Chia seeds are delicious, high-fiber seeds that have been a popular part of the health food marketplace for a long time now. Chia seeds are packed full of nutrients and fiber and offer a number of potential health benefits, including improving your digestive health.
The Importance of a Healthy Digestive System
Your digestive system is used to extract nutrients from food, providing you with energy and supporting the health of the rest of your body and mind. The digestive system is complicated, and there are many processes that can potentially go wrong if you eat too much, too little, or the wrong foods. For this reason, understanding how your digestive system works is an important starting point for staying healthy.1
Sticking to a healthy diet and having a healthy digestive system will mean that you do not feel bloated, your bowel movements are regular, you can enjoy food without heartburn, and you are at a reduced risk for a number of potentially serious diseases, including some cancers.2
How Chia Seeds Improve Your Digestive Health
Chia seeds can help improve your digestive health in a number of ways. One of the primary factors that people like about chia seeds is that they contain a lot of fiber. This means that they are quite filling and improve feelings of satiety.
Studies show that eating yogurt with added chia seeds can help improve satiety, reducing a person’s desire to snack throughout the day and therefore helping them reduce their daily calorie intake. This can be helpful for people who are looking to lose weight sustainably.3
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Chia seeds are also rich in nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, protein, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, and fiber.4 It is thought that the type of fiber found in chia seeds could help reduce LDL cholesterol levels. This is the “bad” kind of cholesterol, which is associated with some forms of cardiovascular disease.5
Another benefit of the high fiber content of chia seeds is that it can slow the digestion of glucose, consequently regulating blood sugar levels.6 This helps reduce “sugar crashes” and erratic energy levels and could also be of benefit to people who are diabetic or prediabetic.
Improves Colon Health
Approximately 97 percent of Americans are not eating enough fiber on a day-to-day basis.7 Failure to eat enough fiber can lead to constipation, bloating, and other digestive issues. For people who are not eating enough fiber, adding chia seeds to your yogurt, breakfast cereal or even soups could be a simple solution.
Because chia seeds are so rich in fiber, they offer an easy way to consume the nutrients that you require without going too far over your daily calorie count (if you are counting calories).
Having more regular bowel movements is an obvious short-term benefit to eating chia seeds, but there are some long-term, less tangible benefits too. One of the healthy fats found in chia seeds is alpha linoleic acid.
This fatty acid has been shown to down-regulate the proliferation of certain cancerous cells, including the cells associated with bladder cancer. Researchers are also investigating the possibility that it could help to downregulate the proliferation of colon cancer cells.8
Positively Affects Gut Microbiome
The intestines play host to a wide variety of bacteria, and diversity of that bacteria can play an important role in overall health. Additionally, studies show that individuals can change their gut microbiome quite quickly just by changing their diet.9 If you eat a diet that is rich in sugary foods or simple carbohydrates, then bacteria that thrive on those nutrients will become dominant.
However, if you eat a diet that is rich in fermented foods, then we will see a shift towards bacteria that prefer those. Chia seeds contain fibers that are digested by certain “good” bacteria, so adding chia to your diet could help to make positive changes to the gut microbiome.10 This could, in the long term, mean that you will be less likely to crave junk food and are more likely to stick to a healthy diet.
Other Benefits of Chia Seeds
The most obvious benefits of chia seeds are their impact on cravings, weight management, and digestive system function, but they are thought to have other potential benefits too. For instance, since they are a good source of calcium, they can help support better bone density, which is important for women in particular.11 The fatty acids in chia seeds are also a good source of certain fat-soluble vitamins.
Chia seeds are incredibly versatile, and you can consume them in a number of different ways. Some people simply add them to water or juice and drink it throughout the day. This could be an effective way of tackling two “healthful” tasks at the same time if you mix up your daily requirement of water and chia and simply make a point of finishing it before you go to bed.
Other options include sprinkling chia seeds onto foods that you will eat during the day, mixing them up into smoothies, or adding them to bread or cakes to improve the nutritional profile of your favorite treats.
Mixing chia seeds in with other grains can add some variety to your dishes since the texture of chia is a little different from that of other common seeds and grains. You can even add it to jams instead of using pectin. Since chia is not bitter, you will not need to use as much sugar as you would for a pectin-based recipe, so your jam will be a little healthier. Chia can go with almost anything, so be creative.
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