Why You Should Be Including Chia Seeds In Your Diet

If you're looking for a versatile superfood that can be the star of a dish or play an important undercover role, look no further than chia seeds. According to the World of Chia, the seed originates from Mexico where as far back as 3500 BC it was considered an essential crop among the ancient Aztecs. The source notes that it was praised for its ability to promote endurance and strength, particularly among warriors. The name also comes from the word chian, which means oily in the Aztec Nahuatl language (via World of Chia). This alludes to its composition which is high in fat, especially omega-3s, making it a great option for vegetarians (via Nutritionix). But there are far more reasons why you should include these tiny seeds in your diet.

Besides being a great source of polyunsaturated fats, just one tablespoon of chia seeds contains 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 5% of your daily intake of calcium and iron, and 60 calories (via Nutritionix). Healthline explains that the protein is complete, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. According to BBC Good Food, the presence of calcium in chia seeds contributes to bone health, and the fiber and omega fats support heart and digestive health. 

Additionally, Healthline reports that the seeds are high in other minerals such as magnesium, copper, manganese, and phosphorous. The outlet also notes that the level of antioxidants in the seed is quite high, primarily as a protective mechanism to keep the oils from going rancid, but also excellent news for chia seed consumers!

How to add chia seeds to your diet

These little seeds can be sprinkled raw on top of salads, smoothies, or combined into baked goods without much change in flavor. Ancient Grains remarks that one of their interesting features is their capacity to absorb a huge quantity of water and form a gel surrounding the seed. This can be used as an egg replacement, a thickener for soups, oatmeal, drinks, and jam, or to make chia puddings, a popular breakfast option. This impressive ability to soak up to 10 times their dry weight makes it important to stay hydrated when consuming chia seeds to avoid stomach cramps, notes Bon Appétit.

If the whole time you were reading about the impressive qualities of chia seeds you were wondering whether they were connected to Chia Pets — the popular figurines from the '80s that sprouted hair — it is indeed the same plant! Just be sure to eat chia seeds made for ingestion and not the ones that come with Chia Pets. While specific research regarding the consumption of chia seeds and health benefits is still in its early days, a greater understanding of their nutritious qualities is now emerging. They are an adaptable ingredient to add to your cooking, so buy a bag and start experimenting!