Sometimes the best things come in small packages. Take chia seeds, for example. Smaller than a grain of rice, these tiny superfoods are full of powerful health benefits. Once the main component of the Aztec diet, the nutrient-dense chia seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals and full of healthy fat and fiber. They are an easy way to increase the nutritional value of almost all of your favorite dishes without adding unwanted flavor.
According to an article published on harvard.edu, two tablespoons of chia seeds (1 ounce or 28 grams) contain about 140 calories, 4 grams of protein, 7 grams of unsaturated fat, 18% RDA for calcium, and trace minerals, including zinc and copper. They are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids and are considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make.
Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine expert Tanya Offenburger adds that eating two tablespoons per day provides approximately 65% more potassium than one banana, which is especially important to active individuals who struggle with muscle soreness or dehydration. Those two tablespoons also make up approximately 30% of the body’s daily magnesium requirements, a mineral that is responsible for more than 300 bodily functions and one that an estimated 70-80% of Americans don’t consume enough of daily.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain approximately 11 grams of fiber, another nutrient most people lack.
“For the majority of healthy women ages 40+, the daily fiber goal is around 25-30+ grams per day,” says Offenburger. “Studies show that the average person gets only about 9-10 grams per day.”
Why does that matter? Because research indicates that there is a strong correlation between fiber intake and improved health that goes beyond simply keeping you regular. A high-fiber diet can also lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancers. Plus, it has the added benefit of giving you a feeling of fullness, which may prevent mindless snacking between meals.
“Getting a high amount of fiber in each meal helps to blunt an insulin response,” explains Offenburger. “It aids in regulating hormones and reducing inflammation, which leads to weight loss. It’s a win/win.”
When you mention omega -3 fatty acids, most people immediately think of fish as the obvious choice for getting this vital nutrient into the diet. As mentioned earlier, however, chia seeds are rich in omega-3, and you don’t have to worry about mercury consumption. These heart-healthy fats offer a myriad of health benefits ranging from lowering cholesterol to promoting cardiovascular function, improving bone and joint health, and reducing the risk of certain types of cancers. Some studies suggest that omega-3 acids may even be good for your mental health, alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The only thing better than the health benefits of chia seeds is their versatility. Offenburger recommends adding a couple of tablespoons to a smoothie, stir-fry, overnight oat, or granola recipe. Sprinkle them on top of your yogurt, salad, or grilled veggies. And, because the seeds expand when added to liquid, they create a gel-like, tapioca consistency that works well as a binder for your favorite baked goodies.
“You can incorporate them into almost anything,” Offenburger says, adding that the seeds take on the flavor of whatever food they are added into. Below are two of her favorite chia seed recipes that make a delicious breakfast or snack.
Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend on high speed until smooth. For more smoothie ideas, click here.
Whether you soak, sprinkle, sip, or snack on them raw, chia seeds are a superfood that is super easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Add them to your diet to boost your daily dose of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need to enjoy your healthiest life.
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