Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

chia seeds

Chia seeds have been revered as a superfood as far back as 3500 BC. The ancient Aztec warriors believed a tablespoon of this exotic seed helped sustain their energy. “Chia” literally means “strength” in Mayan. 

Chia (Salvia hispanica) made a strong comeback in the 21st century as people discover more of its health benefits. Fitness buffs believe it helps them build more muscle mass. Marathoners believe it fuels them for an extra mile. And health nuts believe it keeps diseases at bay and aids weight loss.

The grains are now grown commercially in Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina. But the biggest producer is Australia, where it is marketed under various brand names.

Chia seeds: Nutritional Facts

White or black, the tiny seeds are packed full of nutrients that do wonder for your body and brain. A one-ounce serving (28 grams or about 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds will give you:

  • Fiber: 11 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 9 grams (including 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Carbohydrate: 1 gram
  • Calcium: 18% (based on RDI)
  • Magnesium: 30%
  • Manganese: 30%
  • Phosphorus: 27%
  •  Plus decent amounts of zinc, potassium, vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B1 (thiamine), and vitamin B12.

In comparison, chia seeds have 5 times more calcium than milk, 8 times more omega-3 than salmon, 3 times more iron than spinach, and 3 times more antioxidants than blueberries.

All that good stuff in just 137 calories. 

On top of that, chia seeds contain tons of antioxidants which help fight inflammation. They’re gluten-free, too, which is particularly convenient for those wilt dietary restrictions.

Since they absorb up to 12 times their weight in water, eating the seeds is helpful if you’ve got digestive problems.

How to eat chia seeds

The seeds don’t have a particularly strong flavour. So it’s easy to add them to your usual snacks or meals. 

Chia seeds are a whole-grain food. Unlike flax seeds, you don’t need to grind them to get that nutritional punch. They can be eaten dry, like when sprinkled on top of a salad. But, usually they are mixed into yogurt, overnight oats, or smoothies. 

When mixed with liquid, chia seeds swell up and congeal. This makes them a great substitute for eggs in vegan desserts and baked goodies. 

Now, you can bet anything with the “organic” label and “superfood” status is going to be expensive. But despite the large price tag, a small bag of chia seeds will last for ages.

Unless you’re an athlete, the common dosage recommendation is about 1.5 tablespoons (20g) twice per day. A little goes a long way.

Bad side effects?

Chia does have some not-so-good properties. Plant sources of omega-3s usually contain ALA, which is an inactive form that the human body is not able to convert or use well. The omega-3s in chia can work to lower your blood pressure. But if you have low blood sugar, this side effect can cause your blood to thin out too much which lead to health issues like nausea, blurred vision, and even depression.

Because chia seeds are rich in fiber, overconsumption can also lead to stomach and gastrointestinal issues (read: constipation, bloating, gas!).

Although rarely, chia seeds can also cause allergies. It’s not generally recommended for those with a nut or seed allergy.

About the author

Hey, it’s Chenzi! A writer made in Cebu. Stringing words is my bread and butter, but baking and mothering my 3-year-old are what feed my soul. I have an insatiable thirst for learning.