Chia seeds are very small, dark oval seeds that can look a bit like ground pepper. They have become quite popular as a “superfood” in recent years due to the health benefits they can offer. These seeds might be tiny, but they pack in a sizable amount of nutritional value. Although there’s been recent buzz brewing about chia, this whole grain is actually an ancient source of sustenance that may help multiple systems in the body function better.
Chia seeds can provide many nutrients, many of which support cardiovascular health. For instance, chia seeds happen to be a good source of quercetin, a plant flavonoid with antioxidant-like properties that may offer heart health protection.
They also provide an abundant amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which is often recommended as part of a heart-healthy diet. Finally, chia seeds are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber may help to support cholesterol levels already within normal range, further contributing to cardiovascular health.
The fiber in chia seeds can help the digestive system maintain healthy blood sugar levels in healthy people whose values are already in normal range. In addition, the fiber in chia seeds can aid in slowing down digestion, helping to manage healthy blood sugar levels (already in normal range) that can shift naturally after eating a meal.
Since chia seeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, they provide a double shot of benefits to the digestive system. Insoluble fiber is a type of fiber that doesn’t get digested by the body and isn’t dissolved by water. Instead, it draws water in and creates a bulkier stool. This helps keep things moving in the intestines and can assist in preventing occasional constipation.
Many soluble fibers have prebiotic-like effects, which means they can support the gut flora, giving good gut bacteria in the intestines nourishment. Foods like chia seeds that are high in fiber support healthy bowel movements by keeping stools soft and absorbing the body’s waste efficiently.
While no one single food is responsible for weight loss, a balanced diet coupled with exercise can help manage weight. Not only does the fiber in chia seeds support a healthy gut and digestion, but it can also assist with healthy weight management when incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. Because the soluble fiber slows down digestion and expands by absorbing water, it can create feelings of fullness. This feeling can last longer than the fleeting feeling of satiety experienced when eating sugary or processed foods.
One study found that when healthy participants added chia seeds to a mid-morning yogurt snack, they felt fuller for longer. This can help curb mid-afternoon cravings and excess consumption of empty-calorie foods, helping to prevent additional weight gain.
Another study compared the benefits of flaxseed to chia seed and connected chia seed’s higher fiber viscosity (the gel it forms with liquids) with greater benefits to extending the feeling of fullness in participants.
Bones require minerals to remain healthy. Chia seeds provide many such minerals. Magnesium and phosphorus are two essential minerals found in high concentrations in chia seeds. Calcium is especially important for bone health, giving bones their strength. One serving (two tablespoons) of chia seeds also provides 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium. This is a good plant-based source of calcium. In fact, one serving of chia seeds will actually provide more than many forms of dairy.
Since chia seeds are extremely nutrient-dense, they can help boost energy levels when incorporated into a healthy diet. You may not feel an instant energy boost after ingesting chia seeds but they contain a powerful blend of healthy fats, fiber, and protein, which is the perfect combination for maintaining sustained energy levels. One delicious way to enjoy the energizing benefits of chia seeds is by preparing a chia pudding topped with fresh fruit. Another easy way to incorporate chia seeds into your diet is to blend them in your favorite smoothie or protein shake.
Chia seeds can contribute to hydration only when they are mixed with hydrating fluids such as water or other fluids. However, chia seeds on their own do not contribute to hydration.
When incorporating chia seeds into your diet, it’s necessary to stay well-hydrated to optimize the benefits. Since chia seeds are exceptionally rich in fiber, they absorb water and expand in the digestive system. Because of this, proper hydration is essential to support your body’s adjustment to the increased fiber intake.
Chia seeds possess antioxidant-like properties that help manage oxidative stress, which may indirectly promote eye health. Yet, there haven’t been any specific studies directly linking chia seeds to improvements in eye health. However, there is more evidence to support eye health with other nutrients such as astaxanthin and omega-3 fish oils, along with vitamins A, C, and E.
Chia seeds have shown promising potential for promoting skin health based on in vivo (cell-based) studies. This is particularly due to the presence of certain peptides in chia seeds that are commonly used in skincare products. More extensive research is still needed, though.
While chia seeds can be a valuable addition to your routine, supporting skin health goes beyond dietary choices. Maintaining a well-rounded approach, including proper UV protection, a consistent skincare regimen, adequate hydration, and a balanced diet, can all promote skin health. At Care/of, we offer a range of many skin-goal supportive supplements, such as collagen, keratin, ceramides, astaxanthin, vitamin C, and shatavari.
Chia seeds themselves won’t directly impact mental well-being, but when incorporated as a part of a healthy diet, they can contribute to mental wellness. This is because they contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their potential benefits on cognitive health.
There are a number of other activities that can support mental well-being, including physical movement (exercise, yoga, walking), connecting with others, creative activities, learning something new, adequate sleep, stress management, mindfulness practices, spending time in nature, journaling, and therapy.
Most people don’t notice any side effects from adding chia seeds to their diets. But, since the seeds have a high fiber content, they may result in bloating, particularly if you are just introducing your body to chia seeds. You can help prevent this side effect by starting off slowly, allowing your body to get used to this “superfood.” You can also soak your chia seeds prior to eating so that they absorb water before they enter the stomach.
Also, it’s important to drink plenty of water when eating chia seeds. This can allow you to enjoy all of the benefits of the seeds without encountering possible side effects, such as constipation, which occurs when you eat too much insoluble fiber without drinking enough water.
Did you know that only 10 percent of women and 3 percent of men in the U.S. eat the recommended amount of fiber on a daily basis? That means that for most of us, we should eat more foods that are good sources of fiber. The USDA recommended daily intake for fiber is between 22 and 28 grams for women and 28-31 grams for men, based on age. A one-ounce serving (which is around two tablespoons of chia seeds) has about 10 grams of fiber. Start off with one serving of chia seeds and you can progress to two servings, which can fulfill the recommended fiber intake for a day.
Chia seeds are a popular superfood due to the many health benefits they offer. Some of the most renowned include aiding in digestion, supporting healthy weight management, promoting heart health, supporting healthy bones, and enhancing energy levels.
Start slowly when adding chia seeds to the diet to avoid potential side effects related to increased fiber intake and make sure to drink plenty of water. Overall, chia seeds are a valuable addition to a balanced lifestyle promoting all around well-being.