Anyone who is reasonably interested in health and fitness has probably, at some point, come across a person touting the benefits of chia seeds. Like so many trendy “superfoods” chia has new age health-types in a frenzy about its supposed health benefits. Well it turns out that for once, the mob may be on to something. Chia seeds offer a few pretty enticing reasons to head to your nearest health food store.
1. Loads of Nutrients with Few Calories
Chia seeds back a surprising nutritive punch with one ounce containing 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, 18% of your daily calcium and a pretty shockingly high amount of other necessarily nutrients like zinc, magnesium and vitamins B1 and B3. Even more surprising than what an ounce of chia seeds gives you is what it doesn’t. That same serving size packs all those nutrients into just 137 calories.
2. The Good Kind of Carbs
It should be noted that chia seed so contain some carbohydrates, which a lot of health-minded people try to avoid. The thing about the carbs in chia seeds however is that they are mostly fiber. Of the 12 grams of carbohydrates in an ounce of chia seeds, 11 are in the form of fiber which will pass through your body with next to no ill effects.
3. They Fill You Up
The great thing about all that fiber is that some of it is soluble and some of it is insoluble, meaning that chia seeds absorb water. The effect is actually pretty cool. The water forms little bubbles of transparent gel around each seed, locking water in place. The result is you feel fuller for longer and water doesn’t rush through your body quite as fast.
4. Improved Exercise Performance
Because they trap water in your body for longer, your body can use chia seeds as a hydration resource while you are working out. Research has shown that because of both the hydrating and nutritive impacts that chia seeds offer, they are comparable to conventional sports drinks in terms of boosting performance. In one study a group of athletes were given your typical sugary sports drink and another group was given half the amount of sports drink mixed with chia seeds. The groups performed equally well on a 10K test run.
5. Omega 3-Fatty Acids
Out of the 9 grams of fat found in an ounce of chia seeds, 5 grams are omega-3’s. Pound for pound, chia seeds contain more omega-3’s than salmon. For vegetarians an vegans, you will be hard pressed to find a plant that contains more. There is however a word of caution that goes along with this item: The omega-3’s in chia seeds and all plants are different from those found in foods like fish or eggs and don’t offer all of the same benefits. Even with that said though, chia seeds do offer a bit of a boost.
6. Improved Cardiovascular Health
Early research has offered some evidence that chia seeds can improve the risk factors associated with poor heart-health. Studies with rats have shown that chia seeds can raise levels of good (HDL) cholesterol, reduce insulin sensitivity and inflammation and even cut belly fat. Given that heart disease is the leading cause of death in most western countries, we could all do with a little chia in our diet.
In short, the verdict is in: Chia seeds aren’t just for novelty gardening anymore.