From being a plant-based complete protein to helping you get a better night’s sleep, chia seeds are packed with nutritional goodness. Here are ten benefits of chia seeds that might surprise you.
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Once a staple food for ancient civilizations, the tiny chia seed is steeped in history. In my Gen X lifetime, it’s evolved from a terracotta novelty gift to the queen of the health food aisle. But what makes chia seeds so special? These small, nutrient-dense seeds are packed with protein, essential nutrients, antioxidants, and more. And when you incorporate chia seeds into your alpha-gal friendly diet, you open doors to a plethora of health benefits.
In This Article
What are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are small, oval-shaped edible seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant, a member of the mint family with a Central and Southern Mexican heritage. They were the “bread and butter” of the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, who prized them for their nutritional prowess and health benefits. Fast forward to today, chia seeds are often referred to as a “superfood” and popular worldwide.
Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds may be small, but they pack a punch harder than a kangaroo. I like to picture them as the Muhammad Ali of the health food world. But instead of floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, they deck your alpha-gal friendly diet with plant-based protein and more benefits than championship belts. Here are some of the benefits of chia seeds that will knock you out.
1. A Complete Plant-Based Protein
Along with quinoa, edamame, and pistachios, chia seeds are a plant-based complete protein, which means that they contain all nine essential amino acids that the human body cannot make on its own. This makes them an excellent choice for alpha gals – as well as vegans and vegetarians – who may struggle to get enough protein across the full spectrum of amino acids when they eliminate all or some animal products from their diet.
Related Article: Power Up with Quinoa: A Complete Protein for Alpha Gals
2. Contain Antioxidants
Chia seeds are also rich in antioxidants like caffeic acid, myricetin, and quercetin. If you’re unfamiliar with antioxidants, they are like microscopic superheroes fighting free-radical foes. While free radicals occur in your body naturally, these health villains also develop with exposure to harmful substances like alcohol, cigarette smoke, pollution, and radiation. When you add chia seeds to your alpha-gal friendly diet, you help your body fight back against free radicals and the chronic diseases linked to them, including cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
3. High in Dietary Fiber
Another benefit of chia seeds is that they are an excellent source of dietary fiber. And when you consume foods with fiber, you decrease your risk of coronary heart disease, lower your cholesterol levels, and maintain better blood sugar levels. One serving of chia seeds (about 2.5 tablespoons) provides an impressive 10 grams of fiber. That’s approximately 25 to 50 percent of what your body needs daily, depending on the recommended amount for your age.
4. May Help With Weight Loss
If you are an alpha-gal who wants to lose a few pounds, chia seeds may be the diet buddy you’ve been seeking. Unfortunately, simply consuming chia seeds is not a magical solution for immediate weight loss, no matter what people on TikTok say. Darn it! Wouldn’t that be nice? But when you add a serving of chia seeds to a balanced alpha-gal friendly diet, not only are you adding protein and fiber, but the seeds can help create a sense of fullness so you eat less and reduce your desire to snack between meals.
5. High in Heart-Healthy Fats Like Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Maybe it’s just me, but on the surface, “fatty acids” sound like a slab of illegal mammalian meat having an insane hallucination. In reality, omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients your body needs to survive, helping improve memory, sharpening cognitive function, and otherwise benefiting (rather than damaging) your brain cells. One serving of chia seeds contains more than 5,000 mg of omega-3. That’s more than double the omega-3 in a serving of salmon. Holy mackerel!
The type of omega-3 fatty acid found in chia seeds is called alpha-linolenic acid (or ALA for short). Research has shown that ALA is good for your heart health by reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and improving overall lipid profiles. Chia seeds pack a one-two punch that benefits both your noggin and your ticker!
6. Good for Your Skin
Because they are a complete protein, chia seeds include the essential amino acids that make up collagen – glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. These acids, combined with chia seeds’ antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, contribute to healthy skin. Beyond promoting collagen production and fighting against free radicals, which can lead to premature aging, the high vitamin E content in chia seeds aids in repairing damaged skin, reducing scars, and maintaining moisture levels.
7. Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Inflammation is a natural response to protect the body against injury and infection. However, chronic inflammation can lead to various health issues, including heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. Incorporating chia seeds into your diet can help reduce inflammation and mitigate these risks.
8. Contain Minerals That Support Bone Health
Chia seeds are a plant-based calcium powerhouse. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain about 180 mg of calcium. While that’s only 60% of what you’d gain by drinking a glass of cow’s milk, it’s roughly three times the amount of calcium in a cup of soy milk.
Beyond calcium and protein, the National Institutes of Health suggests an adequate and constant supply of magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, potassium, and fluoride to maintain good bone density, reduce the risk of bone loss, and avoid osteoporosis. Fortunately, one serving of chia seeds also contains 95 mg of magnesium (roughly 20% to 30% of the recommended daily amount or RDA) and 244 mg of phosphorus (about 35% of the RDA).
Fun Fact: Although the research is currently limited to 20 rats (eeeeeek!) this study showed that the group that was fed chia seeds had a significantly higher bone mineral content than the control group. While human studies are needed to further explore these benefits, the mineral content in chia seeds suggests that they can support optimal bone health.
9. May Stabilize Blood Sugar
Whether you currently have diabetes or just want to reduce the risk of developing the disease, chia seeds can help. This medically reviewed article refers to chia seeds “a miracle meal for people with diabetes.” It further explains that the high fiber content in the seeds has been shown to help diabetics reduce their glycemic reaction. And several of the benefits of chia seeds discussed so far – being rich in antioxidants, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, and containing magnesium – all help reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and diabetes complications.
10. Improve Sleep
Remember how chia seeds include all nine amino acids? Well, as a complete protein, they contain tryptophan, a common scapegoat for a long nap after a big meal on Thanksgiving. Whether you credit these tiny seeds or a roasted turkey, tryptophan is important in producing serotonin and melatonin, two hormones essential for sleep regulation. So when you consume chia seeds, you can enhance the production of these hormones, promoting a better and more restful sleep.
Where Do You Find Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds have gained popularity in recent years, so finding them is easier than ever. Whether you buy chia seeds in bulk at Costco, click “add to cart” online, or make a beeline for your local organic grocery store, always opt for chemical-free or organic varieties. These seeds are grown without harmful pesticides or chemicals, making them a healthier choice.
How to Eat Chia Seeds
With their mild flavor and culinary adaptability, there are many ways to eat chia seeds allowing you to sneak them into a variety of dishes like a foodie ninja. Adding a tablespoon of chia seeds to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal can enhance the nutritional benefits of the meal. You can also use them to make chia seed pudding or sprinkle some over fresh fruit for a healthy, alpha-gal friendly snack.
If you’re a salad lover, make chia seed salad dressing. By grinding the chia seeds and mixing them with vinegar, oil, herbs, and spices, you can create a healthy and flavorful dressing that compliments your greens perfectly.
You can also use chia seeds as an egg substitute in baking. Combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 2.5 tablespoons of water and let the mixture sit for about five minutes until it forms a gel-like consistency. Known as a chia egg, this mixture can be used as a binding agent in recipes that call for eggs.
Incorporate chia seeds into baked goods like muffins, quick breads, and cookies. Simply sprinkle them on top of your batter before baking or mix them into your cookie dough for added texture and nutrition.
Related Article: Craving Chocolate? Try This Easy Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
Do You Like Chia Seeds?
What is your favorite way to incorporate these tiny seeds into your diet? What benefits of chia seeds have you experienced? Any additional tips and tricks to pass along? Share your experiences in the comments section below.