What Eating Chia Seeds Is Good For? 19 Health Benefits and Side Effects
Chi, chi, chi, chia!
That is probably the first thing that springs to mind when you think about chia seeds, at least if you are old enough to remember the original Chia Pet ads from the 80s.
But did you know that the same seeds used to grow the "fur" on chia pets also are edible?
And did you know that they are extremely good for you?
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What Are Chia Seeds?
There are several different plants which are called "chia."
When you are shopping for chia seeds, you usually are getting seeds for a plant with the scientific name Salvia hispanica.
Surprisingly enough, Salvia hispanica belongs to the mint family.
The plant is endemic to Guatemala and Mexico.
While chia seeds may be eaten around the world, they are most likely to be found in foods of the Americas.
In appearance, chia seeds are oval shaped, and measure around a millimeter.
In terms of color, they can range anywhere from black to white.
Commonly they are brown or gray and have a dappled look.
It is possible to eat the seeds straight up, but they can also be added to recipes or even to smoothies and other beverages.
Chia seeds have an incredible capacity to absorb water.
In fact, they can soak up as much as 12 times their own weight.
Soaking chia seeds results in the formation of a gel-like substance around the seeds.
This can alter the texture of drinks in a manner which some people find appealing.
Some people also just like to eat the gel as it is.
Over recent years, chia seeds have emerged into the spotlight as a health food trend.
They are rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids along with other nutrients.
In this article, I will introduce you to the many health benefits of eating chia seeds as a regular part of your diet.
But first, I want to talk a little bit more about their history.
KEY POINT: Chia seeds can come from several plants, but are usually from Salvia hispanica.
While they were once popular for growing "chia pets," they are now more fashionable as a health food.
History and Lore Surrounding Chia Seeds
While chia seeds may only recently have made it into the limelight as a health food, their benefits have been known for centuries.
There is an Aztec book known as the Codex Mendoza which was written in the 16th century.
This book indicates that chia seeds played a prominent role in the agriculture of the Aztecs, possibly even as vital as maize.
Chia seeds were eaten as a staple, but they were also used as tribute to priests and members of the aristocracy.
The ancient Mayans ate chia seeds as well (1). In Mayan, the word "chia" translates to "strength."
This gives some hint of the beliefs of ancient Mesoamericans surrounding chia seeds.
Chia seeds were seen quite literally as a source of strength as well as energy and endurance.
It is said that the warriors of the time would consume the seeds ahead of their campaigns.
That way they would be ready for anything that the battle threw their way.
As you will discover in the section below on the health benefits of chia seeds, these ancient warriors weren’t being superstitious.
Chia seeds really do have amazing nutritional properties, and can provide you with a very real energy boost.
They can also improve your cardiovascular health, help promote weight loss, and more.
KEY POINT: Chia seeds have a pretty exciting history. They were one of the most important crops to both the Aztecs and the Mayans, who recognized their outstanding health benefits.
They were the food of priests, rulers, and warriors.
20 Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
You now know more about what chia seeds are, and you are familiar with their fascinating history.
Let’s check out what they can do for your health!
The following are 20 health benefits of chia seeds:
1. Chia seeds are a fabulous source of fiber.
If you want to get more fiber in your diet without compromising your health, it can be a challenge.
The reason is that fiber is a carbohydrate, and if you are on low-carb diet, you are generally trying to avoid foods which are high in carbs.
That means that you need to be very picky about the fiber sources you choose.
You want to go with foods which are dense in nutrition.
That way you at least are getting valuable carbs, not empty carbs.
One such food is chia seeds.
A tablespoon of dried chia sees contains 4.1 grams of fiber (2) which is 38% by weight.
Fiber provides you with a slew of health benefits.
Some of these include:
- Nourish the healthy microbial flora in your body (3).
- Feel more full after meals (4).
- Speed up weight loss (5).
- Keep blood glucose levels balanced, preventing diabetes (6).
- Reduce the markers of cardiovascular disease (7).
- Improve digestive function (8).
- Potentially reduce the chances of developing some types of cancer (9).
If you are interested in discovering other healthy sources of fiber, be sure to check out 25+ High Fiber Foods (coming soon).
KEY POINT: Chia seeds are a healthy source of fiber, an important nutrient which plays a variety of essential roles in your body.
2. Possibly speed up weight loss.
Chia seeds are a favorite food among weight loss enthusiasts.
