15 Health Benefits Of Chia Seeds And Nutrition
Chia seeds are tiny edible seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant, which belongs to the mint family. These seeds, typically about 2 millimeters (0.08 inches) in diameter, are oval, gray in color, with black and white spots. Despite their small size, they are packed with an abundance of nutrients and health benefits.
The nutrients found in chia seeds can contribute to heart health, bone strength, and better blood sugar control. Whether you're already incorporating them into your diet or are new to these tiny powerhouses, here's what you should know about the health benefits of chia seeds and their nutritional composition.
1. Increased Fiber Intake
Chia seeds are rich in dietary fiber, which can help promote feelings of satiety, support gut health, and lower the risk of various diseases. Just one ounce (28 grams) of these little seeds provides 9.75 grams of fiber, meeting 25% and 39% of the recommended daily intake for men and women, respectively.
Due to their remarkable ability to absorb water, chia seeds can expand the contents in your digestive system, resulting in a greater sense of fullness and reduced food consumption. A common suggested dosage is around 0.7 ounces (20 grams or about 1.5 tablespoons) of chia seeds twice daily to ensure sufficient fiber intake.
2. Increased Blood Levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy polyunsaturated fats vital for your body and brain. These healthy fats have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and they may also contribute to managing conditions such as eczema, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Chia seeds also contain omega-3 ALA (Alpha-Lipoic Acid). Nevertheless, ALA must be converted into active forms, like EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid), before your body can use it. Studies show that eating chia seeds can boost ALA in the blood by up to 138% and raise EPA levels by as much as 39%.
3. May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
Fiber, fat, and protein, which are plentiful in chia seeds, have a slower digestion rate. These nutrients delay the conversion of carbohydrates into sugars in the gut before absorption, reducing the risk of diabetes and preventing sudden spikes in blood sugar levels.
Studies suggest that chia seeds are considered beneficial for diabetes treatment. They have been shown to improve blood pressure levels in individuals with diabetes. Additionally, the presence of omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds makes them nutritionally important for diabetes treatment.
4. May Support Bone Health
Chia seeds are rich in essential nutrients for bone health, such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Multiple observational studies indicate that maintaining adequate levels of these nutrients plays a significant role in maintaining optimal bone mineral density, a key factor in bone strength.
Furthermore, the presence of ALA in chia seeds may contribute to bone health. Observational studies have suggested a potential link between the consumption of this nutrient and higher bone mineral density. Therefore, including these seeds in your regular diet could potentially help keep your bones strong and healthy.
5. May Support Weight Loss
The fiber and protein present in chia seeds may help people trying to lose weight. While research results vary, some studies indicate that fiber might help prevent excess weight, and chia's protein may aid in reducing appetite and food consumption.
In a study with 24 participants, consuming either 0.33 ounces (7 grams) or 0.5 ounces (14 grams) of chia seeds mixed with yogurt for breakfast led to increased feelings of fullness and decreased food intake in the short term when compared to eating yogurt without chia seeds.
Nevertheless, research on the weight loss benefits of chia seeds has observed varied results. While chia seeds alone are unlikely to trigger weight loss, they can be a valuable addition to a well-rounded, healthy diet when aiming to shed some extra pounds.
6. May Lower LDL (Bad) Cholesterol
Chia seeds contain soluble fiber and mucilage, the substance responsible for the gel-like texture of moistened chia seeds. These fibers can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, slow down digestion, and manage blood sugar levels, keeping you feeling full after a meal.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in chia seeds also help lower blood cholesterol and protect against coronary heart disease in the process. The omega-3s further decrease triglyceride levels, lower the risk of irregular heartbeats, reduce blood pressure, and inhibit arterial plaque buildup.
7. May Support Cardiovascular Health
Emerging research indicates that integrating chia seeds into your diet can potentially enhance heart health by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. So, consider adding chia seeds to your meals for a heart-healthy choice.
Additionally, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the omega-3 fatty acid found in chia seeds, has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease. However, it's important to note that studies investigating the relationship between chia seeds and heart health have yielded inconclusive findings. Therefore, additional research is necessary.
8. May Improve Gut Health
Chia seeds offer a nutritious blend of soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which promote digestive well-being. Insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in fluids; instead, it absorbs liquids and aids in the formation of bulky, soft stools. This makes them an ideal option for relieving constipation.
Furthermore, the soluble fiber and polyphenols present in chia seeds can act as prebiotics, nourishing beneficial gut bacteria. These microorganisms, in turn, produce compounds that protect the intestinal lining, ultimately enhancing overall gut health.
9. Can Improve Skin Health
The omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds have been shown to enhance circulation and reduce dryness and inflammation in the skin. According to research, these omega-3s also help protect the skin from the damaging effects of UV radiation.
