferred form of omega-3).
#2 – They can help you lose weight. In combination with a healthy diet and exercise, relying on chia seeds as a fixture in your diet could help you lose weight.
The reason this is true is because chia is made up of a certain kind of fiber that provides you with a sense of fullness. These fibers are called “glucomannans,” and they swell when saturated with water, helping you stay fuller longer.
Bear in mind, when I say they’ll help you lose weight, there’s not a study to prove this; in fact, the few studies that have been conducted about weight loss and chia seeds haven’t proven it at all.
But here’s the thing about chia seeds (or any food that has a similar nutritional profile) – using them to replace other, less substantive foods in your diet will eventually change your body’s profile. One study did show chia seeds were able to help curb appetite; so that is something to note, and lends plausibility to the idea that it’ll help you lose weight.
#3 – It’s possible they can improve heart health. There are a few nutrients found in chia that are vital for a healthy heart.
These include magnesium (which is essential for ventricular contraction), omega-3s (which are known to reduce inflammation, which is harmful to the heart) and fiber (which is known to have beneficial effects on our hearts).
I agree with Kriss Gunnars, who says this in regards to the reasons chia seeds are great for your health:
In two studies, a diet with chia seeds, soy protein, oats and nopal has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, increase HDL cholesterol, and reduce inflammation.
But, because these studies also used other ingredients, nothing can be concluded about the chia seeds themselves.
Rat studies have also shown that chia seeds can lower triglycerides, raise HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and reduce inflammation, insulin resistance, and belly fat.
However, a study that looked at just chia seeds did not note any improvements.
Overall, it’s possible that chia seeds can improve these risk factors, but they probably won’t have a major effect unless followed by other beneficial changes in the diet.
#4 – They’re great at helping maintain blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is believed to be caused by obesity, which means it can likely be positively affected by diet (and exercise).
When it comes to chia seeds and their overt effects on health, the most conclusive evidence we have about them and their ability to regulate conditions is in regards to type 2 diabetes.
Though not a landmark study by any stretch of the imagination, a small study showed that type 2 diabetics saw several markers of their condition positively affected by chia seed consumption.
The study, showing how chia seeds improve type 2 diabetes, followed 20 patients who were given a special diet consisting of either 37 grams of chia seeds or 37 grams of wheat bran over the course of 12 weeks.
When the subjects were given the 37 grams of chia seeds, the researchers noticed improvements across several areas:
“Blood pressure went down by 3-6 mm/Hg and an inflammatory marker called hs-CRP went down by 40%. A risk factor called vWF also decreased by 21%.”
They also noted that blood sugar dropped; however, it wasn’t enough for them to make a definitive conclusion on chia’s ability to control glucose levels.
Given its high fiber content, there’s reason enough to suspect it could help out with blood sugar, but more studies are needed before this ruling can be confirmed.
#5 – They’re a superior source of plant-based protein. Most plants with any significant amount of protein still don’t pack much of a protein punch.
However, chia seeds contain roughly 14% protein, which is great for a plant. This kind of protein is quite beneficial for a few different applications; first off, it contains essential amino acids, which are synthesized to help build muscles – so yes, you can pack on some serious muscle using chia seeds.
There’s also what protein can do for weight loss.
In terms of which nutrients are best for promoting lean muscle mass, protein leads the way.
Two separate studies confirmed a diet high in protein is extremely useful in helping to curb obsessive thoughts about food consumption. In one study, it reduced these problematic thoughts by as much as 60%.
The other study proved protein has the ability to limit how much you eat late at night. Protein was shown to reduce late-night snacking by as much 50%.
So basically, protein is like a huge STOP sign for your body, helping you stick to dietary goals and eat less. This is because protein causes your body to feel satisfied and curbs out-of-control cravings.
Consider protein (and chia seeds) as a great way to stay on track for your dietary goals and weight loss. They’ve got 4 grams of protein for every 28 grams, making them one of the best places to go for plant-based proteins.
Chia seeds mixed in smoothies, dairy-free yogurts, and in drinks are a great way to gain muscle and to lose weight.
Interested in seeing some chia seed recipes?
Here’s a cool video showing you what you can do with them: