Chia seeds might be small, but don’t let the size of these powerhouse seeds fool you. Not only are they packed full of fiber, antioxidants, omega-3s and essential minerals, they also mix easily into some of your favorite foods. Here's an inside look into their health benefits.
What are chia seeds?
Chia seeds are edible seeds that come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, which is part of the mint family. Chia seeds are an unprocessed, whole-grain food and were a food staple for the Aztecs and Mayans.
Despite their ancient history as a dietary staple, Kristie Leigh, a registered dietitian and health affairs manager at Danone North America, tells SheKnows that chia seeds have only recently grown in popularity and gained recognition for their impressive nutritional value.
Why are chia seeds good for you?
According to Courtney Ferreira, a registered dietitian, chia seeds are considered by dietitians to be an “almost perfect food.” That’s because chia seeds have among the highest antioxidant activity of any whole food, she tells SheKnows.
But the benefits of chia seeds don’t end there. Here are some additional reasons why chia seeds are so good for you:
Pack a lot of punch in a small package
With only 138 calories per 1-ounce serving, chia seeds pack a lot of nutrients, without adding extra calories to your diet.
Great source of fiber
These tiny seeds can absorb 10 times their weight in water, making them a great addition to improve hydration, Stephanie Wilson, a registered dietitian, tells SheKnows.
“Additionally, fiber slows the rate of digestion, helping you feel fuller for longer,” she adds. And with 10 grams of fiber per ounce (about two tablespoons), including chia seeds in your diet will help you reach the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.
Low in carbohydrates
If you’re watching your carb intake, you’ll be happy to know that the carbohydrate content in chia seeds is almost all made up of dietary fiber. In fact, of the almost 12 grams of carbohydrates per 1-ounce serving, close to 10 grams of that is dietary fiber.
High in omega-3 fatty acids
Chia seeds boast the highest level of omega-3s found in any whole plant food, Ferreira notes, adding that including foods with omega-3s helps raise your HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and protect against heart attack and stroke.
Rich in protein
One ounce of chia seeds contains 4 grams of protein.
Packed full of minerals
Chia seeds are an excellent source of bone-preserving minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.
Easy to include in recipes and everyday food items
You can add chia seeds to smoothies, pudding and yogurt or sprinkle them on top of fruit and cereal.
Recipes and tips for including chia seeds in your diet
One of the top reasons to add this powerhouse food to your day is how easy it is to incorporate them into your diet and favorite recipes.
Registered dietitian Lauren Manaker tells SheKnows she also sneaks chia seeds into recipes including meatloaf and hamburgers. “I mix chia seeds in with the meat mixture and cook as usual,” she says. “It adds a nice taste and makes me feel fuller for a longer time.”
If you'd like more ways to use chia seeds in recipes, here are some recipes straight from our experts.
Peach-mango chia jam recipe
Registered dietitian Toby Amidor tells SheKnows that chia seeds have a very mild flavor and add crunch when sprinkled over yogurt, salads or oatmeal. Here is one of her favorite recipes made with chia seeds.
Yields 1/2 cup
- 1 cup fresh or unsweetened frozen peach slices
- 1 cup fresh of unsweetened frozen mango slices
- 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the peach and mango slices, stirring often, until soft, about 12 minutes.
- Using a potato masher or a fork, mash the fruit in the pan.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the chia seeds. Stir to combine. Cook until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for five minutes.
Vanilla-matcha spring smoothie recipe
Leigh says she loves to add chia seeds to all kinds of foods, including yogurt, smoothie bowls and banana bread (one of her kid’s favorite treats). “Since chia seeds have a mild flavor, they can be added to savory and sweet recipes such as marinades, dressings and dips for fruits and vegetables,” she adds. Here is one of Leigh’s favorite morning meals with chia seeds.
- 2 (3-ounce) vanilla probiotic yogurt drinks
- 2 frozen bananas
- 2 teaspoons matcha powder
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- Splash of milk
- Ice, about 2 handfuls
- Pour the yogurt drinks into a blender. Top with frozen bananas, matcha powder and chia seeds. Add a splash of milk. Pour ice into a blender and blend well for 20 seconds.
Chia seed pudding recipe
A simple meal to make for breakfast is chia seed pudding. Manaker says she likes this healthy meal because you prep it the night before.
- 1/2 cup chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
- Mix the chia seeds, honey and almond milk, cover and chill overnight. Top with fresh fruit or a spoonful of nut butter.
So, now that you know what chia seeds are, what they do and how to use them, give them a try!