Additionally, chia seeds may contribute to reducing skin sagging and promoting overall skin well-being. They also contain anti-inflammatory properties that have the potential to aid in the prevention of arthritis.
10. May Reduce Free Radicals and Inflammation
Free radicals refer to unstable molecules that form due to chemical alterations within a cell. The accumulation of these free radicals can result in harm to other molecules such as DNA, proteins, and lipids, thereby elevating the risk of various diseases, including cancer, as per the National Cancer Institute.
Chia seeds boast a variety of antioxidants, such as caffeic acid, myricetin, and quercetin, that can help guard the cells from damage caused by free radicals. Quercetin in particular is a potent antioxidant flavonoid, following its ability to combat inflammation and protect cells from oxidative stress and damage.
11. Rich in Antioxidants
Chia seeds serve as an abundant source of antioxidants, which not only safeguard the sensitive fats in the seeds from going bad but also help the human body by countering harmful molecules called free radicals, which can damage cell compounds if they develop in your body.
The specific antioxidants in chia seeds include chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, quercetin, myricetin, and kaempferol. These may all have protective effects on your heart and liver, as well as anticancer properties. For example, chlorogenic acid may help lower blood pressure, while caffeic acid has anti-inflammatory effects.
12. Boost Energy and Metabolism
Chia seeds are loaded with B vitamins, iron, zinc, and magnesium, all of which enhance your energy levels. Incorporating these seeds into your favorite smoothie provides a refreshing energy boost. A few studies suggest that chia seeds may further contribute to an increased metabolism.
Many individuals turn to chia seeds as a workout drink due to their omega-3 content, making them an excellent source of sustained energy. Consuming chia seeds a few hours before a strenuous exercise can serve as a valuable energy source once carbohydrates are depleted. Additionally, when consumed after a workout, chia seeds supply protein essential for tissue repair.
13. May Help Prevent Diverticulosis
Diverticulosis refers to the development of tube-like structures within the intestine, without any signs of inflammation. Chia seeds, owing to their vegetarian nature and high omega-3 content, have been found to play a preventative role in diverticular disease.
A deficiency in dietary fiber has also been associated with diverticulosis, and chia seeds, as an exceptional source of fiber, can aid in managing this condition. They absorb water within the colon, promoting smoother bowel movements.
14. Anti-Cancer Properties
The antioxidants found in chia seeds are believed to possess potential anti-cancer properties. For instance, quercetin, a potent antioxidant, may lower the risk of specific types of cancer. Similarly, kaempferol has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
As you've already learned, chia seeds are packed with fiber, offering substantial support for digestive well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, a fiber-rich diet can protect against colorectal cancer.
Furthermore, a report from the UCSF Medical Center highlights chia seeds as an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid, which has shown potential in preventing breast cancer, much like the protective effects of omega-3 fatty acids.
15. May Improve Mood and Mental Health
Chia seeds, considered a superfood, are believed to have mood-enhancing properties when consumed regularly. According to a Pittsburgh study, omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to improved mood and behavior, suggesting that adding chia seeds to your diet may also help you fight depression.
Also, Chia seeds boast a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, with a single tablespoon packing around 1,769 milligrams of these essential nutrients. Omega-3s play a pivotal role in the regulation of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters crucial for mood and mental well-being.
Chia Seeds: Nutrition Facts
Ancient civilizations considered chia seeds highly nutritious, a belief supported by modern science. In fact, just one ounce (28.35 grams or two tablespoons) of chia seeds provides:
- Calories: 138
- Fat: 8.7 grams
- Protein: 4.68 grams
- Fiber: 9.75 grams
- Carbs: 11.9 grams
- alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): 5.05 grams
- Iron: 12% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Zinc: 12% of the DV
- Calcium: 14% of the DV
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 15% of the DV
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 16% of the DV
- Magnesium: 23% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 20% of the DV
In addition, chia seeds are a complete protein since they contain all nine essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own. They supply a range of endogenous amino acids, which are essential for energy production and immune function in the body.
Potential Side Effects of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are typically considered safe for consumption, and there have been minimal to no reported adverse effects associated with them. Nonetheless, to prevent potential digestive discomfort, it is advisable to drink plenty of water when ingesting chia seeds, especially if they have not been pre-soaked.
Similar to other seeds, chia seeds contain phytic acid, a plant compound that can bind to minerals like iron and zinc, potentially limiting their absorption from the foods you consume.
High doses of omega-3 fats, like those found in fish oils, may have blood-thinning properties. If you are taking blood-thinning medications, it's essential to consult with your doctor before adding significant amounts of chia seeds to your diet, as omega-3 fatty acids may impact the effectiveness of your medication.
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