When most people think of the Aztec and Mayan cultures of Central America, we automatically think of corn and beans as the main culinary contributions to the food we currently eat today. However, these important civilizations contributed several other important crops to today’s food system including products such as amaranth, tomatoes, and chia seeds. Chia seeds, along with chia seed powder, was actually one of the most consumed products in these ancient empires, alongside corn and beans.
Chia seeds were so important to these ancient empires that they were actually given as an offering to the priesthood. Chia seeds, and chia seed powder as well, have thus been recognized for their extraordinary health benefits for thousands of years. While this crop was relatively unknown outside of small pockets of Central America for much of history, today the benefits of chia seed powder are being discovered by people around the world.
What is Chia Seed Powder?
Chia seed powder, simply put, is nothing more than the raw, organic chia seeds that are ground up into powdered form which makes it easier for to use for several culinary purposes. The chia plant is known as salvia hispanica in Latin. The actual plant is a tall stalk that offers bright, purple flowers before the flower heads dry into seed heads. As an annual herb, it can routinely grow to over 2 meters in height. The bright purple flowers are excellent to attract bees and other pollinators, and some permaculture farmers have planted chia around gardens and orchards to help increase pollination efforts. It is also known to attract beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps that can help with biological control of other pests in the garden or on the farm.
Chia seeds and chia seed powder are renowned for their incredible health benefits. The small, ovular seeds might not seem like much, they are packed with hundreds of different vitamins and minerals, and are one of the highest protein content seeds you can find. While the ancient Mayans and Aztecs used chia seeds as a part of their everyday diet, often eating them raw, chia seed powder on the market today can easily be added to any number of foods or drinks including smoothies, breads, and the like.
For people interested in cultivating chia to make their own chia seed powder, this crop traditionally grows in hot, humid areas of the Tropics. While you could attempt to grow chia seed in areas with long, warm summers, the University of Kentucky has been involved in research to develop hybrid chia seed plants that can be grown in more northern latitudes and in places with cooler, shorter summer climates.
10 Benefits of Chia Seed Powder
For people constantly on the lookout for quality, nutrition packed super foods, chia seeds should definitely be on your radar. Below we look at ten of the top benefits of chia seed powder.
1. Huge Amounts of Protein
Chia seed powder contains abundant amounts of protein which can seem improbable due to the small, inconspicuous size of the chia seed itself. In an ounce serving of chia seeds or chia seed powder, you will be getting 4.4 grams of protein which is close to 10% of your daily value. With 2 tablespoons of chia seed powder added to your morning fruit smoothie, you will thus get upwards of a quarter of all the protein you will need for the day. For vegetarians and vegans looking for ways to get more plant protein into your diet, chia seed powder is a great alternative to meat and soy-based protein products.
2. Omega 3 Fatty Acid Source
Additionally, chia seed powder is also a fantastic source of omega 3 fatty acids. While most of us know that our industrial food system fills us with way too much fat and oils, the natural fatty acids in chia seed powder are “good” fatty acids which are beneficial to our bodies. While you can extract and oil from chia seed powder, simply eating the seeds or ground up seed powder will similarly get you the beneficial fats your body needs.
3. High in Potassium and Calcium
Chia seed powder is also known to be high in several important vitamins and minerals including potassium and calcium. Potassium is essential for several bodily functions, and calcium is a great dietary addition for aging women who are at risk for osteoporosis. A little bit of chia seed powder into a milk based smoothie or shake will drastically increase the amount of available calcium.
4. High Antioxidant Food
Recent research has shown that chia seeds and chia seed powder are extremely high in antioxidants, almost twice as high as previously thought. As a high antioxidant food, chia seeds are great for your skin and hair health. The antioxidants in chia seed powder will keep your hair smooth and rejuvenated while making your complexion maintain a youthful, energetic appearance.
5. Extremely Great Source of Fiber
Most people know that we need lots of fiber in our diet for overall gut and digestive system health. Chia seed powder is a great source of dietary fiber with close to eleven grams of dietary fiber per ounce. This makes chia seed powder a great food source for people who have problems with regular bowel movements or with other digestive issues.
6. Weight Loss Support
While any supposed weight loss miracle cure should be approached with caution. There are certainly a number of benefits to consuming chia seeds that could help you lose weight. First and foremost, as mentioned above, chia seeds are high in health fatty acids, which unlike the saturated fats that characterize our industrial diets, are actually healthy for you.
