Chia seeds are remarkably healthy for such a tiny item. It’s believed that chia seeds were first used as food in Mexico around 3500 BC. Aztecs and Mayans ate them for energy and the word “chia” meant “strength” in the ancient Maya language. Today, they are found all over the world and are revered for their incredible nutritional value.
You need to soak chia seeds in water or milk before consuming them because it helps you digest them and reap the full nutritional value they provide. When chia seeds absorb liquid, it makes a gel-like texture consistency. This means that as well as the ever-popular chia seed pudding, they can be used as an egg replacement or to thicken baked goods and sauces. I will show you how to make chia seed pudding later but first let’s look at the health benefits derived from chia seeds.
Medicinal Benefits Of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are packed full of goodness. Just two tablespoons of chia seeds will give women 44% of their daily recommended fiber and men 29%. They are also known for containing Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and protein. Chia seeds are rich in many minerals too: calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, iron, and selenium. Let’s look at why these nutrients are so important and what they will do for your body.
- Fiber helps to keep our colon healthy by cleaning it, removing waste and toxins. It also slows down the process of sugar being absorbed into the bloodstream. Fiber is useful in managing weight too because it keeps you feeling full for longer.
- Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are classified as essential fats because they can only be obtained from your diet, meaning your body can’t produce them. A low intake of Omega-3 has been linked to inflammation and chronic diseases. Omega-6 mostly provides the body with energy but also supports the immune system.
- Protein is an essential building block of bones, muscles, and skin. It’s found in every cell of the body and is the second-largest component of cells after water! We need protein for everything we do and for the body to function properly. It allows oxygen to be carried throughout the body and it helps to repair tissue damage too.
- Chia seeds contain more than four times the amount of calcium than milk. If you make a chia seed pudding or smoothie and mix them with milk (or plant-based milk fortified with calcium) as your soaking agent this makes an even more potent dish. Calcium is found in our bones and teeth so it’s important to maintain calcium levels to keep them healthy.
- Approximately 60% of magnesium is found in our bones, making it important for bone health. It also plays a vital role in turning food into energy and even helps with the absorption of other minerals.
- Manganese is known as a trace mineral and is found in small amounts in the bones, pancreas, liver, and kidneys. It supports brain function and a healthy nervous system. It also aids in the production of certain enzymes and antioxidants.
- Copper is also a trace mineral and is essential for the nervous system and immune system. It is also needed in a number of processes including the synthesis of collagen. It helps maintain the heart’s muscle tone too.
- Phosphorus is most commonly associated with bone health. It works with calcium to build bones. However, phosphorus has a wide range of roles to keep various body parts working including the kidneys, blood vessels, bones, and muscles.
- Iron is an important mineral that helps transport oxygen around the body. In fact, around 70% of your body’s iron lives in red blood cells. Too little iron in the body leads to anemia. The immune system also relies on iron so it’s necessary for our general well-being.
- Selenium is a powerful antioxidant and is an essential mineral that must be obtained through food. It has many benefits for the body but most notably in supporting your metabolism and thyroid function.
Which Diseases Can Chia Seeds Help prevent?
Thanks to all of the nutrients found in chia seeds, if you eat them every day you will lower your risk of developing certain diseases including:
- Diabetes – helps regulate blood sugar levels
- Heart Disease – lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and promotes healthy blood sugar levels
- Cancer – has antioxidants that fight free radicals
- Metabolic Syndrome – improves blood sugar levels
- Osteoporosis – builds bone strength
Possible Side Effects Of Eating Chia Seeds Every Day
While chia seeds have many health benefits, some of these nutrients can have a negative effect if you consume too much and impact people with certain medical conditions adversely. For most healthy people, eating chia seeds every day in moderation will not be harmful in any way and they will enjoy all the benefits.
The first factor to consider is fiber. Yes, fiber is essential for our bodies, but there are some points to note:
- Drink lots of water to help digest fiber and always soak chia seeds in water or milk before eating them
- Too much fiber can cause constipation, bloating, or diarrhea
- If you have an inflammatory bowel disease you may need to limit fiber intake during a flareup
Another factor to consider is chia seeds can reduce blood sugar levels. If you are taking insulin for diabetes, you may need to talk to your doctor. This is because they would have calculated the dosage according to your body and if your blood sugar decreases over time they may need to make an adjustment for you.
How To Make Chia Seed Pudding
I’m going to show you how to make chia seed pudding today. This versatile recipe is simple to make and you can use this as a base and add fruit and spices if you like. A single serving (½ of the portion in this recipe) will contain 220 calories.
- 4 Tablespoons of chia seeds
- 1 Cup of milk
- ½ Tablespoon of honey (or sweetener of your choice)
- Jar with a tight lid
- Place 4 tablespoons of chia seeds into a small jar.
- Pour in 1 cup of milk. This can be any type of milk, whether it’s your favorite plant-based milk or animal product.
- Add ½ tablespoon of honey (or your favorite sweetener) and stir well.
- Let it sit for 5 minutes, then stir it again, removing any clumps.
- Place your lid on the jar and place it in the fridge.
- Leave it for at least 2 hours to allow the chia seeds to fully absorb the milk and expand. It’s also a really easy breakfast to prepare the night before and you can leave them overnight in the fridge.
You can enjoy it as a quick and nutritious breakfast, a snack, or a healthy dessert. It keeps well in the fridge for up to one week, as long as your milk isn’t due to expire before that time. While on the topic of milk, you can also add more milk if you want your pudding runnier.
You can add fruit for added flavor and nutrition, which you just add to the chia seed pudding when you’re ready to eat it. You can use frozen berries, nectarines, or any fruit of your choosing. Chia seeds don’t have a distinctive flavor so most people add fruit and/or spices to chia seed pudding. It’s really very flexible and pairs well with just about any fruit and is lovely with vanilla extract, cinnamon, or nutmeg. By adding fruit you really are complementing the chia seeds too which are high in minerals but low in vitamins. This makes it a very well-rounded and healthy dish and an excellent addition to your daily diet routine.