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Cheers to chia seeds: 5 ways this tiny food packs a big nutrition punch

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You may have heard of chia seeds and know they’re highly nutritious, but if you haven’t incorporated them into your diet yet, you’re missing out on the benefits of this super-popular food.

Food pros know about the health benefits of chia seeds and have ideas on how and why to get others to know about them too.

“I love chia seeds because they’re so versatile and it’s relatively easy to find several ways to enjoy them,” says Lisa Valente, MS, RD, a Healthline food expert and Vermont-based dietitian.

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Chia seeds can also be added to smoothies, sprinkled on oatmeal or overnight oats, mixed into homemade granola bars or pancakes, or added to yogurt parfaits, she said.

“Try adding it to salads, falafel or meatballs,” Valente says.

Pictured above are various superfoods including chia seeds, quinoa, and flaxseeds. Chia seeds are small black or white seeds that come from a plant called Salvia hispanica, which is native to Central America. (iStock)

What are Chia Seeds?

Chia seeds are small black or white seeds that come from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is native to Central America.

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“Historically, chia seeds were a staple in the Aztec and Mayan diets and were prized for their ability to provide sustained energy,” Sarah Heckler, a registered dietitian and food expert at Anne Till Nutrition Group in Raleigh, North Carolina, told Fox News Digital.

“Today, it is celebrated worldwide as a superfood for its rich nutritional value.”

5 benefits of chia seeds

Some seeds have a very high nutritional value. Their nutritional value is as follows:

1. Rich in essential nutrients

Chia seeds are packed with nutrients.

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are “hailed worldwide as a superfood because of their high nutritional value,” says the qualified nutritionist and food expert. (iStock)

According to Heckler, one ounce (28 grams) contains:

  • Fiber: 11 g
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 5 grams
  • Calcium, Manganese, Magnesium and Phosphorus support overall health, strengthen bones, promote muscle function and heart health.

2. Rich in antioxidants

Chia seeds contain powerful antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol.

These compounds protect cells and provide anti-aging effects, Heckler said.

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“Antioxidants are essential for fighting free radicals in the body, which can cause oxidative stress and contribute to chronic disease,” she said.

3. Supports digestive health

The high fiber content in chia seeds promotes digestive health by increasing bowel regularity and preventing constipation, she said.

Chia Yogurt

“The soluble fiber in chia seeds also acts as a prebiotic, supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.” (iStock)

“In addition, the soluble fiber in chia seeds also acts as a prebiotic, supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut,” Heckler told Fox News Digital.

4. It may help with weight management

Heckler said chia seeds are high in fiber and protein, which can help with weight management by making you feel full and reducing your overall calorie intake.

Chia seeds may promote satiety and reduce overall calorie intake.

“They absorb liquid and expand in the stomach, which can help suppress appetite and reduce snacking between meals,” she said.

5. Versatile and easy to use

Chia seeds can be incorporated into a variety of meals beyond yogurt and cereal.

Small changes in diet can have big effects on your health

Consuming chia seeds regularly can be a challenge, so here are two different suggestions for each of your three meals per day.

Breakfast Ideas

Chia pudding. Heckler shared the recipe with Fox News Digital.

Mix 3 tablespoons of chia seeds with 1 cup of almond milk (or your favorite milk).

Chia seeds

Adding the seeds to a smoothie “can increase the nutritional value without changing the flavor,” he says. (iStock)

Add a sweetener like honey or maple syrup and leave in the fridge overnight. Serve in the morning with fresh fruit and nuts for a delicious, nutritious breakfast.

Smoothie booster. Add a tablespoon of chia seeds to your morning smoothie.

“It’s a mix of fruits, vegetables, yogurt and a liquid base,” Heckler says.

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“The seeds add nutritional value without changing the flavor.”

Lunch Ideas

Salad topping. Sprinkle chia seeds on your salad to add a nutty flavor and crunch.

Heckler says they’re great in any salad, but especially those with leafy greens, nuts and a light vinaigrette.

Chia Salad

Sprinkle chia seeds on your salad to add a nutty flavor and crunch. (iStock)

Chia seed avocado toast. To make this, mash a ripe avocado and spread it on whole wheat toast.

Sprinkle a tablespoon of chia seeds on top for extra crunch and nutrition. Serve with a fried or boiled egg or two.

“For extra flavor, you could also add a sprinkle of sea salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, and some red pepper flakes,” Heckler suggested.

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“This simple yet delicious meal is packed with healthy fats, fiber and protein, making it the perfect lunch option.”

Dinner Ideas

Chia crusted chicken. Coat chicken breasts with a mixture of chia seeds, breadcrumbs and your favorite herbs and spices and bake until golden brown.

“This adds a nice crunch and texture and makes the dinner more nutritious,” Heckler said.

Wooden spoon with chia seeds

Chia seeds have many health benefits, but it’s important to increase your intake gradually, says a nutrition expert. (iStock)

Stir-fried chia seeds. Add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds to stir-fry vegetables.

“They blend seamlessly into dishes and add nutritional value without changing the taste,” Heckler told Fox News Digital.

What you need to know about chia seeds

Heckler says chia seeds have many health benefits, but it’s important to gradually increase your intake.

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“Chia seeds are high in fiber, which can cause bloating, gas, and other digestive issues if consumed in large quantities at once,” she says.

Heckler recommends starting with a small amount, like one cup a day, and gradually working your way up to avoid digestive issues.

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Also, be sure to drink plenty of water as chia seeds absorb a lot of water.

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