The chia seed is a nutritious edible seed with many health benefits. Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are required by the body and crucial for optimal brain and heart function. The small, oval-shaped seeds of the chia plant also provide the body with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Other chia seed benefits include a feeling of fullness that assists in dieting and weight loss and slowed conversion of carbohydrates to sugar, stabilizing the rate of metabolism. The seeds can also provide hydration and electrolyte balance by absorbing a great amount of water and holding it in the system.
The high proportion of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may be one of the greatest chia seed benefits. These essential acids provide the body with a host of advantages. Omega-3 and omega-6s protect against depression, support the major systems of the body including the cardiovascular and immune systems, and promote superior brain, eye, and heart health. Because essential fatty acids cannot be manufactured by the body, it is crucial that they be obtained through the diet. Adding chia seeds to the diet can provide a strong dose of these critical omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Essential acids are not the only chia seed benefits. Antioxidants are molecules that protect the body against the damage caused by free radicals, and are a very important part of the diet. Free radicals are substances created during normal body processes that can cause damage to the heart as well as the body cells. A diet rich in antioxidants is indicated as one way to shield the body cells from free radicals that promote cancer, heart disease, and other major health problems.
An unusual property of the chia seed is its ability to form a gel when mixed with water. Researchers believe that this unusual reaction occurs in the stomach when the chia seed is ingested. When the gel forms inside the body it creates a barrier and slows the body from digesting carbohydrates and converting them into sugars. This process stabilizes the blood sugar and rate of metabolism, and is the most unique of the chia seed benefits.
The chia seed can also absorb an amazing amount of water—more than ten times its own weight. Because of this ability, the chia seed can assist the body in maintaining hydration and electrolyte balance. The benefits of chia seed also include vitamins A, B, D, and E, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and many more.
Chia seed benefits can be obtained in many different ways. Chia seeds are easily digested and may be consumed whole. They can also be turned into a gel that is used in baking or stirred into sauces and spreads. Ground chia seeds can be sprinkled on yogurt and cereal, or mixed into bread and muffins.