Secondly, chia seed powder, when eaten, the high fibers in the chia seeds will actually absorb water making you feel fuller. The feeling of fullness could benefit to eating less and the subsequent weight loss that is associated with chia seeds being eaten on a regular basis.
7. Fosters the Growth of Probiotics
Many people are aware of the benefits that come with probiotics. From probiotic yogurt to the explosion in fermented foods, people all over the world are discovering that putting the right type of bacteria into your gut is essential for overall health. What is much less discussed, however, is the fact that your stomach needs to be prepared to receive these probiotics in order to maximize the benefits that they offer.
Eating chia seeds and chia seeds powder can help your digestive system make the most out of your probiotic intake. People familiar with chia seeds know that they have a slightly gelatinous texture. When consumed, chia seed powder coats your stomach in this gelatin-like substance which in turn fosters the healthy growth of stomach flora, including probiotics to keep you healthy and resilient.
8. Lowers Blood Pressure
Chia seeds and chia seed powder have also been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure in people who consume chia seeds regularly. Lowered blood pressure obviously leads to all sorts of long term health benefits, including better heart health and decreased risk for heart attacks and strokes. The health fats, such as linoleic acid, which are so high in chia seed powder are also essential for your heart health as this acid aids in the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals that your body (and heart) need to stay healthy.
9. Strong Bones and Muscle Growth
Athletes around the world have increasingly been turning towards chia seeds because of the growing body of scientific evidence related to how chia seed powder increases the strength of bones and makes muscle growth more efficient. Related to bone health, not only does chia seed have high amounts of calcium as mentioned above, but it is also a great source of boron. Boron helps your body metabolize other minerals needed for a healthy skeletal structures such as magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous.
For muscle growth, the high protein and fatty acid content in chia seed powder make this an ideal supplement for the athlete and body builder looking to add weight in the form of muscle mass.
10. Reduce the Risk of Cervical and Breast Cancer
Lastly, chia seed powder might also help women reduce the risk of high risk types of cancer such as cervical and breast cancer. Additionally, the alpha lipoic acid (ALA), which is a type of omega 3 fatty acid present in high concentrations in chia seed powder, is shown to limit the growth of certain cancer cells and even kill off cancer cells without hurting or limiting healthy cell growth.
Chia Seed Powder Advantages over Ordinary Chia Seeds
If these ten health benefits of chia seeds or enough to convince you to begin to include this powerful food in your everyday diet, the next thing you need to consider is whether you want to use raw chia seeds or chia seed powder. Whether you purchase chia seeds in bulk, or even grow your own chia seeds, making chia seed powder is simple and easy to do with nothing more than a small coffee grinder. You can also find several chia seed products online. Below we will look at some of the benefits of chia seed powder over whole chia seeds.
1. Easier Digestion
Like most seeds and grain, the outside coating of the chia seed can be hard for some people to digest. If you notice that, after eating whole chia seeds, several of these seeds appear in your stool, then your body is clearly not able to process the chia seeds and thus not reaping the benefits that chia seeds offer. Simply grounding the chia seeds into a powder, or purchasing chia seed powder products, you will be able to better take advantage of all the benefits that chia seeds offer.
2. Easier to Mix into Foods
One of the nicest things about chia seed powder is that it has a very soft, almost indistinguishable taste to it. While you can simply eat chia seed powder by the spoonful, it can also be added to several different products. Chia seed powder is a great addition to any smoothie and will add a bit of thickness and texture to the smoothie itself. Additionally, chia seed powder can also be added to any number of breads or other baked goods. In fact, many local bakeries are now marketing whole grain breads that contain up to 10% chia seed powder along with other healthy grains and seeds such as flax seed, amaranth, and others.
3. Enhanced Omega 3 Fatty Acid Absorption
One of the most recognized health benefits of chia seed is the fact that they include high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids. One recent study found that chia seeds, when ground into powder, allow the body to better absorb the omega 3 fatty acids. As we mentioned above, linoleic acids such as ALA and EPA are extremely important for a number of health reasons, and if you can get access to more of these fatty acids through simply choosing chia seed powder, it is well worth your time.
