The Benefits of Chia Seeds – A multi-faceted superfood
There are so many reasons to love chia seeds. For one, they’re often considered a superfood, which are a group of completely natural foods that are extremely nutrient-dense and can give you the boost you need to meet your hardest physical demands. It’s been deemed a novel food — a food that doesn’t have a long history of consumption — since 2018 by the UK government and the Food Standards Agency considers it an excellent addition to any well-rounded diet. The German Society for Nutrition has classified chia seeds as nutritionally valuable1.
Nährwerte und Wirkung von Chia Samen
Nutritional Information and Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds – a nutritional powerhouse
Chia seeds are packed with both macro and micronutrients. Just 100g contain 5g of complex carbohydrates, 21g of protein, and 24g of healthy fats. They’re also rich in fiber, and can absorb nine times their own weight in water, which is great for making healthy puddings for breakfast or dessert.
In terms of micronutrients, chia seeds have rich concentrations of calcium (606mg per 100g) and magnesium (306mg per 100g), as well as iron, potassium, and zinc, a combination which is ideal for maintaining bone and muscle health and athletic performance.
What they can do for you
- Stabilize blood sugar levels and create a long-lasting feeling of satiety.
- Contribute to the recovery and health of your bones and muscles.
- Provide quality vegan protein as well as many other micronutrients.
Long before chia seeds were appearing on social media, the Mayans were already well aware of their benefits and using it to meet all their needs. They’re worth including in any diet because there’s really so much they can do, from improving your general health to helping you meet your fitness goals.
Chia Seeds – Weight Loss Effects
Cutting calories with chia seeds
Chia seeds are great for weight loss because they’re rich in fiber, a nutrient that can balance your blood sugar levels and help you feel fuller for longer, so you’re less inclined to snack throughout the day. All that fiber also helps maintain your insulin levels, which makes it easier for your body to burn fat between meals. Plan your chia snacks strategically to take advantage of this additional fat burning — for example, having an early evening chia snack will keep you from being too hungry at dinnertime. And a chia pudding at work can keep you from heading to the vending machine.
Feeling full with chia seeds
Chia seeds can create a feeling of long-lasting satiety thanks to all the healthy fats and fiber they contain. Since they can absorb nine times their own weight in water, they swell in your stomach and slow down the breakdown of carbs and fats, which ends up leaving you fuller for longer2.
Chia Seeds – Effects on Exercise
Using chia seeds for recovery and bone and muscle health
The micronutrients in chia seeds can lead to improved physical performance, no matter what workout you’re doing. Their particularly high calcium and magnesium content efficiently maintains bone structure and muscle capacity. And the iron in the seeds helps your body burn carbs faster, which can lead to a faster recovery period. Cross-country athletes rely on the potassium in the seeds to rehydrate and quickly replenish their glycogen reserves after exercise.
Using chia seeds for strength training
There’s a reason chia seeds are a bodybuilding favorite. They’re packed with completely plant-based protein as well as the essential amino acids your body needs to properly absorb all that protein. When consumed directly after a workout, chia seeds provide your body with enough protein for it to begin recovering and reconstructing your muscles almost immediately.
Using chia seeds for endurance training
Chia seeds can also improve your endurance, which is why long-distance runners love them as much as bodybuilders. Chia seeds fill your stomach and take a long time to digest because they’re full of fiber, extremely absorptive, and can grow to nine times their original size — way longer than the oatmeal and cereal you might be used to. This creates a longer-lasting feeling of satiety and gives you the energy you need for the long road ahead.
Looking for a fresh challenge? Our Workouts Section is brimming with ideas tailor-made by fitness experts to help you hit your goals. Check it out!
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
Using chia seeds for heart health
Chia seeds are 60 percent composed of the essential omega-3 fatty acids our bodies need but aren’t able to produce on their own, and many studies have shown that consuming them regularly as part of balanced nutrition results in positive effects on cardiovascular health. Chia seed treats make it easy to ensure you’re getting enough omega-3 acids without even having to think about it.
Using chia seeds for healthy skin
Chia seeds are also thought to be great for your skin because they’re rich in antioxidants and they retain a lot of water. Antioxidants have been shown to slow the aging process4; and the amount of water they retain can provide your skin with long-lasting moisture. They also contain vitamin B3 and zinc, two nutrients that can prevent redness.
Using chia seeds for healthy hair
The high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds is also great for keeping your hair shiny. The micronutrients they contain, like calcium, iron and vitamin B, can also have positive effects on your hair.
Overall, the research that has been done on chia seeds suggests that this superfood has more pros than cons. However, it is important to note that some studies suggest that there are risk factors to consuming too much, like increased blood pressure. Though the information isn’t conclusive, we suggest that anyone that suffers from hypertension should avoid eating more than the recommended daily amount of 15g5.
Other risk factors of eating too many chia seeds include bloating and constipation, especially for people who aren’t used to eating a lot of fiber. In general, try to avoid eating more than 15g a day if you’re already eating a fiber-rich diet with plenty of whole grain products, vegetables, and legumes. And if you’re still worried, know that soaking the seeds can promote digestion and reduce the risk of constipation.
Recommended Intake of Chia Seeds
The chia seed is small and highly versatile
- Consider adding chia seeds to your next post-training protein shake, because they can promote recovery as soon as 30 to 40 minutes after the end of your workout.
- If you want to use these powerhouses to fuel your workout, it’s best to eat them 1 to 2 hours before you plan to work out. This will give you the energy you need when you need it.
- Chia seeds are also great for reaching your weight loss goals, whether you choose to work them into your morning muesli or after-dinner dessert. Just be sure that you’re soaking the seeds in enough liquid to improve digestion and satiety.
For the best results, soak them in water for about 30 minutes before you plan to eat. If you don’t have enough time to soak in advance, just be sure that you’re consuming enough liquid to guarantee your body has the easiest time digesting. In general, you’ll want to use a ratio of 9 to 1 liquid to chia seeds – that’s about 135ml of water for every 15g of seeds. Luckily the most common ways to eat chia — recipes like chia pudding, for example — require you to soak the seeds well in advance.
Origin and History
A proven tradition
Chia (Salvia Hispanica) is a sage plant originally from Mexico that is also cultivated in South American countries like Peru and Argentina. The indigineous people of Central America have been consuming the seeds for centuries, and they are often relied on in Mexican folk medicine because of their high nutritional density.
Because chia seeds contain so many macro and micronutrients, they’re a great addition to any diet. Though chia seeds may not be as targeted as dietary supplements and sports drinks, they’re great for active lifestyles because they can also improve both strength and endurance and help you reach numerous fitness goals.
Are chia seeds right for you? How can you use chia seeds to get into your best shape? Find out now with our free Body Check!
Sources for this article
We at foodspring use only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
- https://www.springlane.de/magazine/die-wahrheit-ueber-superfoods/#Chia (as at 28.12.2015)
- British Journal of Nutrition, 2009.
- Clin Interv Aging. 2007.
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25403867 (as at 28.12.2015)