Rich in fiber and anti-inflammatory fats, chia seeds have many benefits for the body. Add them to smoothies, pudding, oatmeal, and more for extra nutrients.
What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are the edible seeds of the chia plant, which is part of the mint family.
They’re very small, egg-shaped seeds with a black-gray color.
When mixed with liquid, the seeds absorb water and swell up. This creates a thick gel-like texture.
A popular way for using chia seeds is to make chia seed pudding. Simply combine 2 tablespoons chia seeds with ½ cup milk of choice, stir, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
You can sprinkle chia seeds into sauces, dressings, soups, or on top of salads and oatmeal. They also work well mixed into the batter for baked goods, like banana bread.
Chia seeds are used to make drinks more filling as well. Just blend a tablespoon or two of seeds into smoothies, juice, coconut water, or plain water.
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12 Chia Seed Benefits
1. Contains Antioxidants
Antioxidants fight harmful compounds called free radicals. This is important because free radicals damage your cells and cause oxidative stress.
Over time, oxidative stress can increase the risk of chronic disease. This includes diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Chia seeds are high in antioxidants. This means the seeds will fight oxidative stress and protect your cells.
Some of the antioxidants in chia seeds include chlorogenic acid, quercetin, and caffeic acid.
2. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal part of health. The body uses inflammatory cells to heal cell damage and destroy bad germs.
But if the inflammation continues, it can contribute to chronic disease, just like oxidative stress. High inflammation levels are linked to cancer, arthritis, heart disease, and more.
Eating chia seeds can help manage inflammation. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, or good fats with anti-inflammatory properties.
Omega-3 fatty acids work by stopping pathways, or reactions, that cause inflammation.
Even the antioxidants in chia seeds have anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants protect cells from damage, which reduces inflammation in the first place.
3. Helps Digestion
Fiber is essential for healthy digestion. It promotes regular bowel movements and makes stool easier to pass.
The recommended fiber intake for adults is 25 to 35 grams per day. However, most people only get 15 grams a day.
Not getting enough fiber can lead to digestive issues like constipation and discomfort. It also increases the risk of colon cancer and other digestive problems.
For an easy way to get more fiber, add chia seeds to your dishes and drinks. Just two tablespoons have 10 grams of fiber.
4. Decreases Hunger
Thanks to the fiber and protein in chia seeds, the ingredient will make you feel less hungry. This is helpful if you’re trying to manage weight or control cravings throughout the day.
Fiber slows down digestion, so it stays in the stomach for longer. As a result, you’ll feel full for a long time.
The fiber in chia seeds absorb water too. This causes them to swell up in your stomach, making you feel full.
Protein also increases satiety, but in a different way. It reduces hunger hormones, including glucagon-like peptide-1 and cholecystokinin.
Lower levels of these hormones will make you feel less hungry and more full.
5. Supports Energy Levels
It’s common to feel tired when you’re hungry. That’s because you’re not getting enough glucose, your body’s main source of energy.
To prevent this, be sure to eat meals at regular intervals. Focus on filling ingredients, such as chia seeds.
The seeds have protein and fiber, which promote satiety. The healthy omega-3 fats in chia seeds have a similar filling effect too.
By adding chia seeds to your drinks and dishes, they’ll be more filling and better sustain your energy throughout the day.
6. Controls Blood Cholesterol
Chia seeds have omega-3 fats, which lower HDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase LDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Fiber, which is found in chia seeds, supports healthy cholesterol levels too.
It works by helping the body remove excess cholesterol through the stool. This lowers cholesterol in the blood.
Since high cholesterol can lead to heart disease, it’s important to control it. Otherwise, extra cholesterol can block blood vessels, making it hard for blood to reach the heart.
7. Improves Blood Pressure
Long-term oxidative stress can contribute to hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. Hypertension is another risk factor for heart disease.
High blood pressure happens when your blood moves with too much force. This can damage your blood vessels, causing issues with blood flow.
In turn, your heart and other organs might not get enough blood, leading to heart disease.
Since oxidative stress is involved in hypertension, eating plenty of antioxidants is key. For example, the antioxidants in chia seeds have been shown to reduce blood pressure by fighting oxidative stress.
8. Manages Blood Sugar
With their high content of fiber, chia seeds are beneficial for reducing the risk of diabetes.
The fiber slows down the absorption of sugar, especially after a meal. This prevents blood sugar spikes, which can cause diabetes if it keeps happening.
Also, the antioxidants in chia seeds help by reducing oxidative stress. Since oxidative stress can contribute to diabetes, it’s important to keep it under control.
Chia seeds can even improve the function of beta-cells. Produced by the pancreas, beta-cells make insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar.
When beta-cells are working better, they can make more insulin for better blood sugar control and lower diabetes risk.
9. Enhances Immune Function
Another chia seed benefit involves the immune system. The seeds have vitamin C and zinc, which are needed for immunity.
Vitamin C helps your immune cells destroy germs. It’s also an antioxidant, so it protects your cells.
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in chia seeds, are needed by cells too. The fats control what moves in and out of your cells, ensuring they function properly.
10. Provides Bone-Friendly Nutrients
The minerals calcium and magnesium are important for healthy bones. Chia seeds contain both nutrients, making it a great food for the bones.
Calcium is needed to develop and maintain bone strength. If you don’t get enough, your body will take calcium from your bones.
This can cause bone weakness, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. So it’s important to get enough calcium in your diet.
Magnesium is essential for building bone. Plus, it’s needed for hormones that control calcium levels in the body.
11. Benefits Brain Health
For a simple way to support brain health, add chia seeds to your diet. The ingredient has so many brain-friendly nutrients.
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, which would damage the brain cells over time. They also keep cell membranes healthy.
The anti-hypertensive effects of omega-3 fats are also good for the brain, as hypertension is linked to brain disease.
12. Boosts Metabolism
Another health benefit of chia seeds is that they’re good for metabolism. This is due to their high content of vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3 fats.
Metabolism involves all the chemical reactions in your body. It turns the food you eat into energy.
Your body uses this energy for basic bodily functions, from digestion to breathing. So it’s important to support your metabolism through food.
The protein in chia seeds also helps, as protein increases metabolic rate, or how fast your body uses energy.
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Adding chia seeds to your diet is a tasty way to get more fiber.
However, if you don’t already eat a lot of fiber, do it slowly. Eating too much fiber at once will cause bloating and cramps.
As you eat more chia seeds, drink a lot of water. Staying hydrated will help reduce the digestive side effects.
Chia Seed Tips
Steep chia seeds for smoothies.
Chia seeds are a great addition to smoothies. But if you don’t have a high-powered blender, soak them in liquid first.
This will make them expand so they’re easier to blend.
For high-powered blenders, you can skip the soaking step.
Add chia seeds to blenders after liquids.
When making a smoothie in a blender, add the chia seeds after the liquids. You can add nut butters or powders at the same time.
Next, add leafy greens, fresh fruit, and heavy ingredients like frozen fruit or ice, in that order.
Loading ingredients in this order will ensure a smooth and even blend.
Use a small amount.
Unless you’re making chia pudding, you only need a small amount of seeds for recipes.
For example, when making a smoothie, use 1 or 2 tablespoons. Any more will overwhelm the recipe’s flavor.
When making baked goods or dishes like pancakes, use just a few tablespoons.
Store chia seeds in a dark place.
Light can destroy the healthy fats in chia seeds, turning them rancid. So be sure to store the seeds in a dark spot, like the pantry.
You can also keep chia seeds in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator.
If the seeds are brown, clump together, or smell bad, they’ve probably gone rancid. Throw them out and avoid using them in recipes.