The reason for this has already been mentioned above.
Chia seeds are high in fiber.
The fiber in chia is able to soak in a lot of water (10), which causes expansion in your gut.
This contributes to the feeling of satiety also mentioned above.
When you feel fuller, you are less tempted to overeat.
While much of the research on chia seeds and weight loss has yielded hopeful results, not all of it has been so optimistic.
Some studies (13) have found that there is no significant relationship between chia seed consumption and weight loss.
This may imply that there are additional lifestyle choices which have an influence on the effectiveness or non-effectiveness of chia as a dietary weight loss aid.
It also means that more research is necessary to draw more solid conclusions about the role of chia seeds in weight loss.
KEY POINT: Study results right now are mixed, but do point toward chia seeds as being helpful for speeding up weight loss.
This makes intuitive sense as they contain fiber and can help you feel full.
3. Increase your intake of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids have a number of positive effects on health.
It has been found that they are able to improve cardiovascular health markers, reducing the risk of heart disease (14).
They also help to fight inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (15).
Additional protective effects have been discovered in the field of psychiatry as well (16).
If you live in the United States (or elsewhere in the western world), there is a really good chance you are not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
To make matters worse, a lot of Americans are getting too many omega-6 fatty acids.
When the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is off in this manner (18), it can lead to increases in systemic inflammation as well as obesity.
Both obesity and inflammation play a significant role in disease, so it is wise to look for ways to decrease your consumption of omega-6 fatty acids while increasing your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids.
The most common recommendation for boosting omega-3 fatty acid levels is to eat more fish.
This is a great option for most people, but if you happen not to like fish, or you do not eat fish because you are a vegan, you need to find another source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Chia seeds have a great ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
In one ounce of chia seeds (19), there are:
- 1,620 omega-6 fatty acids
- 4,915 omega-3 fatty acids
So while chia seeds do contain a significant amount of omega-6 fatty acids, these are far exceeded by the omega-3 fatty acids.
Thus the ratio is healthy.
The only downside is that omega-3 fatty acids in plants is in a different form than that found in fish.
This form is referred to as Alpha Linolenic Acid, or "ALA."
ALA has to be converted into a different form (DHA or EPA) in order for the body to make optimal use of it.
Humans are capable of converting ALA into EPA when it is present in high quantities, but have a hard time converting ALA into DHA (20).
This means that fish is still a better source of usable omega-3 fatty acids than plants such as chia seeds.
Still, if you are not going to eat fish, you need to get your omega-3s somewhere.
Chia seeds can help to fill this gap in your diet.
In a 10 week study of 62 overweight women who ingest 25 g per day of milled chia seed saw an increase of both ALA and EPA in their blood (49).
KEY POINT: Chia seeds are a great plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids.
While they also contain omega-6 fatty acids, the ratio is in favor of omega-3, making chia a healthy choice.
4. Fight metabolic syndrome and improve cardiovascular health
You now know more about the nutritional content of chia seeds. In particular, we have discussed fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
Both omega-3 fatty acids and fiber have been shown to improve cardiovascular health, as previously discussed.
Additional research has been conducted on patients with metabolic syndrome who eat chia seeds (21).
If you are not familiar yet with metabolic syndrome, it is a term which was only coined in 1998.
It is not classified as a disease, but it is a dangerous condition which puts you at risk for developing stroke, heart disease, diabetes, blood vessel disease, or cardiac arrest.
Patients are classified as having metabolic syndrome when their cardiovascular markers are unhealthy overall.
This includes blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol levels, blood glucose, and abdominal fat.
Metabolic syndrome is estimated to affect around 40 million people in the USA alone.
In this study (21), patients with metabolic syndrome were fed a diet which included chia seeds, oats, soy protein, and nopal (which is a type of cactus used in Mexican food).
The researchers found that this diet resulted in a reduction in serum triglycerides.
Glucose intolerance improved as well.
In another study chia seeds with nopal, soy, oat and inulin also reduce blood pressure and increased HDL levels as well (50).
More research is needed in this area, but as of right now, these results seem promising.
KEY POINT: If you have metabolic syndrome or are concerned about developing it, you may find that eating chia seeds helps to improve some of your markers, providing a protective effect against cardiovascular disease.
5. Prevent or treat diabetes.
This means that adding chia to your diet may help to prevent diabetes if you are pre-diabetic, or treat diabetes if you have it already.
