The Powerful Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

Find out how to include these nutrient-packed seeds in your diet.

Chia seeds are tasteless, but provide a plethora of nutritional benefits. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user little blue hen.

You may hear the word “chia” and think terra-cotta Homer Simpson heads sprouting green hair. But the seeds of that plant have uses way beyond providing gimmicky gifts.

Chia seeds are a total nutritional powerhouse, says nutritionist Nicole Ferring Holovach. They have an extremely high concentration of omega-3 acids—even more than salmon. One serving size includes 18 percent of recommended daily calcium and four grams of protein, and they are a great source of fiber and potassium—plus they’re low in cholesterol and sodium.

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The popular book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall posited that the seeds are great for athletes. Ever since McDougall mentioned that the super-athletic Tarahumara Indians in Mexico consumed chia seeds while on their desert runs, plenty of marathon runners now swear by them. They’ve been known to provide surges of energy during and after a workout.

Where to find them: Chia seeds come from the chia plant, which is part of the mint family. It’s native to Central America, but with its rising popularity, these days you can find the seeds at many grocery stores.

How to include them into your diet: While chia seeds can be eaten raw, they’re also a great addition to plenty of drinks and foods. Holovach says a lot of people use them as an egg replacer in baked goods and other dishes, especially those who have a vegan diet. If you soak them in water, they form a gel, which can then be used in baking. They also thicken smoothies and oatmeal, and are great in yogurt.

Recipes to try: Holovach’s favorite chia seeds recipe is the “chia fresca,” which is a traditional Mexican drink. Add a tablespoon each of chia seeds, lime juice, and honey to one cup of water. You can also try these more complex recipes.
Cranberry-Chia Granola
Spicy Pumpkin Muffins

How do you like to eat chia seeds? Let us know in the comments.