Chia seeds are the latest health craze in the world of wellness.
That’s right–those little black seeds aren’t only used to grow fur for chia pets from your childhood days.
Originating from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, chia was grown by Mayan and Aztec cultures in Mexico for centuries. In these ancient cultures, “chia” translated to mean strength, as the seeds were used for energy boosts by the indigenous peoples of the time.
Considered to be a good replacement for refined grains, chia seeds are packed with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and calcium. They can be used in a variety of ways, from sprinkling them in salads to blending them in smoothies.
The health benefits of chia are endless. For example, by ingesting chia seeds, you can…
Decrease chances of heart attacks and strokes.
Chia is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which help to raise HDL cholesterol. This may sound counterintuitive to being healthy, as typically people want to lower cholesterol levels.
However, HDL is the “good” cholesterol that protects against heart attack and stroke. As chia is high in fiber, it also results in lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels of the negative sort.
Potentially help with weight loss.
Though chia seeds will not be the sole reason you may lose weight, it can help the process by making you feel fuller for longer. This is due to the high fiber content of chia and the fact that the seeds expand in your stomach once you ingest them.
The fiber content of chia is roughly 10 grams per ounce of seeds, and it’s recommended that people consume between 21 and 38 grams of fiber daily, depending on your gender and age.
Speaking in terms of fiber, chia provides a lot of bang for your buck!
Lower your risk of diabetes.
High-fiber diets are one way to lower the risk of developing diabetes as it keeps your blood sugar levels stable.
The National Institute of Medicine found that diets with 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories were linked to considerable reductions in the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Potentially help to prevent cancer.
Blueberries have historically been the antioxidant-rich superstars, but chia seeds actually contain more antioxidants than blueberries.
Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals, which are harmful molecules that have been linked to various cancers as well as Alzheimer’s Disease and some arthritis-related conditions.
How does one incorporate these tiny seeds into everyday meals? There’s a large range of options, but here are two such recipes to get you started.
Recipe 1: Vegetarian Spaghetti and Lentil “Meat”balls
- 1 and 1/2 cups dried lentils
- 3 cups vegetable broth or 3 cups water + 1 tablespoon bouillon
- 1 small diced onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- extra virgin olive oil spray
- 1/3 cup ground flaxseed
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
#1 Bring lentils and broth to a boil and then let simmer for 30 minutes or until soft. Meanwhile, sauté garlic and onions in a large pan sprayed with olive oil until soft.
#2 Take one cup of the lentils (drained), half the onion and garlic mixture, the ground flaxseed, egg, and chia seeds, and process in a blender or food processor until smooth. In a large bowl, combine all remaining ingredients and lightly mash with a fork or potato masher (some lentils should still remain whole).
#3 Form balls with lentil mixture and add to pan coated with olive oil on medium high heat. Leave enough room to roll meatballs in order to get them browned on each side.
#4 Serve over whole wheat pasta or spaghetti squash and top with your favorite homemade or jarred marinara sauce.
Makes about 30 meatballs
Recipe 2: No Cook Overnight Chia Seed Oatmeal
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 3/4 cup almond milk (or milk alternative of choice)
- 6 tbsp sweetened shredded dried coconut
- pinch of salt
Toppings as desired:
- toasted shredded coconut
- fresh berries
- toasted nuts
- dried fruits
- honey, agave, or other sweeteners
#1 In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, chia seeds, shredded coconut, and milk. Fold to combine until ingredients are evenly distributed. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes to allow chia and oats to absorb liquids.
#2 Transfer moistened ingredients to desired serving containers. Cover and keep in the fridge overnight. Serve chilled straight from the fridge. Add toppings as desired. Keeps well in fridge for up to 4 days.
These small but mighty seeds are so nutritious in a variety of ways that they’ve been deemed a “superfood” by nutritionists.
If you aren’t already actively including them in your diet, I highly recommend giving them a try. You may thank yourself in the future!
Looking to generally get on the path to eating healthier? Aside from introducing chia seeds to your diet, there are several other things you can do. Check out these simple food swaps for a more nutritious diet.