How to Use Chia Seed Powder?
Trying to eat chia seed powder by the tablespoon will most likely turn people away from this super food. The flour itself can be rather dry and tasteless, and the slightly nutty flavor will turn many people away from this super food. If you purchase chia seed powder from a supplier, you can easily add this to a number of dishes. However, if you find it cheaper to purchase chia seed by bulk, or if you grow your own chia seeds, you might want to try and make your own chia seed powder.
One simple way to make chia seed powder is to put the raw chia seeds into a coffee grinder or other high powered food processor. This will quickly break down the outer shell of the seed thus making the nutritious benefits of the chia seed more readily accessible.
Another way to get more nutrition from the chia seed powder you make is by sprouting the chia seeds. This simply requires placing the chia seed in water for a day or two. Once you see signs of sprouting, the hard outer shell will have been broken down making all of the nutritious benefits of the chia seed available to you. Once you have dried out the sprouted chia seeds, you can simply grind them up in a regular blender and store for future use in the refrigerator.
Ways to Include Chia Seed Powder into Your Diet
If you are struggling to find ways to use chia seed powder in your everyday diet, below we have three simple, easy to make recipes that will allow you to get the full range of benefits from chia seed powder.
1. Whole Grain Chia Seed Powder Bread
If you enjoy baking your own bread, consider substituting some whole wheat flour for chia seed powder the next time you bake your bread. Most whole grain breads recommend using half white flour and half whole grain flour to ensure proper rising. Since chia seed powder is significantly “heavier” than white flour, you will want to replace a portion of the whole wheat flower with the chia seed flower. For example, if your whole grain bread recipe calls for 5 cups of whole wheat flour and 5 cups of white flour. You could replace ½ cup of whole wheat flour with a ½ cup of chia seed powder.
Try to make sure that the chia seed powder you use is never more than one tenth of the flour you use as this will allow your bread to rise properly. If, however, you like denser and heavier whole grain breads, you can raise this amount to 20% of the entire flour content.
2. Chia Seed Powder, Kale, and Pineapple Smoothie
The health benefits of kale have been well documented by people. To add a little bit more punch to your morning “green” smoothie, consider adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seed powder to your kale and pineapple smoothie. The kale will offer needed vitamins and minerals, the chia seed powder offers the protein and fatty acids, while the strong flavor of the pineapple will add taste and high amounts of vitamin C.
3. Chia Seed Powder Granola
Many people enjoy making their own granola, and chia seed powder can easily be added to the ingredient list. Since granola is usually an assortment of whole grains including wheat berries, oats, amaranth, flax seed, and the like, chia seed in powder form can add texture and bring the granola together. When using 1-2 cups of chia seed powder for every 10 cups of other material, you can make sure that the chia seed powder will be equally distributed throughout the entire granola mixture.
Possible Negative Side Effects to Chia Seed Powder?
Like any new food you add to your diet, there could be some potential difficulties. The high fiber content in chia seeds could very well cause some sense of discomfort during digestion for people who aren’t used to a high fiber diet. Additionally, some concerns have been raised related to how high levels of ALA (the fatty acid so prevalent in chia seed powder) could contribute to the development of prostate cancer. However, several studies have cast doubt on the veracity of the connections between chia seeds and prostate cancer.
Where to Buy Chia Seed Powder?
If you have been looking for chia seed powder, but can’t seem to find it on the aisles of your local grocery store, fortunately there are a number of places you can find these products. Most all health food stores (which are popping up around the country) will carry several types of chia seed powder products. Additionally, these stores might also offer chia seed in raw, organic form which could be cheaper if you don’t mind making your own chia seed powder.
If there are no health food grocery stores in your area, Hispanic or Latino grocery stores might very well offer chia seeds or chia seed products as this is considered a typical product of Latino (especially Mexican and Central American) diet.
If you can’t find chia seeds locally, you can find several chia seed powder products online.
Top 5 Chia Seed Powder Products Online
Below you can find five of the absolute best Chia seed powder products online to keep your body strong and resilient.
- Navitas Organics’ Organic Chia Seed Powder
- Gerbs Chia Seed Meal
- Sunfood Raw Organic Chia Seed Powder
- Spectrum Essentials Raw Ground Chia Seeds
- Foods Alive Chia Protein Powder