Chia seeds have become a very popular food in recent years. Their multitude of nutrition benefits makes them an appealing choice to add to your Keto diet. However, are chia seeds Keto-friendly? The short answer is, yes, chia seeds are incredibly Keto-friendly! The following article will outline the health benefits of chia seeds as well as some easy ways to incorporate this superfood into your diet.
Overview of Keto
The Keto diet is a diet that’s focused on producing an energy source known as ketones. In order to do this you need to trick your body into switching from using carbohydrates as its primary energy source to ketones. Carbohydrates are the main fuel that’s used to create glucose. If you take away the carbs, or at least limit them, you’ll force your body to choose another option.
Ketones are made from fat cells. In order to continue to make ketones at a high enough level to fuel your body you need to eat a diet that’s rich in healthy fats with 20-25g of net carbs or fewer a day. Net carbs are the carbs left over when you remove the fibre and sugar alcohols that your body cannot digest.
The focus on Keto is healthy fats. Roughly 70-75% of the calories you eat should come from fats. Sometimes it can be hard to find sources for the other nutrients that you need which would have ordinarily come from carb-rich foods. This is what makes the humble chia seed such a great option for your Keto!
What are chia seeds?
Chia seeds are the seed of a plant that’s related to mint, believe it or not! The plant, Salvia hispanica, grows little black seeds that are edible and nutritious. Chia seeds were a favorite food of some ancient societies such as the Mayans and the Aztecs. Both societies thought that the chia seed brought them strength. In fact, Chia in Mayan means “strength”. The Mayans and Aztecs may not have known about vitamins, minerals and nutrients, but they were right about these tiny seeds being power packed with strength. Now that science has done some studies on Chia seeds, we know exactly what benefits they provide.
What are the health benefits of chia seeds?
Chia seeds are a fantastic source of nutrition packed into a very tiny package. There are only 137 calories in one ounce of chia seeds which means that you get important nutrients without having to eat a ton of food. One of the best features of chia seeds for those on Keto is that there’s only one gram of net carbs in a serving.
A single, one ounce serving contains 9g of fat, 11g of fibre and 4g of protein. That’s a lot of fibre! Fibre is tough to get enough of on Keto, and Chia seeds are a great way of helping maintain the health of your gut and digestive system. The fat that’s in chia seeds is the healthy type of fat that helps to raise your HDL levels and lower your LDL cholesterol levels. In fact, 5g of the 9g of fat in chia seeds are Omega 3’s which are helpful in maintaining heart and brain health.
On top of these macronutrients, there are some important vitamins and minerals. Chia seeds offer you 27% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of phosphorous, 30% RDI of magnesium and manganese as well as 18% of your RDI of calcium. That’s a lot of beneficial nutrients in only one ounce of chia seeds! There’s also a generous serving of the B vitamins, potassium and zinc.
These nutrients provide you with many important health benefits. For starters, chia seeds are a great source of antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. The antioxidants in chia seeds are particularly helpful because they protect the fats in the seeds from breaking down and going rancid. This helps increase the shelf life of these nutritious seeds.
Chia seeds have the unique ability that they can absorb 10-12 times their size in water. This is helpful in keeping you full. When you eat chia seeds, and they expand in your intestines it slows down their digestion and takes up room which helps you eat less. This feature of chia seeds is due to their high fiber content. These tiny seeds are actually 40% fibre when you look at their weight. The fibre in chia seeds is soluble fibre which helps your digestive system by increasing the number of healthy bacteria in your intestinal tract.
Chia seeds are a great source of plant-based protein. If you’re a vegan doing Keto then it can be tough to find plant-based protein sources, but chia seeds make this process easier. When you have protein it’s important that there be a healthy balance of amino acids for your body to make proper use of the nutrient. Chia seeds have a good balance of essential amino acids so your body will be able use the protein in them more completely.
The fibre, protein, healthy fats and Omega 3’s are great for both weight loss and heart health. If you’re following a healthy diet and exercising, chia seeds can aid in weight loss. The fibre and the protein in the seeds can help you feel full and satisfied for longer. When you’re not hungry it’s a lot easier to eat less and lose weight.
Chia seeds are also beneficial for good bone health. The nutrients in the seeds help build and maintain healthy bones. The calcium in particular is helpful to maintaining your bones, especially since there’s 18% of your RDI in a single one ounce serving. However, the phosphorus, protein and magnesium in chia seeds also contribute to bone health. If you don’t eat dairy, then you might find chia seeds a great substitute for calcium.
Best ways to eat chia seeds on Keto
Chia seeds are an incredibly versatile food. They’re small, practically tasteless and they have the unique ability to absorb the liquid that’s around them. This means that they’re great as a seed or added to another meal. Because you can’t use flour or cornstarch when cooking on Keto, they also make a great thickener to meals. The following are some of the many ways that you can incorporate chia seeds into the meals that you already make for your Keto meals.
Chia seed energy shot
The simplest way to add chia seeds to your diet is by adding them to a glass of water, waiting and then downing the drink as a shot! As mentioned above, chia seeds swell up to 10-12 times their regular size when added to water. If you add a tablespoon of seeds to a cup of water, stir, and wait 10-15 minutes you’ll be left with a jelly like liquid that you can drink. This will help you get all the nutritious benefits of chia seeds alongside one of the glasses of water you’re supposed to drink in the day. The best part is, there isn’t a person in the world that’s too busy to “cook” up this nutritious drink!
Shakes and smoothies
Similar to the chia seed energy shot, you can add a tablespoon of chia seeds into your morning shake. They’ll absorb the liquid of the shake while providing you with nutrients and healthy fats. You can either wait a few minutes after blending for the chia seeds to soak up the juices of the shake or you can drink it down and let the seeds expand once they reach your stomach.
Chia seed egg
If you’re vegan, then chia seed eggs are probably already familiar to you. In regular baking eggs act as a binder to hold ingredients together. When you add chia seeds that have been turned into a jelly by submerging them with water to your baking then you get a similar effect. In order to make your chia seed egg simply mix 1tbsp of chia seeds with 2 ½ tbsp of water to get one “egg”. You’ll have to mix it separately and let it sit for 10-15 minutes in order to let it fully expand.
Chia seed pudding
You can even add chia seeds to your deserts! Chia seed pudding involves mixing 2 cups of milk and ½ cup of chia seeds with flavorings of your choice (pudding mix, cocoa powder, cinnamon etc). If you let it sit in the refrigerator for a while you’ll be left with a tasty and incredibly nutritious desert.
Soups and stews
In order to thicken up a soup, stew, or any meal you find too liquid all you have to do is mix in a tablespoon or two of chia seeds! The seeds will swell and help to thicken your food; however, they’ll retain the taste of the soup, so they won’t change the flavor at all.
Chia seeds are a versatile and healthy option for your Keto. They’re extremely easy to use and they pack a nutrition punch that’s hard to find elsewhere in a single food. Try adding some to your meals today in order to get a boost of energy that’s 100% Keto-friendly!