Chia seeds are a heart-healthy, nutrient-packed, essential fatty acid native to South America. The use of chia seeds dates back to the days of the Aztecs and the Mayans, who used these tiny black seeds as a source of energy and endurance. In fact, “chia” in ancient Mayan language translates to “strength”. (1)
These seeds contain roughly 60 percent omega-3 ALA and 20 percent omega-6 LA, two important fatty acids required by the human body for the heart, bone, blood, and arterial health. Chia seeds actually contain more omega-3 fatty acids per serving than salmon! This black seed also provides a rich source of protein, fiber, and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, calcium, and phosphorous. Chia seeds by weight are made up of 15 to 25 percent protein, 30 to 33 percent fat, 26 to 41 percent carbohydrates, and 18 to 30 percent dietary fiber, which is quite impressive for a tiny seed! (2)
Nutritional Value of Chia Seeds:
- Serving size: 1 ounce (roughly 2 tablespoons)
- Calories: 138
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fiber: 11 grams
- Protein: 5 grams
- Fat: 9 grams
5 Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
1. Pack Antioxidants
Chia seeds contain numerous antioxidants like chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol, all of which are known to have cardiac and hepatic protective effects. They are also anti-aging and anti-carcinogenic.
Chlorogenic acid, which is naturally found in coffee, contains bioflavonoids, which can reduce blood sugar levels and support weight loss. Quercetin has been found to improve endurance, reduce allergies, and support immune health. Kaempferol is a potent antioxidant that can prevent against oxidative damage to cells and DNA, and has also been shown to inhibit oxidation of LDL particles in the blood. (3)
2. High in Fiber
As a great source of dietary fiber, chia seeds are a beneficial choice for anyone looking to support their digestive tract, stabilize blood sugar levels, and increase satiety in between meals. In one study, 20 diabetic patients who received 37 grams of chia seeds for 12 weeks saw impressive improvements in health markers. Blood pressure was reduced and C-reactive protein went down by 40 percent. (4)
The fiber content of chia seeds can increase fullness while slowing absorption of food, which is due largely in part to the fact that chia seeds can absorb up to 10 or 12 times their weight in water. The seeds turn into a gel-like substance as they’re digested, which expands in the stomach, allowing it to feel fuller. (5, 6) The fiber that is found in chia seeds also feeds the good bacteria in the intestines, which can support overall immune health.
3. Complete Source of Protein
Chia seeds contain roughly 5 grams of protein per serving, which is quite powerful for a plant! They are a complete source of protein, having about two times the protein of any other seed or grain. They also contain essential amino acids, which can support neurotransmitter, protein, and enzyme synthesis.
The protein found in chia seeds can support weight loss efforts and reduce appetite, leading to a decrease in mindless snacking. An added bonus for chia seeds is the fact that they are high in nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, which can support bone health. Make your own chia pudding for a protein-packed snack! (7, 8, 9)
4. Heart Healthy
Chia seeds are high in heart-loving omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that chia seeds can raise blood levels of EPA by 39 percent. EPA works against arachidonic acid, which is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that is produced by the body and has been linked to cardiovascular disease and tissue inflammation. (10, 11)
5. Boost Energy
Swap out sugar-laden energy drinks or chemical-filled pre-workout beverages with chia seeds. The Aztecs and Mayans used chia seeds in ancient times to support endurance and fuel their performance. Ancient warriors attributed their stamina to this black seed and, in fact, the Mexican tribes would drink a mixture of chia seeds, lemon, and water, calling it Iskiate, which allowed them to run for long distances.
Chia seeds can help athletes carb load, which can be particularly challenging for those following a strict low-carb Paleo diet. Mix a serving of chia seeds into coconut water before workouts or sports performances for boosted energy and stamina. (12)
Are Chia Seeds Paleo?
Yes! Since this super-packed seed has been around for thousands of years, with historical use dating back to the ancient Mayans, adding chia seeds are absolutely a Paleo food. Loaded with omega-3s, protein, and fiber, chia seeds can be added to smoothies, Paleo baked goods, and even just plain water. You can even roast them or eat them raw.
How to Use Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a versatile Paleo food that is jam-packed with nutrients. Try the following recipes to incorporate them into your diet.
- Coconut Pecan Chia Pudding
- Berry Coconut Chia Smoothie
- Strawberry Chia Seed Jam
- Dark Chocolate Orange Chia Pudding
- Oatless Chia Breakfast Cookies
- Salted Caramel Chia Seed Pudding
- Chewy Buttery Almond Bars
(Read This Next: 4 Paleo Foods to Support A Healthy Heart)