Chia seeds, also known as salvia hispanica, are grown in southern Mexico and known for their high nutritional value. The seeds used to be a huge part of the Aztec diet and are again gaining popularity in the diets of health-conscious people today.

The reason for the increase in popularity is because of research conducted by former professor at the University of Arizona Wayne Coates, that shows chia seeds offer the highest known concentration of unsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids, which are said to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

More than half of their oil is a beneficial Omega-3 fat known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). According to Coates, these tiny seeds contain more polyunsaturated fatty acids than any other crop by 83.2 percent.

Healthy fats are not the only nutrients chia seeds are known for though. In an article presented by Livestrong, just two tablespoons of chia seeds contain about six grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber. Chia is also an excellent source of magnesium, calcium, zinc and certain phenolic compounds that protect cells against oxidative damage.

Fiber, an excellent nutrient that contributes to weight loss by dulling appetite and discouraging bloating, is a huge selling point for people who use chia seeds in their everyday diet. With 11 grams of fiber per ounce, chia seeds provide more than 40 percent of a person’s daily fiber needs.

Consuming such nutrients helps with brain function and heart health, as well as boosts one’s metabolism and keeps blood sugar and a person’s appetite balanced.

Additionally, each two-tablespoon serving has more than 10 percent of the daily value for thiamine, niacin, iron, copper and calcium and more than 20 percent of the DV for selenium, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium.

Thiamine and niacin help turn food into energy, while iron and copper form red blood cells. Calcium, manganese and phosphorus are necessary for strong bones and selenium helps limit cell damage while magnesium works to form DNA.

Furthermore, a systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration found on states that chia components might be an effective treatment for angina, coronary heart disease, stroke and heart attack. Examiners also believe chia supplements may help conditions such as hypertension and high cholesterol, as well as benefit blood flow by dilating the arteries and preventing blood clots.

Despite popular belief, there is currently no clinical evidence to support the claim that chia seeds equate to weight loss. In a 2009 study conducted by researchers from the Appalachian State University in North Carolina, chia seed supplementation showed no more weight loss benefits in 90 overweight adults after 12 weeks than those receiving a placebo.

Nonetheless, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics believes that chia seeds may help lower the risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. A potential increase in blood levels of the essential Omega-3 fat ALA, reduction of triglycerides and after-meal blood sugar levels were all reported in a 2012 review article published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology.

Many people simply sprinkle a serving of chia seeds over their breakfast, but they can also be added while cooking a meal or used as replacements for certain ingredients.

Some common recipes that include chia seeds are chia chocolate cookies, chia fruit spread, chia wraps, chia pudding, chia yogurt and chia smoothies. However, the seed is so versatile that its use is becoming more widespread than ever before.

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