9 Incredible Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
Dr. Neelam Patel, Dietitian/Nutritionist
February 12, 2021
Chia seeds have gained worldwide popularity as a superfood, and with good reason. The health benefits of chia seeds are many—from helping manage diabetes to improving hair and skin quality. Many people who start consuming chia seeds for weight loss are surprised to find their health improving in varied ways. Rich in protein, fibre, iron, calcium and omega 3, chia seeds are bursting with nutritive potential.
The benefits of chia seeds are plenty and varied. You could consume chia seeds for skin, hair, weight loss, muscle gain or blood sugar management. Chia seeds usage ranges across a wide variety of food types and cuisines. When designing a diet that includes chia seeds, nutrition and health experts may ask you to add them directly to your existing meals. You can experience chia seeds health benefits simply by adding them to your yoghurt, smoothies, baked goods or salads. You can also make chia seeds granola bars or energy drinks, using simple recipes and household ingredients.
Chia seeds have a very mild taste, and blend into whatever food they’re combined with. Whether you’re eating them with a sweet or savoury food, they’re unlikely to hinder the taste. They also grow gelatinous in water, which makes them filling and easy to digest. For most people that consume chia seeds, side effects are rare, but it is still important to do so in moderation.
To help you give this super grain a try, here is a list of specific chia seeds advantages.
A great source of fibre
One of the primary benefits of chia seeds is its high fibre content. A diet that is high in fibre streamlines your digestion and enhances the absorption of other nutrients. Chia seeds are also known to absorb up to 12 times their weight in water, increasing in size and density. This keeps you feeling full longer, so that you’re not overeating, and also makes the nutrients easier to absorb. In diets that include chia seeds, calories tend to be significantly lower and overall nutrient absorption tends to be much higher.
Rich in high-quality protein
Chia seeds have a relatively high protein content compared to other plant-based alternatives. More importantly, chia seeds are also rich in good-quality amino acids that are essential for effective protein absorption. In this sense, chia seeds can help reduce your appetite, manage your weight and increase muscle mass. This is also one of the primary chia seeds benefits for hair loss, which can be caused by a protein deficiency.
A source of anti-oxidants
Anti-oxidants are compounds that restrict inflammation and help the body heal through natural wear and tear. Chia seeds are bursting with anti-oxidants and are known to help fight the free radicals that cause aging. This is one of the main chia seeds benefits for skin improvement, as they can help fight wrinkles.
An anti-inflammatory agent
Chia seeds are believed to contain compounds that are natural anti-inflammatory agents, specifically those that reduce the hs-CRP level in the body. Chia seeds can therefore help soothe the pain and swelling caused by injury, infections and chronic conditions like arthritis. It is important to note that inflammation is necessary to fight off many bacterial and viral infections, and therefore should not always be considered a sign of ill health. Certain lifestyle choices, like smoking, lack of exercise and a diet heavy with fried food, can increase inflammation, and should be avoided.
Contains omega-3 fatty acids
Many vegetarian diets struggle to incorporate an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids—a compound essential for lubricating joints, improving cell function and boosting immunity. Chia seeds can boost omega-3 fatty acid content in vegetarian or vegan diets that cannot obtain these nutrients from standard sources like fish oil.
A natural source of iron
Many people consume chia seeds for hair loss because it is a natural source of iron. Like omega-3 fatty acids, iron is difficult to come by in vegetarian or vegan diets, and chia seeds can be a great source of supplementation. It is however important to ensure that chia seeds are not your only source of these nutrients and are only used to complement your regular nutrient intake.
Helps control blood sugar
Dietary studies have shown that chia seeds can improve insulin sensitivity and thereby control blood sugar levels. This makes it a great addition to diets for diabetes and many chronic heart conditions. Even for those who do not suffer from a blood sugar disorder, chia seeds can help regulate metabolism and prevent sudden spikes in sugar absorption.
Enhances bone density
Gram for gram, chia seeds contain more calcium than most dairy products. For vegans and people who are lactose intolerant, chia seeds can offer a much–needed supplement to the daily calcium requirement. Chia seeds also contain phosphorous, magnesium and protein, which are important for bone density. Regular consumption of chia seeds could improve overall bone health.
Reduce risk of heart disease
Heart disease can be caused by various factors—high cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure or chronic inflammation. Chia seeds are known to contain a number of compounds from those that enhance insulin to those that fight free radicals, which help manage almost all of these conditions. Chia seeds could significantly improve the natural functioning of your cardiovascular system and reduce your risk of developing chronic heart disease.
Given these benefits of chia seeds, you can easily incorporate them into your existing diet or find new and creative ways to prepare dishes with chia seeds. From salad dressings to smoothies, granola bars to pastries, there are infinite ways to make the most of this potent superfood. However, it is important to note that while the benefits of chia seeds are many and side effects are relatively few, they can be a trigger food for some people. One way to get around this is to start adding chia seeds to your diet incrementally so that you can get a better sense of how they work for you.
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