4 Incredible Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

So many perks packed into two tablespoons.

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Hear the word chia and think chia pet? Until the last few years, you probably never thought of chia seeds as edible (if you had even heard of them at all). Besides sprouting little green afros on collectible clay figurines, these little seeds are a veritable superfood, which is why you’ve probably seen them popping up at smoothie and salad bars lately.

Here are four key health benefits of chia seeds (and why you should consider adding them to your diet).

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids. You might think of salmon as the poster child of omega-3s, but if you’re not a fish fan, chia can help. Chia seeds are one of a few plant-based foods with this healthy fat, which research shows may improve heart health. Chia seeds have 4 grams of polyunsaturated fat, a.k.a. omega-3s. (Learn about the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids here.)

  2. Digestive health. Thanks to the phenomenal 7 grams of fiber in one serving, chia seeds can regulate your bathroom routine for a happy, healthy gut. FYI, the average American only eats about 16 grams of fiber per day, which falls short of the recommended 22-34 grams.

  3. Protein. You might not think of a small seed as a muscle booster, but a serving of chia seeds packs a surprising 3 grams of protein. Even more significant, chia seeds are a complete protein, which means they contain all 9 essential amino acids. Stirring these seeds into your smoothies or oatmeal can boost the protein content of an otherwise carby breakfast. (Here are more ways to add protein to breakfast.)

  4. Weight management. Chia’s big dose of fiber helps you stay full longer, which may help curb your appetite. That’s because your stomach takes longer to digest high-fiber foods, so you’ll feel more full on fewer calories. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your chances of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more.

For a healthy, fiber-packed dessert, try this chia seed pudding with a fresh raspberry sauce.