According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, chia seeds come from the Salvia hispanica L. family of plants. They have been cultivated and eaten as far back as 3500 B.C. by the ancient Aztecs, who also used the seeds as offerings in religious ceremonies.
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Commonly sprinkled over acai bowls or added to smoothies, the benefits of chia seeds are endless. These small, black oval seeds are not just rich in antioxidants, but also vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fats, which have been known to decrease inflammation and alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.
Chia seeds are very absorbent and help in hydration. Soaking chia seeds in water results in the seeds forming a gelatinous-like texture, making it an excellent binding agent and replacement for eggs in baking recipes.
Nutrient Content of Chia Seeds
A 1-ounce serving equivalent to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contains 138 calories, 8.7 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 4.7 grams of protein and 9.8 grams of fiber. In addition to trace amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E, chia seeds also contain B vitamins like niacin, thiamin, folate and riboflavin, which help regulate everything from metabolism and nutrient absorption to relieving the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
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Chia seeds are also high in minerals like potassium, calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for the body. These minerals aid in proper kidney functioning, regulation of nerve impulses and muscle contraction.
The highest mineral content present in a serving of chia seeds is magnesium — an ounce provides 23 percent of one's recommended daily magnesium intake. Adding chia seeds to your daily dietary routine will help prevent weak muscles and irregular heartbeat, which are symptoms of a diet low in magnesium, as explained by the Mayo Clinic.
Chia Seed Benefits
An important benefit of adding chia seeds to your diet is that it is also rich in omega-3 fats, which according to the University of Washington, are essential fatty acids that the body is unable to produce but requires in order to properly function.
Omega-3 fats provide several benefits, including reducing inflammation and eczema, as well as alleviating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and preventing heart disease. In fact, according to a study published in the July 2013 issue of the Journal of Food Science and Technology, chia seeds are one of the only food sources with the highest concentration of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA), two fatty acid chains that are essential for the body.
Adding chia seeds to your diet can also help alleviate the symptoms of constipation, explains MedlinePlus. The seeds, which contribute 39 percent of daily value per 1-ounce serving, are a good source of insoluble fiber and aid in both bulking up stool and facilitating regular bowel movements that can be excreted with ease.
Soaking Chia Seeds
The University of Illinois Extension explains that chia seeds are extremely absorbent and absorb more than their weight in water. As a result, they can be used as an effective replacement in recipes that call for eggs when baking cakes and cookies. Chia seeds can also easily be used in place of flaxseeds when cooking, as both chia seeds and flaxseeds have a similar nutritional content, and more importantly, offer the same thickening properties that are required by recipes.
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Chia seeds can be used in numerous ways and easily incorporated into your daily diet. It's important to note that chia seeds need to be soaked in liquid prior to consumption to prevent any blockages that may occur in the digestive tract. You can have chia seeds with water in the morning to begin your day or use chia seed in recipes like chia seed pudding and fresh fruit smoothies or savory dishes like chia seed meatballs and chia seed crusted fish.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Chia Seeds"
- University of Illinois Extension: "Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!"
- MedlinePlus: "Healthy Food Trends — Chia Seeds"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Chia Seeds"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Seeds, Chia Seeds, Dried"
- University of Washington: "Super Seeds: Power up with Flax, Hemp, & Chia"
- Mayo Clinic: "Magnesium"
- MedlinePlus: "Phosphorus in Diet"
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: "Nutritional and Therapeutic Perspectives of Chia (Salvia hispanica L.): A Review"