Chia: A Tiny Superfood With Big Benefits

Chia Smoothie

Cropping up in drinks and nutrition bars, chia seeds have become one of the more popular superfoods to hit the shelves of your local supermarket. With wide-reaching nutritional claims, what’s the real benefit and does it make sense for you to include chia in your diet?

First, some background. Native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala but now grown in many other parts of the world, chia is a flowering plant in the mint family. Chia seeds can be multi-colored, but experts suggest the brown/ black or white ones are the ones we should be paying attention to. It’s been said that Aztec warriors would eat chia seeds to fuel themselves while running long distances during battle.

Nutritional Benefits

Getting your healthy dose of fiber each day has significant health benefits including lowering cholesterol levels, maintaining bowel health and helping to control blood sugar levels. According to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), women need 25 grams of fiber every day, men require 38 grams per day. Most Americans only eat 15 grams, which is well below NAM requirements. Based on this, it’s clear that most of us don’t get our daily requirement of fiber. But, by incorporating just one ounce of chia seeds provides an impressive 10 grams of fiber to our meal.

In addition to the healthy dose of fiber, chia seeds contain protein, one of the body’s building blocks. Chia also offers healthy omega 3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke as well as playing a protective role in cancer and other conditions. One other significant benefit chia offers is the fact it is high in antioxidants, which protect our body from damage caused by harmful free radicals.

Adding Chia to Your Meals

Adding chia to your diet does not have to be a challenge. Raw chia seeds can be added to a number of healthy meals you might eat on any given day. For example, by dropping 1-2 tablespoons of chia in your favorite smoothie, you’ll gain the benefits chia has to offer without compromising flavor. You can also sprinkle some on your oatmeal in the morning, or include chia seeds on your afternoon salad.

Chia on the Go

As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of chia-based products sitting on the shelves of your local supermarket and health food store. Over the past year, I’ve experimented with some of the chia nutritional bars, and I’ve settled on a few that I eat on a regular basis. The bars are gluten free, organic and are easy to drop in a gym bag or briefcase for a quick snack on the run.

However you decide to incorporate chia seeds into your diet, the evidence points to the fact that you’ll be adding a significant amount of much-needed nutrients to your diet. Nutritional value aside, there are a number of reports discussing the potential negative effects of ingesting too much chia. Those reports describe gastrointestinal issues as well as potential obstruction of the esophagus. As with any food, it’s probably wise to be mindful of your eating and plan to cycle chia in and out of your diet to avoid overdoing it.