Not long ago, I thought chia seeds were the stuff you started a Chia Pet with. Why was everyone talking about these little black seeds? Once I learned more about these beauties, it didn’t take long for me to start adding them to everything I could think of. For such an innocent looking tiny little black seed, chia seeds are really pretty amazing.
Chia seeds are from the plant Salvia hispanica native to Mexico. Ancient people prized them for the energy they provided. Interestingly, “chia” meant “strength” in Mayan culture. Runners and warriors used chia to sustain them during long bouts of intense exercise. Don’t let their small size fool you, these little guys are loaded with nutrients.
In just one ounce (28 grams), chia seeds contain 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 5g of Omega-3 fats (9 grams total fat). Chia seeds also contain essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic and linoleic acid; vitamins A, B, E, and D; minerals manganese, magnesium, phosphorus; and they’re a rich source of antioxidants.
Let’s look at what this means for your health:
Skin health: Chia improves skin health and reduces signs of aging due to a high concentration of antioxidants. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals created by toxins in the food, environment, sun exposure, or other factors. Free radicals cause damage which we perceive as aging and inflammation. Increasing the antioxidants in your diet will reduce signs of aging.
Bone health: Chia is high in several minerals important for bone health. These include calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. In fact, chia contains more calcium than dairy gram for gram. One ounce of chia contains 18% of the RDA for calcium.
Digestive health: Fiber is important to digestive health and chia is packed with fiber. One ounce (28 grams) of chia contains 11 grams of fiber! Fiber helps you feel more full after you eat, preventing you from overeating. It also helps with regularity and stool consistency. The most amazing thing about the fiber in chia seeds, however, is the gel that forms when they are soaked in water. This gel also forms in the stomach and is an important food for the good bacteria in your gut. I love it when our little gut buddies get treats!
Blood sugar regulation: Chia may help reduce factors leading to insulin resistance, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes. Again, it’s their fiber and alpha-linolenic acid content that provides numerous benefits. Studies are encouraging, indicating that the protective effects of chia may counteract dangerous blood sugar spikes and the resulting insulin surge. If this proves true in humans, it has an astounding potential for treating type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Heart health: You know Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart. Chia actually contains more Omega-3 than salmon gram for gram! Because chia has anti-inflammatory properties from its linoleic acid and Omega-3 fatty acid content, it can have the effect of lowering blood pressure and the systemic inflammation that causes cardiovascular disease.
Cancer Prevention: Speaking of fatty acids, chia seeds are also rich in alpha lipoic acid (or ALA), which is an Omega-3 fatty acid. ALA has been found to limit the growth of cancer cells in both breast and cervical cancer. Not bad for a crunchy little seed!
Weight loss: The jury is out as to whether chia seeds actually help with weight loss, however, their high concentration of fiber and protein indicates that they are an excellent addition to a healthy weight loss diet. Interestingly, they are also high in zinc which increases the hormone leptin. Leptin is the hormone that makes us feel like we’ve had enough to eat. Unfortunately, obese people are likely to be resistant to leptin which would negate this effect.
Not bad for a little black seed, right?
Get chia seeds most anywhere. Many regular grocery stores sell them and you can always find them at health food stores. Most of the time they are grown organically and a GMO variety doesn’t even exist. Add them to just about anything. They pretty much disappear into salads and sandwiches, add crunch to smoothie bowls, and are great thickeners in sauces and puddings due to their gelatin-making feature.
Chia Seed Pudding
- 1/2 cup plant-based or dairy milk
- 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (in the can)
- 1 heaping Tbsp nut or seed butter
- 1 tsp real vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp honey or 1 dropper of stevia
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- Berries and/or nuts (optional, but wonderful)
Pour the milks, nut butter, vanilla, and honey into a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.
Pour this mixture into a mason jar (2-pint size or 1-quart size) or other resealable glass container, then add the chia seeds. Seal the jar, shake to evenly distribute the chia seeds, and refrigerate overnight (or at least 3 hours). You might want to check on it after an hour and shake it again if the seeds are separating from the liquid.
The mixture will form a pudding-like texture magically overnight!
Top with berries and/or nuts, make a parfait with granola (better yet Paleo granola!), or enjoy as is for breakfast, brunch, or dessert.
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