How in the world did we go from using chia seeds to grow green “fur” on Chia Pets to eating the seeds as a health food? Is this hype or are chia seeds really a health food?
In history, Mayan and Aztec cultures consumed chia seeds for their supernatural powers. I don’t know about supernatural powers, but I can speak for their nutritional power. They are small and mighty! Just one tablespoon of chia seeds pack in 6 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat (much of which is Omega-3)… all for only 80 calories. WOW!
Why are fiber, protein, and omega 3 fat good for us?
The right kind of fiber – found in foods like Chia Seeds, supports our body’s waste removal systems. Dietary fiber can increase the size and weight of our poop! It can even soften stool. Chia Seeds are a healthy and natural fiber that can help you have healthy bowl movements regularly.
Protein is an essential part of a balanced diet because it provides the body with the building block, or amino acids, that are necessary for muscle and bone health and development. Having a tablespoon of Chia Seeds is a great way to get a dose of protein in a salad or a sandwich that may be lacking in protein. The average American should eat between 25 and 45 grams of protein at each meal- depending on activity level.
Lastly, Omega – 3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for heart health! We need to protect our cardiovascular system and Chia Seeds provide a great source for Omega 3s that don’t taste like fish. Anyone else over the fish oil burps? Get the Omega 3s you need and check the fish oil at the door. Omega 3s reduce blood pressure and triglycerides that can cause heart disease or strokes. I’ll take the tablespoon of chia seeds with that please!
Let’s shine the light a little brighter on these nutrition qualities:
- Chia contains both soluble and insoluble fiber- making them a great aid for maintaining a healthy cholesterol level and digestive tract.
- Chia seeds contain 3 grams of complete protein – meaning they contain all the essential amino acids. Three grams of protein may seem like a small amount but pair it with the 4g of protein in a tablespoon of almond butter or 1/2 cup of milk and you now have more protein than a large egg.
- Chia seeds have an impressive amount of calcium as well!
Wait, there’s more! The dry seeds deliver more antioxidants than blueberries.
First of all, what are antioxidants? We hear antioxidants a lot in today’s diet news but what do they really do?
Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation – which is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals in the body. Free radicals have been associated with Cancer because they cause damage to cells in our body over time. Antioxidants like those found in Chia Seeds can work to reduce free radical reactions allowing our body to live in proper homeostasis.
When it comes to Chia Seeds, the ORAC value (antioxidant level) almost doubles when the seeds are soaked overnight. How? Because when you soak them, it initiates the early stages of sprouting, and that creates more bioavailable nutrients. (So cool!) Ideally, you would soak your seeds in water or a plant-based milk.
You’ll notice white and black chia seeds are available. White seeds have fewer antioxidants than black seeds but still contain more than most foods. Some people prefer white seeds because they aren’t as noticeable in baked goods and smoothies. Given that some variety of Chia Seeds are black, it is easy to spot them in yogurt, or on a salad, but in a smoothie or baked good they tend to blend in with other seeds or the color of the baked good making them less obvious and adding great nutritional value to your snacks.
Chia seeds have a very mild nutty flavor that won’t be noticed in smoothies or baked goods too, making it easier for some to eat. They can be crunchy if they are dry, so baking or soaking allows the seeds to become soft. These components add to the ease of enjoyment when adding them into your daily meals. That mild flavor goes well in smoothies, yogurt, cereal and even makes a great pudding-like treat.
So it turns out these trendy seeds are truly a health food! They are versatile, user-friendly, exceptional and a unique low-calorie source of omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, antioxidants, complete protein, iron, calcium, and magnesium.
How do you enjoy chia seeds?