We used to hear a lot about protein (especially when it comes to weight loss), but many health experts are now touting the importance of dietary fats and fiber. Whether you’re trying to lose some weight, are dealing with a chronic condition, or are just looking after your health in general, fat and fiber are key nutrients we all need as they provide the baseline for our bodily systems to function optimally. The good news is, you can get both by adding just one treat to your diet each day — chia seeds.
Chia seeds come from Salvia hispanica, a plant in the mint family. They may be tiny, but they pack a powerful nutritional punch. They’re loaded with antioxidants, iron, phosphorous, manganese, and calcium. They’re also packed with omega-3 fatty acids and insoluble fiber that will benefit your health in more ways than one.
The weight loss conversation often centers around protein since protein is necessary for healthy muscles and helps to keep hunger hormones at bay, thus reducing cravings. However, we now know that both fiber and healthy fats are essential components, too.
According to the Mayo Clinic, fiber can help achieve a healthy weight by enhancing digestion, controlling blood sugar, and increasing satiety. Better digestion leads to a healthy weight because we are better able to eliminate toxins from the body, while reduced blood sugar means that extra glucose doesn’t get stored as fat. What’s more, fiber has shown to improve gut health by feeding the good bacteria in our microbiome. In a healthy microbiome, good gut bacteria creates an impermeable gut lining which enhances immunity by stopping toxins from leaking into the bloodstream. Fiber backs up your body’s powerful, natural defenses!
What’s more, the omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds can protect your brain and have even been associated with a lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases and age-related cognitive decline. Perhaps more impressive is the idea that these fats can actually help you burn fat. Omega-3’s have shown to improve inflammation, insulin resistance, and heart disease risk factors in subjects with metabolic syndrome, leading to a decreased risk of obesity. And if that weren’t enough, these fatty acids have also shown to improve eye health by reducing the risk of macular degeneration, as well as fight symptoms of depression and anxiety!
It may seem too good to be true that you can get both of these health-boosting nutrients from one food, but it really is that simple. What can we say, nature has all we need to keep our bodies functioning optimally. If you’ve never had chia seeds before, the most common — and in my opinion, delicious — way to eat them is in chia pudding.
Chia pudding is typically made by soaking the seeds in water or a plant milk of your choice. It’s important to soak chia seeds before consuming them as they absorb a lot of water and can expand in your system. You can also sprinkle chia seeds onto cereal and add them to yogurt, though soaking them first is the best way to get all their benefits and reduce your risk of gas and bloating. For some of our favorite chia pudding recipes, check out this list!
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.