There are also people who are neither diabetic nor pre-diabetic, but who are trying to avoid spiking their blood sugar.
Eating chia seeds may be helpful for this application as well.
It has been found that this type of bread is effectively able to reduce blood glucose levels.
KEY POINT: If you are looking for a way to prevent or treat diabetes by improving insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, eating more chia seeds may be beneficial.
6. Help keep bowel movements regular.
Have you ever complained to your doctor that you have been suffering from chronic constipation?
Your doctor’s first suggestion was probably to increase your dietary fiber.
Remember previously when I told you about glucomannan, the fiber in chia seeds which has been studied for its weight loss effects?
That same fiber has also been shown (28) to be helpful in treating constipation.
So if you are feeling backed up and want to get regular again, think about adding more chia seeds to your diet.
KEY POINT: There is research-based evidence which suggests that the fiber contained in chia seeds can help to reduce constipation.
7. Reduce sugar intake while enhancing athletic performance.
At the start of this article, I talked a bit about the history of chia seeds, and mentioned that the word "chia" means "strength."
I discussed how ancient warriors would apparently eat chia seeds before they went off to fight, because the chia would increase their energy, giving them the necessary fuel to be effective on the battlefield.
As promised, I will now tell you about the modern scientific evidence for the effectiveness of this ancient practice.
This study (29) looked into whether chia seeds could be used to boost performance for athletes in events which lasted under 90 minutes in duration.
The control group in the study consumed Gatorade.
The experimental group consumed an omega-3 chia drink which consisted of a 50/50 ratio of calories from Gatorade and Greens Plus Omega 3 Chia Seeds.
The researchers found that there was "no statistical difference" between the loading for the two groups, and that "Omega 3 Chia loading appears a viable option for enhancing performance for endurance events lasting >90 minutes."
Even though the chia seeds did not actually increase performance levels over Gatorade, they allowed athletes to enjoy the same advantage without such a high sugar intake.
KEY POINT: If you are looking for a healthy replacement for Gatorade or other sugary energy drinks, think about eating chia seeds instead.
Research shows that they are an effective alternative for endurance events.
8. Get your fill of protein.
Another important nutrient which chia seeds contain in large quantities is protein.
A single ounce of chia seeds contains (19) 4.4 g of protein, which is 14% by weight and 9% of your daily recommended value.
Protein is one of the most widely used nutrients in the human body.
Almost every type of tissue contains protein (30).
That means that you need to get adequate protein through your diet to support the functions of all those different types of tissue, including bone, muscle, skin and more.
Another benefit of protein is that it can increase satiety (31).
This means that you are less likely to eat more than you should.
This in turn can help you with any weight loss plan you are on.
So the protein in chia seeds represents yet another amazing health benefit of these delicious little seeds.
KEY POINT: Protein is a nutrient which is found in tissues throughout your body.
It is vital to your overall health, and can also increase fullness, helping with weight loss.
Chia seeds contain ample amounts of protein, helping you stay healthy and achieve your weight loss goals.
9. Sleep better.
You know how right after you finish eating a big turkey dinner, you often feel overcome by a sudden wave of sleepy contentment?
You might think that this is simply the result of the satisfaction you feel at a delicious meal, but there is actually more at play.
Turkey is a source of tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an amino acid which acts as a natural sedative (32).
When you eat foods which contain significant amounts of tryptophan, you may feel sleepy and drift off faster as a result.
Guess what other food contains high amounts of tryptophan?
That’s right - chia seeds.
In fact, chia seeds are among the foods in the "nut and seed products" category which are highest in tryptophan (33).
According to the source above, a single 100-gram serving of dried chia seeds contains 721 mg of tryptophan.
There are only a few other seed-based foods which contain more tryptophan than chia seeds.
These include sesame flour, cottonseed flour, cottonseed meal, and sunflower seeds.
So if what you are after is a good night’s sleep, some chia seeds may make one of the better options for a late night snack.
KEY POINT: Chia seeds contain a significant amount of tryptophan, an amino acid which has a sedative effect.
If you are looking to fall asleep fast, eating some chia seeds may help.
10. Lift your mood.
Chia seeds may also have benefits for your mental health.
I just talked about how tryptophan can help you to get a good night’s sleep.
Tryptophan plays other important roles as well, and one of them is in supporting your mood.
This effect appears to be most prominent in those whose family histories included depression.
