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Have you ever tried chia seeds? I found out about these tiny nutrition powerhouses only recently and was surprised at how versatile they really are.
However, as small as they may be, chia seeds really do pack a punch when it comes to vitamins and minerals. So much so that I often add them to my smoothies, or sprinkle them on my salads or yogurts.
So let’s have a closer look at what chia seeds actually are, and what type of nutritional benefits they offer.
What Are Chia Seeds
Originally grown in central and southern Mexico and Guatemala, chia seeds were an important part of the Aztec and Mayan diet.
The chia plant (Salvia hispanica) is a member of the mint family, and is considered a pseudocereal, cultivated for its edible, hydrophilic chia seed.
The seeds of chia are either white or black, and even though the seeds are incredibly small, they offer a great amount of nutrition. Chia is essentially one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can find!
Nutritional Profile of Chia Seeds
Below table is a representation of the nutritional profile of (dried) chia seeds. As you can see, the amounts of certain vitamins and minerals in chia seeds is incredible.
Mind you, this is per 100g, and obviously we wouldn’t eat that much chia in one go. But still, it goes to show how nutrient dense chia seeds are.
|Chia Seeds Nutritional Profile (dried – 100 g)|
|Dietary fiber||34.4 g|
|Calcium||631 mg (63% DV)|
|Iron||7.72 mg (59% DV)|
|Magnesium||335 mg (94% DV)|
|Phosphorus||860 mg (123% DV)|
|Potassium||407 mg (9% DV)|
|Zinc||4.58 mg (48% DV)|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)||0.620 mg (54% DV)|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.170 mg (14% DV)|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||8.830 mg (59% DV)|
|Vitamin C||1.6 mg (2% DV)|
|Vitamin E||0.5 mg (3% DV)|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||49 µg (12%)|
|Vitamin C||8.7 mg (10%)|
|Sources: USDA, Wikipedia|
Nutritional Benefits of Chia Seeds
The nutritional profile of chia seeds is quite impressive, to say the least. Let’s walk through some of the nutritional benefits of regularly including chia seeds in your diet.
For example, two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 3 times more iron and magnesium than a handful of spinach, as much calcium as half a glass of milk, twice the fiber of a cup of oatmeal and as much potassium as a small banana.
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Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Chia is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 helps protect against inflammation such as heart disease and arthritis.
The human body does not produce omega acids on its own and we therefore must obtain them through food sources. Fish is of course a great source of omegas, but chia seeds are also packed with omega-3 and omega-6.
Chia seeds contain a staggering 34 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
Fiber is important for digestive health, and one or two tablespoons of these tiny little seeds every day is an excellent way of making sure you’re getting enough fiber.
Chia has strong benefits for diabetics. It has the ability to help the body regulate carbohydrates and the sugars they turn into.
When ingested, chia seeds form a type of barrier inside the stomach. This barrier helps to slow the ingestion of sugar into the blood stream which is very helpful for people who suffer from diabetes.
Chia is becoming increasingly popular with bodybuilders because the chia seed is a complete protein. Chia contains all essential amino acids which helps to perform better and build muscles faster.
Last but certainly not least, chia seeds are also a great source of antioxidants, helping our bodies fight against free radicals and prevent diseases.
How to Eat Chia Seeds
There are many different ways to incorporate chia seeds into your diet. Here are some practical ideas for you:
- The most common way of eating these is to sprinkle them on your cereal, salads, or yogurt.
- Chia seeds can also be mixed into green smoothies. The seeds form a gel type texture when soaked in liquid, so make sure you don’t add too much to your smoothie or it will get very thick.
- Simply mix a tablespoon of chia with your glass of water or fresh juice.
- Make a chia gel and use it to make puddings.