Native to Mexico and Guatemala, chia seeds were a staple food for the ancient Aztecs and Mayans. Today, they’re considered a superfood for their wide-ranging health benefits. But how can you reap those health benefits? While your easiest bet is to mix chia seeds in water (one tablespoon per glass should do), these little seeds are actually really versatile. Here’s everything you need to know about chia seeds, including how to enjoy them in your everyday life.
Nutritional Information for Chia Seeds
Per one ounce serving, chia seeds have:
Fiber: 11 grams
Protein: 4 grams
Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are omega-3s)
Calcium: 18% of the RDI
4 Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
1. They’re Full of Nutrients (But Not Calories)
Chia seeds are considered a super food for good reason. First, let’s talk about fiber. Per a chart from a 2005 study from the University of Minnesota, fiber leads to greater satiety, less insulin secretion and more short-chain fatty acids. Basically, all of these things mean less body weight. Fiber has also been shown to reduce breast-cancer risk by reducing estrogen levels in the blood and to promote healthy aging. Pretty crucial stuff. In terms of calcium, registered dietitian Samantha Cassetty tell us chia seeds are a great source of calcium for those who don’t eat or drink dairy, since a couple of tablespoons provides almost 14 percent of a woman’s daily target. All of this for just 138 calories per one-ounce serving.
2. They’re a Caffeine-Free Source of Energy
Being dehydrated can tire you out. Add a teaspoon of chia seeds into your water bottle, wait five minutes for the seeds to soak up the water, then sip it all down. The seeds will give you stable energy because they have a balanced ratio of protein, fats and fiber, which means they won’t cause peaks and valleys in blood sugar.
3. They’re High in Antioxidants
According to a study in The Annals of General Psychiatry, anxiety may have a link to low antioxidant levels, since antioxidants reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which damage brain functioning. (Menopausal women are especially at risk for oxidative stress due to low estrogen.) In addition to reducing anxiety, antioxidants also benefit the skin, support immune system functioning and may prevent certain medical conditions.
4. They Might Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease
Given that chia seeds are high in fiber, protein and omega-3s, they may reduce your risk of heart disease. Though more human studies are needed, studies of rats have shown that chia seeds can lower certain risk factors for heart disease.
5 Chia Seed Recipes to Try
Everyone's putting chia seeds in water because it's so dang easy, but if you're looking for something a bit more substantial—and delicious—try one of these super-tasty recipes.
1. Matcha Chia Seed Pudding
The best snacks are actually just chocolate chip cookies those that will satisfy you between meals and have just a hint of sweetness. This yummy matcha chia seed pudding does just that. Make it in the morning before you head out and then stick it in the fridge until the munchies kick in.
2. Sourdough with Whipped Cottage Cheese and Chia Jam
Best of all, both the chia jam and whipped cottage cheese can be made ahead of time. They’ll keep in the refrigerator for up to five days, so you can have breakfast ready in mere minutes.
3. 3-Ingredient Chia Pudding
Feeling a little…backed up? Tricia Williams, culinary nutritionist and founder of Food Matters NYC, has a smart solution: whip up a batch of this easy three-ingredient chia pudding the night before. It has 7 grams of fiber per serving (the recipe makes four), so it might help you feel more regular by lunchtime.
4. Almond Butter Chia Pudding
Chia seeds give any dish a healthy dose of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and protein, which means they are ideal additions to breakfast recipes. This one in particular puts chia seeds front and center, combining them with almond butter, almond milk (or really any nondairy milk of your choice) and maple syrup for added sweetness. The result is a creamy pudding worthy of your most important daily meal. Pro tip: Melt the almond butter before adding it to the mix; this helps distribute it more evenly.
5. Green Smoothie with Avocado and Apple
Our favorite blend combines apple, avocado, spinach and banana with a little coconut water and honey. The result is a not-too-sweet drink that’s fit for a healthy breakfast or afternoon snack. When you’re done, try this simple trick to clean your blender.
8 Other Great Sources of Fiber
1. Oats (4 grams per serving)
One of the easiest ways to make sure you’re eating enough fiber is to start early. And there’s no better (or more delicious) way to do that than by having oats for breakfast. Oats are high in fiber and provide blood sugar and digestive support. You can also prepare them in, like, a million different ways. (OK, we’re exaggerating, but the toppings options are almost limitless.)
2. Lentils (15.6 grams per serving)
These little legumes are nutritional powerhouses. In addition to being an excellent, low-fat source of protein and B vitamins, they pack an impressive 15.6 grams of fiber per serving. Plus, they’re versatile, since they largely absorb the flavors they’re paired with.
3. Black Beans (15 grams per serving)
Noticing a trend? Apparently, we should all be eating more legumes. Like lentils, black beans are high in protein and fiber and low in fat. They’re also packed with vitamins and minerals like folate and iron. Oh, and they’re super affordable and last on your shelf, like, forever. Taco Tuesday never sounded so healthy.
4. Boiled Artichokes (10.3 grams per serving)
In our experience, artichokes (which are actually a variety of a species of thistle) are a fairly polarizing food. But if you’re on board, expect to be rewarded in the form of fiber and tons of antioxidants, which, according to a Polish study, can slow the signs of aging.
5. Green Peas (8.8 grams per serving)
So there’s a reason our parents were always forcing peas on us as kids. Even though these little guys do contain a bit of sugar, they’re also high in fiber and phytonutrients, which boast antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Thanks, Mom.
6. Raspberries (8 grams per serving)
Fiber is only the beginning. Where raspberries really shine? They’re stuffed with a diverse range of good-for-you antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. There’s also a growing body of research about how these sweet little berries can help manage obesity and type-2 diabetes. Whether you cook with them or keep a little bowl in your fridge to snack on, the point is we should all probably be eating more raspberries.
7. Whole Wheat Spaghetti (6.3 grams per serving)
So we should be eating more spaghetti? We’re in. As long as it’s whole-wheat or whole-grain, spaghetti can, in fact, be part of a healthy and balanced diet. On top of being a good source of fiber, this type of spaghetti is a great source of B vitamins and iron. Good enough for us.
8. Pears (5.5 grams per serving)
Can we just take a second to say how many truly delicious foods are high in fiber? (Thanks for indulging us.) Pears are packed with fiber and vitamin C but are low in fat and cholesterol. They also, as it turns out, can help ward off hangovers—so there’s that.