Chia seeds have exploded in popularity over the past year. Stroll through the local health foods store (or even the local grocery store) and find chia seeds, chia bars, chia drinks and a variety of snacks. Scroll through popular sites like Pinterest and you’ll find recipe after recipe. The increasingly high demand for these products is not without reason—chia seeds are incredibly good for you.
Yup. This is the same chia of the popular Chia Pet® of the 1980s (if you were around then, we’re just going to assume you’re reciting the catchy jingle in your head right now). Chia is a flowering plant in the mint family domesticated in ancient Mexico. In seed form, chia is small, a bit bigger than a poppyseed; if you examine it closely it is oval-shaped and slightly flat on either side.
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
There are quite a few health benefits—and potential benefits—of chia seeds. Here’s the ‘why” behind adding these guys to your diet:
- Excellent source of fiber. A one-ounce serving of chia seeds gives you about one third of your recommended serving of fiber, which aids digestion and can leave you feeling full—potentially aiding weight loss. A word to the wise: Don’t overdo your serving size; all that fiber can lead to stomach upset.
- Rich in omega-3s. A top source of omega-3s, chia seeds offer a great way to meet your daily serving recommendation. The body needs omega-3s for creating cell membranes in the brain and various other functions; they also can provide protection against heart disease and hold anti-inflammatory properties. Another advantage: If you’re worried about mercury levels in fish, but want the omega-3 health benefits—chia seeds are a great alternative.
- Calcium boost. Some people struggle to reach their daily intake of calcium—chia can help you get there! Containing 18 percent of your daily value, these seeds are a great source of calcium, which protects your bone and oral health.
- Heart healthy. The Cleveland Clinic touts some of the benefits of chia seeds, including its heart-friendly perks like decreasing blood pressure, lowering LDL and triglyceride cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.
- May combat type 2 diabetes. New research shows that chia seeds decrease the c-reactive protein (which signals inflammation in the body) seen in type 2 diabetes—and experts have begun discussing its potential to control blood sugar.
- And that’s not all. Chia seeds also offer manganese, a trace mineral that is great for the bones and fights free radicals; protein is another bonus, around 10 percent of your daily value; and you’ll also find tryptophan, which regulates appetite, mood and sleep.
Ways to Eat Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are versatile; mildly flavored, you can eat them raw or add them to a long list of dishes. They’ve become a popular addition to yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, salads and baked goods like desserts, breads and muffins. Fascinatingly, chia seeds form a gelatinous substance when wet, so they’re great for making puddings, substituting eggs, thickening soups and more.