My love affair with chia seeds began a few years back in my dietetic internship during my oncology rotation. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the dietetic internship, dietetic students spend a year rotating through different nutrition disciplines, one being oncology.
Chemotherapy is a rough road and it causes all kinds of issues, including some pretty major gastrointestinal discomforts. The primary concern for oncology dietitians is to make patients feel better. Chemotherapy essentially destroys your gut lining – all those beneficial little microbiota that are there to protect our gut lining go bye-bye, and you are left with one vulnerable tummy.
During my internship, two of the main interventions the oncology dietitian recommended for her patients were kefir, which contains beneficial probiotics, and, you guessed it, chia seeds! Is it really that simple?
Yes! She explained that the kefir replenishes the beneficial bacteria that had been washed away during chemo, and the chia was the prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria to keep your microbiota thriving. If you have ever tried to put chia seeds in water, you’ll know that it instantly forms a gel. Because of its ability to soak up water, Chia seeds have the added benefit of mitigating diarrhea in chemotherapy patients.
Whoa! And to think, I had never even heard of this magical seed! When I started looking into the benefits of chia beyond promoting gut health, I was truly blown away.
Here are my top three amazing benefits chia seeds have to offer:
1. Gut Health Boost!
As I mentioned previously, chia seeds are a super beneficial prebiotic. Prebiotics, not to be confused with probiotics, feed the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract to keep it thriving. The one cell layer of beneficial bacteria has been shown to have major positive effects on your digestive and mental health.
If you ever have symptoms of irritable bowl syndrome or have issues with diarrhea, having dry chia seeds can help to soak up extra liquid that may be causing you discomfort. Having two tablespoons of dry chia a day can work wonders! Chia is pretty flavorless and has a pleasant little crunch, so you can sprinkle it on just about everything.
2. Antioxidant Surge!
Chia seeds produce phenolic compounds that keep the healthy fats inside the seed from going rancid. When we take in the seed, we also benefit from these compounds as they reduce free radical damage. Free radicals are basically toxins that can destroy our cells and DNA. When we reduce our free radical damage, we decrease our risk for chronic disease, delay the aging process, and create healthier skin! Who doesn’t want that?!
3. Weight Control!
Chia seeds are packed with fiber which helps you stay fuller longer and will even out your blood sugar throughout the day. Fiber also helps to keep a balance between insulin and glucagon, your fat burning and fat storing hormones, boosting your metabolism.
Now, get out there and get some chia! To get you started, here is a super yummy and easy recipe that makes a quick and super healthy snack, breakfast, or desert!
Chocolatey Chia Pudding
1/3 cup chia seeds
1 ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup cocoa powder
7 chopped up dates to sweeten (or sweetener of choice)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix all of desired ingredients together and leave in the fridge overnight. Yum Yum!