What Are the Health Benefits of Chia Seeds?

Chia seed benefits include lowering cholesterol, providing important nutrients, and eliminating toxins. And they’re gluten-free too.

A scoop of chia seeds

Chia seeds are high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and rich in fiber.

© Michelle Arnold | Dreamstime

Did you know that chia seeds can be a replacement for eggs when cooking? It just takes 1 tablespoon of chia to 3 tablespoons of water. Combine and wait five minutes to have a perfect egg substitute with a nutritional supercharge. But what are chia seeds, and why should you keep them in your pantry (other than replacing eggs when you’ve run out)?

Chia seeds come from Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. They’re tiny and have little flavor, which makes them easy to add to your meals. And there are plenty of reasons to eat them:

  • They are high in antioxidants and fiber.
  • They are rich in magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium.
  • They have more omega-3s than flaxseed.
  • They can be stored for long periods without going bad.
  • They are high in protein.
  • A tablespoon of chia contains 60 calories, so it offers a lot of nutrition for few calories.

Chia Can Help Lower Cholesterol

Chia seeds also help maintain healthy serum lipid levels. Study results suggest that chia seeds significantly lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides, and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol and omega-3s. Omega-3s have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease deaths.

How to Use Chia Seeds and What to Watch Out For

Because chia seeds have a mild flavor, many people simply sprinkle them onto other foods, such as yogurt or cereal. You can bake them into just about anything. They do not need to be ground to release their nutrients, like flaxseeds do.

They absorb a great deal of liquid, so they can get gummy. To use that to your advantage, you can make a chia seed gel. Just soak 1 part chia seeds in 4 parts water, milk, or juice. You’ll have a gel in about five minutes.

Or try an overnight chia pudding. Just mix ¼ cup of chia seeds with 1 cup of liquid (such as coconut milk, almond milk, etc), ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a little honey if you like. Put in a covered jar and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, you’ll have a healthy alternative to tapioca pudding. (For a fruitier version, check out the recipe below.)

While chia seeds have been labeled recently as a “superfood,” don’t overdo it. Because chia contains a high amount of fiber, it can cause digestive issues for some people, including constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and gas. To reduce these symptoms, be sure to stay hydrated to help the chia pass though the body easily. If you suffer from Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or another type of digestive illness, consult your doctor before making a chia seeds a part of your daily diet and avoid eating them during flare-ups.

This article was originally published in 2015. It has since been updated. 

Mango Matcha Coconut Pudding

Serves 4

By Matthew Kadey, RD

When combined with coconut milk, chia creates a delicious tapioca-like pudding that’s loaded with nutrients. Antioxidant-packed matcha powder is available at most tea shops and online at republicoftea.com.

2 cups unsweetened coconut milk beverage
1 medium ripe banana
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons matcha green tea powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons chia seeds
1 ripe mango, peeled and cubed
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
¼ cup cacao nibs

1. Place coconut milk, banana, honey, ginger, matcha, vanilla and salt in a blender and process until well combined.

2. Place chia seeds in a large wide-mouth jar and pour coconut milk mixture over top. Close the lid of the jar tightly and shake mixture very well to distribute the chia seeds. Place in the refrigerator at least 3 hours to set.

3. Place about ¼ cup pudding in each of four small serving glasses. Top each with some mango. Layer each with remaining pudding and top with remaining mango. Garnish with coconut flakes and cacao nibs.

Each serving contains 292 calories, 15g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 35mg sodium, 37g carbohydrate, 8g fiber, 20g sugars, 7g protein, 12 Est Gl.

Recipe courtesy of Gluten Free and More

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UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

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