So if you have been feeling depressed and want to brighten your mood, consider eating some chia seeds.
KEY POINT: The tryptophan contained in chia seeds not only can help you sleep better, but can also help to stabilize your mood.
11. Support memory function.
Have you ever wondered how your long-term memories are created and maintained?
The process involved is referred to as "memory consolidation."
Initially when events take place, your brain stores them as short-term memories.
Only through the consolidation process do they become long-term memories.
One of the same studies above (35) which found that tryptophan deprivation was linked with mood disorders also noted, "A specific impairment of memory consolidation was seen in all subjects."
This effect was even more pervasive than the lowering of mood.
So if you want your memory consolidation process to work at its best so you can form strong, accurate long-term memories, you should make sure you are getting plenty of tryptophan in your diet.
Eating more chia seeds is a great way of doing that.
KEY POINT: The tryptophan in chia seeds has additional benefits for memory consolidation.
12. Get more antioxidants in your diet.
Antioxidants help your body to fight the damage caused by free radicals.
This is very important, because free radicals are a major threat to health.
Indeed, the damage which they cause is likened to that which takes place if you are exposed to radiation (38).
It is believed that it also is tied to the aging process and the development of relevant diseases (39).
So when you take steps to protect your body from free radical damage, you are helping to prevent age-related diseases, and slow down the effects of age in general.
This may help to extend your lifetime as well as the quality of that life.
Mexican researchers discovered that the total natural phenolic (antioxidants) in chia seeds is almost twice higher than reported previously.
Impressively, this antioxidant activity inhibited as much as 70% free radical activity (37).
KEY POINT: The damage to our bodies from free radicals is a key part of the aging process, and also contributes to the age-related diseases we develop.
The antioxidants in chia seeds can help to counteract this process, keeping us healthier longer.
13. Keep your bones strong.
If you want strong bones, you need to be eating a diet which provides you with plenty of calcium as well as other key minerals.
If you do not eat enough calcium, your bones become weak and brittle.
Brittle bones can break with little provocation.
Indeed, 1.5 million people in the US alone experience hip, wrist, spine, and other fractures because their bones are frail (40).
Bone fractures like these can be devastating, especially in older patients.
Each year, there are around 300,000 hospitalizations due to hip fractures alone.
20% of these patients wind up living in a form of assisted living inside of a year, and 20% pass away within the same timeframe.
One of the best things you can do to protect bone health is to make sure your diet includes sufficient calcium to support optimal bone density.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of calcium.
An ounce of chia seeds contains (19) 177 mg of calcium, which is 18% of your daily required value.
Chia seeds also contain boron which is needed to aid the metabolism of calcium, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium in bones and for muscle growth.
So by eating more chia seeds, you are promoting strong, healthy bones which are less likely to fracture.
KEY POINT: For strong bones, you need to get plenty of calcium. One way you can do that is by eating more chia seeds.
14. Protect your dental health.
Teeth are not bones, but their strength also depends in part on calcium intake.
That means that if you eat more chia seeds, you are strengthening your teeth, leading to improved oral health.
KEY POINT: Because chia seeds provide you with lots of calcium, they are great for tooth health, not just bone health.
15. Keep your skin looking youthful.
As mentioned previously, chia seeds contain lots of antioxidants.
Antioxidants help to protect your body from free radical damage.
Free radicals play a major role in skin aging (42).
Exposure to free radicals feeds into the development of wrinkles, age lines, and liver spots.
If you want to reduce the formation and appearance of wrinkles and age spots, you need a diet rich in the antioxidants your skin requires for optimal health.
Eating more chia seeds supplies your skin with these antioxidants.
That means that if you eat chia seeds throughout your life, you may be able to keep your youthful glow for longer.
KEY POINT: Free radicals are responsible for the development of wrinkles and age spots.
If you eat more chia seeds, the antioxidants have a protective effect on your skin, which may help you to preserve a youthful appearance.
16. Build muscle more effectively.
Previously I shared how eating chia seeds can help to give you the energy you need for your workouts.
I also have talked about how the word "chia" means "strength."
This might make you wonder whether chia seeds can help you with bodybuilding.
The answer to that question is "yes," thanks in large part to the high amount of protein that the seeds contain.
Athletes who eat more protein are can more easily build healthy new muscle tissue since protein is one of the building blocks of that tissue.
Additionally, higher protein intake can help to protect muscles among athletes who are dieting to try and burn fat (43).
