Not only are chia seeds a great source of plant protein but there is nothing you have to do to them to get the benefits. Raw chia seeds (which look like mini dinosaur eggs) straight from the plant are highly nutritious. Here are the top 10 nutrition benefits of chia seeds along with some ways to include them in your diet.
- Plant Protein
- In just 1 ounce of chia seeds (which is 28 grams) there 4 grams of protein. That works out to be 14% protein. For a tiny little seed that an impressive amount of plant protein. If you were to make a flour tortilla made with chia flour… that’s a lot of protein. Sprinkle some on a salad, cupcakes or other baked goods for a little extra protein.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Chia seeds have more omega 3 fatty acids than salmon but this is a slightly different omega 3. Alpha linoleic acid is the omega 3 found in chia. This is not the same type of omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon. The beneficial omega 3’s found in salmon are DHA and EPA. Both of those are made from ALA (alpha linoleic acid) which the fish gets from plants.
So chia seeds contain the omega 3 that fish convert into the other beneficial ones. This means that there is a conversion that has to take place in order for us to get those benefits. However, ALA has it’s own benefits. Some studies show that ALA may reduce the risk of blood pressure, inflammation and heart disease.
- In that same 1 ounce of chia seeds there is 12 grams of carbohydrates. This is where it gets really cool. 11 grams of that is dietary fiber. Technically speaking that means there is only 1 gram of carbs because the other 11 grams is fiber which isn’t digested. That makes chia ideal for a low carb, high protein diet.
- High in Fiber
- The fiber in chia seeds works in a really unique way as well. The shells of chia seeds are very permeable and allow water to flow through them. So when the seeds get wet the fiber forms this clear gel like substance around the seed. The nutritious benefit of chia seeds is that the body has to do next to nothing to get the benefits from the fiber.
- Bone Building Minerals
- 1 ounce of chia seeds contains 18% of your daily value of calcium. That same amount also contains 95mg of magnesium. When magnesium is present it helps the absorption of calcium which is why you often find those two main ingredients together in bone building supplements.
- Boron and zinc are important in building dense bones along with phosphorous all of which are found in chia. 27% of your daily value of phosphorous is found in chia seeds. Another mineral it contains is potassium which is beneficial for muscle contractions and very beneficial athletes.
- Chia seeds are not a good source of vitamins, however, they do contain a significant amount of B Vitamins similar to brown rice. In 1 ounce ( 28 grams) of seed they contain 15% daily value of Thiamine B1, 4% of riboflavin B2 and 16% of Niacin B3. B Vitamins are critical in preventing many diseases and neurological issues.
- The antioxidants in chia seeds are phenolic compounds which are basically plant antioxidants that protect the beneficial material inside the seeds. These antioxidants work in the same way to protect our healthy cells when ingested. Think about them the same way blueberry antioxidants are beneficial to us.
- The fiber gel I talked about earlier that forms around chia seeds helps improve digestion. Most “modern foods” don’t have enough fiber or any at all. A lack of fiber leads to digestion issues and poor digestion leads to a long list of health issues. Chia seeds are a simple, inexpensive way to add fiber to your diet.
- Good fats
- The good fats found in chia seeds are like the good fats found in avocados. In 1 ounce ( 28 grams) of chia seeds there is 7 grams of polyunsaturated fat, .9 grams of saturated fat and .7 grams of monounsaturated fat. Avocados are higher in monounsaturated fat but chia seeds are much higher in polyunsaturated fats per gram.
Polyunsaturated fats are the fats that can help reduce the bad cholesterol which affects heart health. They also help maintain the health of the body’s cells.
- Other Benefits of Chia Seeds and Ways to Eat Them
- In South America, chia seeds were ground down and used to make flour tortillas. So literally anything that is made with flour can be made with chia flour and be much more nutritious than conventional flours. Bread, tortillas, pancakes, pastries you name it.
- They can be sprinkled on salads and used in the same way any other seed is used in baked goods as a topping. Cupcakes, buns, brownies, etc.
- When added to fruit juices in South America they make a drink called chia fresca which kicks up the nutrition levels a few notches.
- Chia can also be eaten the same way we eat nuts. In fact a handful of them tastes like a cross between sunflower seeds and a tree nut.
- Some of the most popular ways to eat these seeds are by mixing them into yogurts, granola, oatmeal and protein shakes.
If you want to share some great ideas or recipes for chia seeds let us know in the comments below. I love you all and stay healthy.