What are Chia Seeds? Explore their Health Benefits

what are chia seeds

Remember “chia pets” the ceramic figurines with sprouted green hair? As their name suggests, these ceramic figures actually have chia seeds inside that cause the signature green sprouts to grow.

While this product is largely a pop-culture novelty that has faded in popularity (though they are still being made to this day), the seeds inside have become an increasingly popular health food. It’s worth noting that if you have a chia pet, the seeds sprouting from the pet are not officially recommended for eating by the manufacturer.

Chia seeds and other raw seeds can pack a lot of nutritional benefits, including flaxseeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and the ever-popular sunflower seeds. Some of these are larger seeds, eating one or a few at a time (like nuts) while others are tiny and able to be added to smoothies and cooking.

Where do Chia Seeds Come From?

Chia seeds are native to Mexico and Guatemala, but as the chia pet proved, they can be grown anywhere. After planting the seeds, you water them lightly and then self-pollinate. Soon after, the green flowers will start to grow with the chia seeds forming beneath.

Interestingly, using soil is optional for growing chia seeds as there are numerous methods online for how you can grow the seeds indoors without soil (chia pets have no soil inside).

Great Source of Fiber

Chia seeds are a great source of fiber – a key nutrient for keeping your digestive system on track. Each day you should get 25-30 grams of fiber depending on your age/gender. But on average, Americans consume just 10 to 15 grams.

Consuming 2.5 tablespoons of chia seeds is about 10 grams of fiber or about one-third of how much fiber you need per day. Foods high in fiber can also make you feel “full” longer, making you less likely to eat extra snacks and calories.

The Mayo Clinic states “fiber takes longer to digest and makes you feel satisfied longer, which is how it can help with weight loss and decrease your risk of developing diabetes or heart disease.”

A Plant Based Protein Source

The 5.6g of protein found in 2.5 tablespoons of chia seeds is not a lot but is something, particularly for those on a plant-based diet where protein options are limited.

With how easy it is to slide chia seeds into something else, they will not be a primary source of protein, but they are an easy and worthwhile addition.

Antioxidants in Chia Seeds

Just like fruit, chia seeds have antioxidants that can help neutralize free radicals in your body that contribute to aging and your risk of cancer and other diseases.

Common Ways to Add Chia Seeds to Your Cooking

One of the most common uses for chia seeds is adding them to smoothies alongside your other fruit, or using them as a raw topping wherever you see fit – like on a salad, cereal, jam, or much more.

They can be added to water as well. Give them 20 to 30 minutes in the water to soak before drinking.