That way they will actually burn fat instead of burning muscle.
KEY POINT: Eating chia seeds gives you the protein you need to protect and grow muscles.
17. Possibly reduce your risk of cancer.
As discussed in the section on omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds contain Alpha Linolenic Acid.
Researchers have found (44) that Alpha Linolenic Acid is able to curb the growth of cervical and breast cancer cells.
Furthermore, it is able to do this with no ill effect on the surrounding healthy cells.
This research is still in the early stages, and there is no data yet on whether ALA is helpful in treating a broader range of cancers.
Nonetheless, it is promising, and anything which can aid in the fight against cancer at this point is welcome news, especially if it is something as safe, natural and healthy as the ALA in chia seeds.
KEY POINT: There is some initial research which suggests that chia seeds may be helpful in combating cancer thanks to the ALA they contain.
18. Chia seeds are a great source of phosphorus.
You already know that chia seeds contain ample amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein.
But what other nutrients are abundant in chia?
One important nutrient which chia seeds are particularly high in is phosphorus.
In just one ounce of chia seeds (19), there is 265 mg of phosphorus. This is 27% of your daily value.
What does phosphorus do for your health? Quite a lot (45).
It flushes out your kidneys, and is used in the repair of tissues throughout your body.
It is particularly abundant in your teeth and bones, so this is another way that chia seeds can support skeletal and dental health.
Boosting your phosphorus intake is yet another way in which eating chia seeds helps to bolster your overall health.
KEY POINT: When you eat chia seeds, you get more than a quarter of the daily phosphorus you need.
This improves the health of teeth and bones as well as body-wide tissues.
19. Chia seeds are also an excellent source of manganese.
Another important nutrient which does not get a lot of attention is manganese.
Manganese (46) is involved with metabolism, tissue formation, and the manufacture of sex hormones.
It also helps to regulate your blood sugar, and improves the absorption of calcium.
Additionally, it is essential to the function of your nervous system and brain.
An ounce of chia seeds contains 0.6 mg of manganese, which satisfies 30% of your daily requirement.
KEY POINT: Eating chia seeds provides your body with manganese, which is essential for building tissues and hormones, regulating blood sugar, and more.
20. Chia seeds are a dense source of nutrition with few calories.
If you are looking for a food to introduce your diet which is low in calories, but which delivers a hearty dose of nutrition, chia seeds may be exactly what you need.
1 ounce of chia seeds contains (19):
- 137 calories
- 10.6 g dietary fiber (42% of your daily value)
- 4915 mg of omega-3 fatty acids
- 4.4 g of protein (9% of your daily value)
- 177 mg of calcium (18% of your daily value)
- 265 mg of phosphorus (27% of your daily value)
- 0.6 mg of manganese (30% of your daily value)
If you're having a hard time picturing what 1 ounce is, it is around 2 tablespoons.
KEY POINT: If you want to increase your intake of nutrition without eating a lot of calories, chia seeds are a fantastic dietary choice.
Here’s What Else You Can Do With Chia
You now know that you can add chia to your recipes in order to add flavor, texture and nutrition.
But did you know there are a few other uses for chia seeds as well?
- Grow chia (see below) as an ornamental plant. Chia actually is quite beautiful to look at with its purplish flowers, and makes a lovely addition to any garden.
- Use chia as mulch. Some people make chia leaves into mulch, so if you grow your own chia, this is another use for the plant. Chia seeds grow quite easily, though, so if you mulch your garden using the leaves, you should try and extract the seeds before you do so.
- Feed chia to animals. Chia leaves not only can be used as mulch, but also as animal feed. The seeds can be used for this purpose as well.
- Gift chia to friends or family. Who doesn’t love the gift of health, especially if it is homegrown? Since there are so many ways to eat or use chia seeds, just about anyone would appreciate receiving them. So if you decide to grow your own chia, consider giving some as gifts to family and friends.
KEY POINT: There is a lot you can do with chia other than just eating it. Use it to spruce up your garden, turn it into mulch, feed it to animals, or give it as a gift.
Growing Your Own Chia Sprouts
As you might guess, it is pretty easy to cultivate chia. That is one reason why chia pets became so popular.
If you do decide to grow chia, you can do it either in a pot or directly in the ground.
Here are the basic steps for getting the sprouts going.
- Start by getting a pot ready with soil, and then just drop some of the seeds on top of the soil.
