From acai berries to kale, certain fruits and veggies (as well as some lean proteins) have had major booms in popularity due to their health benefits being “discovered” by large portions of the population. With the importance of healthy digestion recently coming to the forefront of overall health, chia seeds may soon become the next holistic remedy power food to hit the market.
More well-known in the United States as the main ingredient in the infamous, “Chia Pets,” chia seeds have been widely used in Guatemala and Mexico for their health benefits for many years – the Mayans and Aztecs were the first to eat them, according to Shape magazine. The word chia actually means “strength” in the Mayan language, and was considered to be a staple food for messengers who spent most of their days running.
Beyond its high energy content, chia seeds are also a great source of fiber – the seeds, on average, absorb ten times their weight in water, the Niagara Gazette reported. Chia seeds are also easier to digest than flaxseed, which often has to be ground up in order to be palatable, and so are a great natural digestive aid. With approximately only 40 percent of Americans getting their recommended amount of daily fiber per day, supplementing your current meal plan with chia seeds may help boost your digestive health. Individuals with inflammatory bowel disease or any other digestive issue may particularly benefit from including a higher number of fibrous foods like chia seeds to their diet, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Chia seeds contain omega 3s, an essential fatty acid. While all humans need them for optimal health, they are not naturally produced by the body, so we need to add things like fish, some algae and nuts and seeds like chia seeds to get our daily allotment. Omega 3s play a pivotal role in brain function and human development, and recent research has shown that fatty acids may also reduce the risk of developing diseases like cancer, arthritis and heart disease, as well as the potential to reverse the effects of mental and psychological diseases like depression, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
How to eat them
With all of their health benefits, chia seeds are also easy to include in a diet. Shape magazine suggested adding the seeds to your yogurt, similar to how you might add granola. Chia seeds can also be added to smoothies to up their omega 3 levels, or added to any baked good to increase the treat’s fiber levels.
During breakfast, you can also add a few tablespoons of the seeds to your oatmeal or cereal, as chia seeds are easy to eat (and digest) even when they are raw. They can also be added to your favorite trail or snack mix, for a healthy snack that is sure to provide you with energy during midday slumps or before a run or exercise class.