What Is Chia?
Chia is the edible seed of flowering plant, known as Salvia hispanica – which is a member of the mint family and founds in deserts, mainly in South America.
Chia seeds are oval-shaped, gray-colored, having black & white spots, with a diameter of about 0.04 inch (1 millimetre).
There is enough evidence that the chia’s crop was commonly cultivated by the Aztec tribe in pre-Columbian period, and was staple diet for the Mesoamerican people.
When soaked in water, the chia seeds have tendency to absorb water up to 12 times their weight and become soft, gooey like substance. So, when added they provide a gel like texture to the beverages.
Chia Health Benefits
Chia seeds are one of the most acknowledged super foods in the health community.
Chia seeds’ have several health benefits, which include promoting healthy skin complexion, delaying signs of aging, strengthening the heart & digestive system, building muscles & stronger bones, and even in controlling diabetes. Continue reading for the main health benefits of chia seeds and its possible side effects.
Chia Nutritional Benefits
In spite of their small size, they are chockfull of vital nutrients and fiber. They are an incredibly rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, packed with antioxidants, and other important nutrients like fiber, calcium and iron.
As per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, a one-ounce (28-grams) serving of chia seeds provide:
(i) Calories: between 131 to 137
(ii) Carbohydrates: between 12.3 to 13.07 grams
(iii) Fat: between 8.4 to 8.6 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s)
(iv) Protein: 4.4 to 5.6 grams
(v) Fiber: 10.6 to 11.2 grams
(vi) Manganese: 0.6 milligram (30 percent DV)
(vii) Magnesium: 30% of the RDA
(vii) Phosphorus: 265 milligrams (27 percent DV)
(viii) Calcium: 177 milligrams (18 percent of DV)
(ix) Zinc: 1 milligram (7 percent DV)
(x) Copper: 0.1 milligram (3 percent DV)
(xi) Potassium: 44.8 milligrams (1 percent DV)
(xii) Sugar: Zero
Chia seeds also contain essential fatty acids, vitamins A, B, E and D; and minerals, including sulphur, iodine, magnesium, niacin and thiamine. Moreover, they’re high in antioxidants.
Just imagine all the above you get from only one ounce of chia seeds, that too comes with only 137 calories and one gram of digestible carbohydrate! And if we subtract the fiber content, which probably may not be used as calories for the body, and so chia seeds may eventually turn out to be containing only 101 calories per ounce. Wow, is not this makes them one of the world’s top sources of various vital nutrients, calorie for calorie.
Note: 1 ounce is equal to 28 grams, or approximately 2 tablespoons.
And above the all, chia seeds are a “whole grain” food, which generally are grown organically as non-GMO and naturally gluten-free.
Chia Fights Free Radicals To Prevents Premature Aging
Chia seeds are one of the nature’s best-known high antioxidant foods.
Antioxidants step up the pace of skin’s repair mechanism and can avert further damage.
In fact some researchers from Mexico discovered that chia seeds contains an overall natural antioxidants concentration of about two times more than the formerly reported, and their total antioxidant power was shown to prevent up to seventy percent of the free radical damaging effects.
It’s now believed that taking chia seeds can stop premature skin aging that occurs because of free radical damage and inflammation.
Chia’s Power Of Fiber
Chia seeds are almost 40% fiber, by weight. One ounce of chia seeds contains 12 grams of carbohydrate. Out of this, 11 grams are not digestible by the human body, which in fact are good carb. So, Only the remaining 1-gram is the actual carb content – which makes chia effectively a low-carb healthy food. Due to this unique fiber structure, chia seeds provide these benefits:
(i) Diabetes: As per the National Institutes of Health, chia seeds act as a natural blood sugar balancing agent because of its high fiber content & healthy fats. Chia seeds being high in fiber don’t raise blood sugar, therefore is associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes.
(ii) Healthy Digestive System: Due to the presence of high dietary fiber, chia seeds improve bowel regularity for a healthy digestive tract – and so prevents constipation and helps excretion of toxins through the stool & bile.
(iii) Weight Loss: Chia seeds can absorb a considerable amount of water; thereby they becomes a gel-like substance and expand substantially in your stomach. So, they help people feel more full faster. This may be the reason why some research studies have shown that chia suppresses appetite and helps you eat fewer calories, which can leads to weight loss. (Source 1)
Chia Improves Cardiovascular Health And Reduce Cholesterol Levels
Chia may be a tiny seed, nonetheless it is extremely rich in healthy fats and contains more omega-3s, in fact more than salmon – gram for gram. Omega-3s are believed to improve cardiovascular health by reducing LDL (bad cholesterol), total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
But, keep in mind that the Omega-3s contained in chia are mostly Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA), which is not as beneficial as many people might think.
ALA needs to be transformed into EPA and DHA, so as to become useable by your body.
Unfortunately, human bodies are not so efficient in transforming ALA into EPA & DHA, the active forms. Therefore, plant Omega-3s are generally inferior to omega 3s animal sources such as fish.
Research studies have found that chia seeds (particularly if they are eaten in powdered form) can enhance blood levels of ALA & EPA, but not DHA, which is very unfortunate. As they don’t provide any DHA (the more beneficial Omega-3 fat), we consider chia seeds are overvalued as a source of Omega-3.
However, some research studies have observed that a modest increase in fiber intake by just 10-grams a day may lower blood pressure and decrease LDL as well as total cholesterols.
Chia Contain Quality Protein To Build Muscle Mass
Chia stands out as the top plant-based source of protein. By weight, chia seeds are about 14% protein, which is quite higher than what most plants contain.
This is another reason that makes it a super food, especially for people who want to gain lean muscle mass, burn fat and regulate blood sugar levels.
Chia’s Bone Nutrients For Stronger Bones
Chia seeds contain many nutrients, such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium & protein, which are essential for bone health.
Just a single ounce of chia seeds has about 18 % of the RDA recommended daily needs of calcium. Gram for gram, this is much more as compared to most dairy products. So, they become a great source of calcium for individuals who don’t eat dairy.
Chia also contains baron, another vital nutrient for bones health. Baron helps in metabolizing calcium, manganese, magnesium, & phosphorus – all of which are beneficial for bone health.
Chia Seeds Can Enhance Exercise Performance Same Way As A Sports Drink
The chia seeds deliver a boost of high energy and endurance. Legend has it that the Aztec warriors and Mayans ate chia seeds to fuel their energy and endurance levels during battle or while running long distances. It’s said that simply one tablespoonful of chia seeds could keep them going for 24 hours.
According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, it was shown that eating chia seeds could boost exercise performance and endurance that lasted 90 minutes as much as a sugar-laden sports drink would, but without intaking all the unhealthy sugar. (Source)
Potential Health Risks And Side Effects Of Consuming Chia Seeds
When chia seeds are soaked in water (or any liquid), they absorb up to 12 times their weight in water and become very gelatinous. So, never eat them dry followed by drinking water or any liquid, as they can form a thick gel in your esophagus – making it extremely difficult to swallow. Always remember to mix chia seeds with a beverage or another food before consuming, particularly if you have swallowing problems.
At times, some individuals may suffer stomach discomfort when eating chia seeds, particularly in large amounts, because of their high fiber content. So, eat them in moderation mixed with some liquid or food and always drink lots of water.
Never give chia seeds for eating to small children.
For keeping good health, it is suggested that you eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods, instead of focusing on a few selective individual foods.