- Water the seeds once a day.
- After you do this for a week or so, you should notice the seeds beginning to sprout.
- Wait for the sprouts to grow to around three inches.
- At this point, you can transplant them to their permanent home.
- Get a terracotta tray and soak it in water.
- Remove the tray from the water. You want it to be moist for this process, but there shouldn’t be a puddle of water inside. Pour any excess out.
- Sprinkle the chia seeds inside. No, you do not need any soil.
- Set the tray inside a larger glass container.
- Pour around a quarter inch of water into the glass container. This water should not come up over the lip of the terracotta tray.
- Spritz the seeds with water. Once again, be careful not to overdo it. If there is excess water, dump it out. If you leave it there, the seeds will soak it up and you’ll end up with a gelatinous substance, not sprouting seeds.
- Cover the glass container with a glass lid of some sort, like one from a baking dish. You are trying to create an environment which is similar to a greenhouse.
- Set the “greenhouse” somewhere dark to start with.
- Wait for around 4-7 days.
- At this point, the sprouts should be about the right size, and you can remove them from the dish to use them in whatever fashion you want. You can transplant them, etc.
KEY POINT: It is fairly easy to grow chia, even if you are a beginner. There are multiple methods you can use to get the sprouts started.
You can grow them indoors or outdoors, in a pot, in the ground, or even on terracotta without any soil.
Where Should You Put Chia In Your Yard?
I think it is worth taking a moment to clarify something.
Chia leaves and seeds are very useful, but chia seeds do not come from chia sprouts. They come from chia flowers.
That means that if you just grow the sprouts and collect them, you are not going to have any seeds yet.
If you want seeds, you need the chia plants to grow large enough to produce flowers.
I recommend that you transfer your sprouts to your garden for that reason.
In theory, you can grow them in a planter, but you would need a fairly large one.
I suggest putting them directly in the ground. Chia plants can grow to be as tall as you are, or even taller.
Make sure you do not choose an area of your yard which is particularly cramped.
The more room you give chia to flourish, the healthier your plant will be.
Chia doesn’t do well with weeds, so if you can, pick a spot which is going to be free of intruding plants.
For this reason, when you are planting it, you should try not to turn up all the soil.
This will prevent weed seeds from getting exposed and potentially sprouting.
If you wish, you can add compost or mulch. Just distribute it gently on top.
KEY POINT: A lot of people have no idea that chia can grow into a large, flowering plant. Chia Pets only showcase the sprout stage.
Growing the sprouts is fun, but the sprouts do not produce new chia seeds. If you want chia seeds, then transplant the sprouts to your garden and wait for the plants to grow and flower.
Harvesting Chia Seeds
Chia flowers have a kind of lavender hue.
The flowers are the source of the seeds.
You want to wait to harvest chia seeds until the flowers have begun losing their petals.
But you do not want to wait for the flower to start browning.
At that point, your seed yield will decrease significantly.
Here are the steps to harvest the seeds successfully.
- When then flowers have reached the appropriate stage as described above, pick them.
- Put the flowers on a drying rack or set them inside paper bags. Wait for them to dry. Resist the urge to hang them upside down. If you do this, seeds will fall out while they are drying.
- When the flower heads are dry, set them down on a table or other surface.
- Press down on them with your hand, crushing them gently so that the seeds come out. A lot of people seem to find this process highly satisfying.
- Use a sifter to get rid of the unwanted bits of the dried flowers.
That is all there is to it. You then have your chia seeds.
You can grow more chia plants, eat the seeds, or use them in any other way you see fit.
What if you waited too long to harvest, and now your flowers are all brown and dried out on the plant?
You will have lost a lot of seeds, but you can still get some of them.
You do not even need to pick the flowers. You can just shake them and catch the seeds in a sack.
KEY POINT: It is easy (and fun) to extract chia seeds from flowers.
Tips for Shopping for Chia Seeds
Growing chia can be a lot of fun, but what if you don’t have the yard space, or simply don’t want to garden?
At that point, it makes more sense to simply buy chia seeds online or at a local store.
Since chia seeds have become such a big health food trend, it is not hard to find seeds for sale to plant or eat.
What should you look for in high quality chia seeds?
Make sure there are no unwanted additives in the chia seed products which you buy. Also check for the presence of allergens.
Some seeds might be processed in the same facilities as nuts for example.
