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How and Why You Should Add More Chia Seeds to Your Diet

When you think of chia seeds, the first thing that might pop into your mind is the famous Chia Pet® from the 80s. Today, we know them as a popular health food, praised for their seemingly endless benefits. In fact, chia seeds have even earned the coveted title of “superfood” because they support a strong immune system, boost heart health, and help lower your cholesterol. They’re an excellent source of protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, and minerals.  

The best part? All you need to do is sprinkle a few tablespoons (tbsp) of chia seeds into your favorite recipes to start taking advantage of these benefits.  

What Are Chia Seeds?

Chia seeds come from the Salvia hispanica L. plant, which is native to Central America. They were a dietary staple for ancient Aztec civilizations and were even used in religious ceremonies. Today, you can find chia seeds in most grocery and health food stores. There are both black and white varieties, but there’s no nutritional difference between the colors.  

Small but Mighty: The Nutritional Benefits of Chia Seeds

According to Harvard’s site The Nutrition Source, 2 tbsp of chia seeds has around 140 calories and contains:

  • 11 grams of fiber
  • 4 grams of protein
  • 7 grams of unsaturated fats, like omega-3 fatty acids
  • Important trace elements, including phosphorus, copper, and zinc
  • 18% recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium

Packed with fiber, chia seeds support your digestive health and help “good” gut bacteria flourish. The soluble fibers in chia seeds may also help lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. It takes longer for your body to digest these fibers, which may prevent blood sugar spikes after eating.

Chia seeds love to absorb liquid — they can hold up to 12 times their weight! The Cleveland Clinic notes that a chia seed and water mix (known as chia gel) may help you feel fuller for longer and aid in weight loss. But be careful — health professionals note that you should always pre-mix chia seeds and water together first.

Our bodies can’t make omega-3 fatty acids, so we need to get them from our diets. It’s important to eat foods rich in these unsaturated fats, as studies have found they help control inflammation and boost heart health. Chia seeds are especially high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that helps control cholesterol and blood pressure levels and may even help prevent heart disease.

With their extremely mild flavor, chia seeds can be added to nearly any recipe. The most popular options include chia seed puddings, overnight oats, and smoothies. You can even add them to savory dishes, like Delish’s vegan meatballs or Cleveland Clinic’s chia turkey meatballs.

Chia seeds are always ready to use — you don’t need to cook or grind them, making them an easy addition to any meal. If you’re looking for a smoother texture, feel free to pulse them in a spice blender before adding them to food.

Since they readily absorb liquid, chia seeds also make a gel-like substance that acts as a great thickening agent for soups and smoothies. The Nutrition Source recommends mixing ¼ cup of chia seeds with 1 cup of liquid (water, almond milk, or 2% milk) and letting the mixture sit for 15-20 minutes. Vegan baking recipes sometimes use chia gel as a binding agent, also known as a “chia egg.” Simply mix 1 tbsp of chia seeds with 2.5 tbsp water to make a chia egg.

Our Favorite Chia Seed Recipes

To get you started, we’ve provided a few of our favorite recipes.

Chocolate chia pudding from the Cleveland Clinic

  • ½ c chia seeds
  • 1 c vanilla almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 c 2% milk (or almond milk)
  • 1½ tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Toppings of your choice, like coconut flakes, dried fruits, and nuts

Place chia seeds, milks, honey, cocoa, cinnamon, and vanilla in a glass jar with a tight lid. Seal and shake well to combine the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight. Serve pudding topped with your favorite ingredients.

Carrot cake overnight oats from the Mayo Clinic

  • ½ c rolled oats
  • 2/3 c skim milk
  • 1/3 c plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ c carrot, finely grated
  • 1½ tsp chia seeds
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Optional toppings: 1 tbsp pecans, chopped; 1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut

Mix all ingredients (except for toppings) in a glass jar or bowl. Top with desired toppings and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy chilled the following morning.

How and Why You Should Add More Chia Seeds to Your Diet Infographic

By Emily Wagner

Emily earned a Bachelor of Science in biotechnology from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2018 and a Master of Science in biomedical sciences with a focus in pharmacology from University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in 2020. During her thesis work, she studied non-small cell lung cancer and how the immune system plays a role in response to different treatments. Emily feels privileged to use her research acumen and scientific mind to write about topics that advance the health and wellbeing of others. She currently lives in Colorado where she enjoys the mountains, spending time with her dog, baking, and reading a good book.