Chia seeds: Understanding the health benefits of this Aztec superfood

An ancient superfood used by the Aztec people, chia (Salvia hispanica) contains incredible amounts of healthy fatty acids, minerals, soluble fibers, and protein. Eating the right amount of chia seeds every day will assist the normal functions of the heart, make it easier for the digestive system to get nutrients from food, and reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Due to the staggering concentration of fiber in the food, anyone who wants to try out chia should begin by taking just half a tablespoon of whole dried seeds. Over time, you can increase it until you reach a full tablespoon.

It is not recommended to consume more than two tablespoons of chia seeds each day. Otherwise, your stomach will not be able to handle the sudden influx of so much natural roughage.

To make it easier to eat the tough food and absorb the nutrients, the seeds can be ground into powder or soaked in water for a couple of hours. Chia seed powder can be added to smoothies or yogurts, while the gelatinous water can be consumed alongside the swollen seeds as a weight loss aid. (Related: 7 ways chia seeds boost your health.)

Chia seeds are packed with good protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and fibers

Hundreds of years ago, chia seeds served as highly nutritious food for people in Mexico and South America. The Aztecs, in particular, ate it right before entering a battle or executing a burst of strenuous physical activity.

The seeds contain a lot of protein, which serves as the building block for hair, muscles, and skin. It also strengthens the immune system and improves metabolic functions.

Also present are plenty of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These “good fats” are turned into high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the good kind of cholesterol that supports the health of the cardiovascular system.

Speaking of heart health, the especially high concentrations of soluble fiber in chia seeds can also lower the risks of cardiovascular disease. This natural roughage can reduce the chances of a blood vessel getting dangerously blocked.

They can also help reduce excess weight by curbing the appetite during meals and controlling the amount of insulin released by the body. But the biggest benefits brought by this fibrous superfood are the boosts to the efficiency of the digestive process and the health of the gut.

A superfood with cancer-fighting compounds

Chia seeds can also offer a natural way to prevent the onset of cancer. The superfood is packed with plant-based antioxidants and polyphenolic compounds. These natural substances neutralize free radicals that are associated with some cancers.

One of the aforementioned omega-3 fatty acids is alpha-lipoic acid. This good fat has been shown to inhibit the growth of breast and cervical cancer cells by a 2012 study supported by the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM). Meanwhile, a different study indicates that alpha-lipoic acid can also reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

There are plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds. A serving of 28 g of the superfood contains close to 5,000 mg of alpha-lipoic acid and other omega-3 fatty acids.

That single serving also has 4.4 g of protein, 10.6 g of fiber, 177 mg of calcium, and 265 mg of phosphorus. There are also trace amounts of manganese and other vital minerals.

Before you start eating this anti-cancer, heart-boosting superfood, make sure you are not allergic to mustard or sesame. Chia seeds are fairly similar to these seeds, so it is contraindicated for people who suffer from allergic attacks.

It might also not be good for people who are being medicated for blood thinning and blood pressure problems. However, chia seeds are safe for pregnant women, and are a highly recommended diet for expectant mothers.

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