So if that is a concern to you, check the information on the packaging to ensure that you are getting the safe, pure product you need.
If you can find chia seeds which are certified as non-GMO and organic, that is best.
They should be grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and should not be genetically modified.
Sustainably grown and harvested.
When purchasing any food product, it is always best to support manufacturers who observe eco-friendly practices.
A reasonable price.
As with any other food which you are planning to make a regular part of your diet, you should shop for chia seeds which are a good value.
That does not necessarily mean “cheap.” What it does mean is affordable but high in quality.
One thing that doesn’t matter is color.
Since chia seeds may be black, white, grayish or brownish, some people mistakenly believe that one type or another is superior in terms of nutrition.
They might for example only buy black chia seeds.
While rumors continue to fly around about the different colors of chia seeds, in truth, you do not need to pay any attention to the color of the seeds you are purchasing.
Both black and white chia seeds feature the same nutritional profile.
The same is true for brown and gray seeds.
The different is aesthetic only. If you feel a certain color of seeds visually complements your recipes, by all means, consider color while shopping.
But if your only concern is nutrition, do not worry about it.
KEY POINT: When you are shopping for chia seeds, look for products which are pure, organic, and sustainably grown.
But do not worry yourself about the color of the seeds, which has no bearing on nutritional content.
Can Chia Seeds Increase Your Chances of Developing Prostate Cancer?
Questions have been raised about ALA and prostate cancer by studies such as this one (47), which indicates that a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids could increase the risk for prostate cancer.
While this is a concern, other research (48) has found no such link.
Indeed, according to this particular meta-analysis, "Our finding support a weak protective association between dietary ALA and prostate cancer risk."
So it is actually possible that eating chia seeds could decrease your risk for prostate cancer.
Nothing can be stated conclusively on this matter without more research.
KEY POINT: There is some research which suggests that diets high in ALA might increase prostate cancer risk, but other studies which suggest the exact opposite.
How Do You Eat Chia Seeds?
There are a number of different ways you can eat chia seeds. Each has some advantages and disadvantages.
The easiest way to eat chia seeds is simply right out of the bag. You do not need to do anything at all to prepare them.
The advantages of eating chia seeds whole are convenience and a delightful texture and taste. There are however a couple of drawbacks.
For one, chia seeds can get stuck in between your teeth.
For another, it is not as easy for your body to digest them and absorb all of their nutrition when they are whole.
If you want to make it easier to absorb the nutrition from chia seeds, you can grind them up first.
A coffee grinder works just fine for this purpose.
This also changes the texture, and makes them ideal for use in baking applications. They go well in breads, muffins, and so forth.
Since their outer shells are broken, you should store them in a sealed bag or container in order to lock in their nutrition.
One more way you can eat chia seeds is by soaking them in water first to make a gel. I will share how to do this in the first recipe below.
Generally, you should use chia to water in a 1:10 ratio.
The seeds will soak up the water, a process which takes around half an hour to several hours.
This process releases enzyme inhibitors, which can boost nutritional absorption. It also makes the seeds hydrating.
One useful thing to note about chia seeds and fluid absorption is that they will take in any liquid around them.
That means that if you do not soak the before you eat them, they can absorb food from your body, resulting in dehydration.
Soaking them can prevent this.
If you choose to eat them whole or ground without soaking them however, you always have the option of drinking plenty of liquids in order to prevent dehydration.
KEY POINT: There are several different ways to eat chia seeds. You can eat them whole, you can grind them up, or you can soak them in water to turn them into a gel.
This adds to their versatility, making it possible to enjoy them in a wide variety of recipes.
Simple Chia Seed Recipes to Enjoy
Excited to try chia seeds, but want to do more than just munch on them right out of the bag?
Chia seeds are incredibly versatile and easy to cook with. Let’s check out a few simple recipes!
1. Easy Chia Gel
Let’s start with the most basic recipe - simple chia gel.
There is a lot you can do with chia gel, so once you learn to make it, it will help you with a lot of other recipe ideas. You can also just enjoy it as is.
- 1/3 cup chia seeds
- 2 cups water
- Pour the chia seeds and the water together into a jar.
- Put a lid on the jar.
- Shake the jar to mix the water and seeds together well. Do this for about 15 seconds.
- Set the jar down for a period of 1 minute.
- After the minute elapses, shake the jar again for around 15 seconds.
- Put the jar in the fridge.
