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By Callie Snow

Health benefits of chia seeds

If you are one of the millions of people online scavenging for recipes, you may have noticed chia seeds being packed into healthy recipes everywhere you look. If you have spotted these little black seeds and stared at them in dismay, then I assure you, you are not alone! Today I am here to answer your questions about this curious little vitamin-packed seed.

• What is a chia seed and where does it come from?

Chia seeds are harvested from chia plants, also known as Salvia hispanica. Chia is a species of flowering plant that is native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. The chia plant produces purple and white flowers that are typically in clusters at the end of each stem. They're most commonly grown in Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Australia. A variety has recently been cultivated to grow in Kentucky.

Health benefits and nutrition

Chia seed have recently become known as the ultimate superfood. But just how healthy is it? Two tablespoons of these tiny little seeds are packed full of nutrition: 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, 18% of the daily recommended amount of calcium, 30% of the daily recommended amount of magnesium and 27% of the daily recommended amount of phosphorus. If that wasn't enough to sell you, they are also packed full of a good amount of zinc, vitamin B3, potassium, vitamin B1 and vitamin B2.

As an added bonus, they are naturally gluten free and loaded with antioxidants. Chia seeds contain 137 calories per ounce and 12 grams of carbohydrates. Of the 137 calories, 36 of them are from fiber. The same can be said for the carbohydrates — 11 of the 12 carbohydrates are from fiber. Since chia seeds are loaded with fiber, they can absorb up to ten times their weight in water, helping you to feel fuller faster and consume less food at one sitting.

Chia seeds contain more Omega-3s than salmon; however, they are not in active forms and humans are not capable of converting them into the healthy Omega-3s that we would receive from eating salmon. There have been many studies done on the health benefits of chia seeds, with the most impressive result being that of patients with type 2 diabetes who were successful at decreasing blood sugar and blood pressure. Overall, chia seeds are a great natural source of nutrition.

How to incorporate them into your diet

Incorporating chia seeds into your diet may be much easier than you think. With little to no flavor, the seeds can be easily hidden in things you already consume. They not only provide a great deal of nutrition, but also act as a thickening agent in smoothies and drinks. A quick search online and you are sure to find a heaping collection of recipes that include chia seeds. If the texture proves to be too much for you in whole form, try grinding them in a coffee grinder. Once they're ground, you can sneak the seed dust into cereal, yogurt, granola and my favorite, smoothies!

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