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The Nutritional Power of Chia Seeds

Have you tried chia seeds? I've been eating them every day for years. These tiny dark seeds come from the Salvia hispanica L plant, which in is the mint family. Originally grown in Mexico, South and Central America, it is being cultivated in the US, Europe, and Africa. The Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas ate chia seeds and used them for making medicine.

These tiny seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients -- omega 3's, fiber, essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Chia seeds are recommended for reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, supporting digestive health, reducing inflammation, managing blood glucose, and relieving anxiety.

A photo of fresh lettuce, strawberries and pineapple sprinkled with chia seeds
Fruit salad sprinkled with chia and flax seeds

Chia seeds contain all 3 macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fat.

From a protein perspective, chia seeds provide 18 of the 22 amino acids including all 9 essential amino acids that the body cannot manufacture on its own. Protein is critical for building muscles, bones, skin, teeth and hair as well as energy production and immune system functioning.

A list of the 9 essential amino acids
Chia seeds include all 9 essential amino acids

The carbs in chia seeds are primarily fiber. There’s a small amount of starch but no sugar. Fiber is important for healthy digestive functioning and nourishing the gut microbiome. A 2-tablespoon serving of chia seeds provides 10 grams of fiber. Most Americans consume about 15 grams of fiber a day, which is below the recommended daily amounts of 25-30 grams. The fiber in chia seeds can help lower blood glucose and low-density lipoproteins (LDL aka the bad cholesterol).

The fat is mostly polyunsaturated. Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids - another important substance that we need to get from our diet. Omega-3’s help prevent heart disease and stroke, may help control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis, and play protective roles in cancer and inflammation.

A pie chart showing that chia seeds are 26% protein, 43% carbs, and 30% fat
The ratio of proteins, carbs, and fat in chia seeds

Other components include thiamine (B1), niacin (B3), vitamins C and A. Minerals in chia seeds include phosphorous, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, selenium and zinc. They also provide an antioxidant called quercetin that can lower blood pressure and the risk factors of heart disease.

There are so many delicious ways to enjoy chia seeds. I use chia seeds in my oatmeal - whether I am making it hot or as Overnight Oats in the fridge. I sprinkle chia seeds on my fruit yogurt bowl and add them to date bars for a nice crunch. Chia seeds can be stirred into smoothies or sprinkled on avocado toast.

A photo of toast topped with mashed avocado and chia seeds
Chia seeds sprinkled on avocado toast

Moisture makes chia seeds swell up into a gel-like consistency. If you are baking and don't have an egg, just mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 2.5 tablespoons of water. After letting it for a few minutes, this gel can be used as a binder to thicken batters, soups or stews. Mixing chia seeds with milk makes a tasty pudding. There are tons of recipes available online. Avoid eating chia seeds dry as they can become lodged in the lining of your throat.

You can find chia seeds in baking section of the grocery store. If there are multiple brands to choose from, compare the labels because the nutrition content may vary depending on where the plants were grown.

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