- Wait for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, you can open the fridge and take the jar out. You should find that the gel has formed.
10 minutes is the minimum; if you wait a few hours or overnight, you will get an even better gel consistency.
Notes: You can store this chia gel for up to 3 weeks.
2. Chi Seed Pudding with Strawberries and Almonds
In search of a delicious, healthy dessert? Look no further than chia seed pudding.
- 1 cup almond milk (vanilla flavored, unsweetened)
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- 1 cup yogurt (vanilla, fat-free)
- 1 pint of chopped strawberries
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup almonds
- Additional 4 teaspoons of maple syrup
- Begin by getting a bowl large enough to whisk the almond milk, maple syrup (2 tablespoons), salt, yogurt and vanilla together.
- Once you have finished whisking the ingredients above, you can add in the chia seeds.
- Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and transfer it to the fridge overnight.
- When you are ready to eat the pudding, take it out of the fridge.
- In a separate bowl, mix the almonds with the strawberries and 4 teaspoons of maple syrup.
- Serve the chia pudding and top it with the strawberries and almonds.
This recipe makes approximately 4 servings of chia seed pudding.
3. Chia Coconut Pudding with Coconut Milk
Looking for another delicious form of chia pudding? This recipe uses coconut milk instead of almond milk.
- 2 cups coconut milk
- ½ cup chia seeds
- 6 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Salt to taste
- ½ cup chopped strawberries or other berries (if desired)
- In a bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, unsweetened coconut milk, cinnamon, vanilla extract, salt and agave nectar.
- Add the chia seeds.
- Stir everything together so the seeds are well-distributed.
- Leave the pudding to soak for at least 20 minutes so that it gets the right texture. If you have the time, cover it with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge until the next day.
- Once the pudding has reached the desired consistency, it is ready to serve. Stir it up before dishing it out.
- Add some fresh strawberries to the top if you want.
4. No Bake Energy Balls
If you are in search of another great way to snack on chia seeds, you can make these tasty and convenient no bake energy balls.
They also work well as a dessert.
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- ½ cup peanut butter
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- ½ cup ground flaxseed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl until they form a dough.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.
- Wait 30 minutes.
- Take the dough out of the fridge.
- Shape the dough into balls. Want a different shape? You can flatten the dough out with a rolling pin, and then use a knife to cut out bars.
If you keep these sealed, you can store them in the fridge for as long as a week.
5. Orange Chia Smoothie
If you want to enjoy a chia-based beverage, this orange smoothie is delicious, healthy and refreshing.
- 1 peeled orange
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds
- ½ cup mango chunks (frozen)
- 1 teaspoon flaxseed
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 tablespoon cashew butter
- ½ cup orange juice
- Add all of the ingredients to a blender in the following order: the orange, followed by the mango, then the cashew butter, next the coconut flakes, then the chia seeds, and finally the flax.
- Pour in the orange juice.
- Blend everything together.
- When the smoothie reaches a creamy consistency, it is done.
- If it is too thick for your liking, you can water it down.
6. Oatmeal Chia Seed Cookies
Finally, here is one more exciting chia seed recipe.
- 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2/3 cup applesauce
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.
- In a bowl, stir the flour, chia seeds, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
- Add the coconut oil and applesauce to the same bowl. Stir until the mixture is well-integrated. This should result in a dough.
- Add the shredded coconut, dried cranberries, and chocolate chips. Work them into the dough.
- Get a baking sheet and line it.
- Distribute the dough across the baking sheet in small lumps.
- Put the baking sheet in the oven.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes. When the edges of the cookies are starting to turn brown, they should be done.
KEY POINT: There are numerous recipes for chia snacks and desserts, most of which are easy to personalize to your tastes.
All can add to your enjoyment of this nutritious food.
Conclusion: Chia Seeds are a Delicious, Healthy Addition to Your Diet
The ancient Aztecs and Mayans prized chia seeds as a source of strength and energy, and they were right - chia seeds are a great source of fuel for workouts and everyday living.
When you eat chia seeds, you also enjoy other advantages for weight loss, cardiovascular health, anti-aging and more.
You can grow chia seeds yourself at home, or you can buy them at the store. They can be mixed into a variety of foods and beverages for a delicious dose of nutrition.
So what are you waiting for?
It’s time to enhance your diet with a healthy source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other wholesome goodness.
Enjoy the numerous health benefits of chia seeds!
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