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This mysterious seed has been prescribed for everything from speeding up weight loss to boosting energy levels. Although few studies on chia seeds have been done with humans, there are a few properties that make them a food worth incorporating into your diet.
A member of the mint family, chia seeds are rich in fiber and antioxidants, as well as essential minerals like calcium and iron. They are the richest plant source of omega-3s, although mostly in the form of alpha- linolenic acid—the type that takes your body a while to convert to the preferred DHA or EPA that comes from fish—so we still recommend eating fish at least twice a week.
The seeds are 20% protein, which exceeds the protein content of most other grains and seeds. “The high-quality protein in chia seeds provides all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source,” says Vandana Sheth, R.D. M&F recommends you consume 1–1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight if you’re training to build muscle, so dumping a few tablespoons of chia into your protein shake can give you an edge in the weight room.
Chia seeds are also thought to help keep your waistline trim, by sucking up 10–12 times their weight, forming a gel in your stomach that can curb your calorie intake by making you feel full longer. They also slow the digestive process that breaks down carbs and converts them to sugar, which means fewer carbs feeding the fat cells around your midsection.
(Nutrition info per 1 oz.)