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Chia seeds have gone from being an important ingredient in the ubiquitous Chia Pet to being a modern-day superfood. But the origins of chia seeds are even older than those once-popular terra-cotta animals let on. Derived from the Salvia hispanica plant grown throughout much of Central and South America, chia seeds were an important part of Aztec diets. The chia seed health benefit isn’t something to sneeze at, either.

Whether they’re baked into treats, blended into smoothies or mixed into your favorite dish, chia seeds offer a simple yet powerful way to boost your health. The following highlights some of the nutritional and health benefits you can expect from these small but potent seeds.

Plenty of Nutrients, Few Calories

Chia seeds might be tiny, but the nutritional punch they pack is something to behold. A single-ounce serving of chia seeds contains loads of minerals, including up to 30 percent of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of magnesium and manganese.

The same serving also contains up to 18 percent of your RDI of calcium – approximately the same amount you’d get when you drink 8 ounces of milk. This makes chia seeds a powerful ally in the fight against osteoporosis and a great alternative if dairy isn’t your thing.

Loaded with Antioxidants

Chia seeds also contain a high amount of antioxidants, which can help slow down the aging process and reduce the likelihood of certain cancers. Antioxidants are crucial for combatting free radicals that cause cellular damage and contribute to aging. The reason that antioxidants are in chia seeds in the first place? They prevent fats inside the seeds from turning rancid.

Great for Heart Health and Brain

Another chia seed health benefit is that they’re also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for keeping your heart brain in great shape. A single serving contains up to 5 grams of omega-3. When combined with other healthy lifestyle changes, chia seeds can help reduce your risk factor for heart disease.

The great thing about getting omega-3 from chia seeds is their sheer ease. No cooking or grinding is necessary to unlock the fatty acids within, unlike with certain fish and seeds that also contain omega-3. Eating chia seeds whole will give you the same nutritional benefits regardless.

Rich in Fiber and Protein

One more chia seed health benefit to note is that they’re loaded with fiber. The high fiber content in chia seeds can help you feel full faster. Combined with their low calorie content and high protein content, chia seeds make the perfect weapon in the fight to lose weight and stay in shape.

Since they’re so rich in fiber, chia seeds can also play a key role in the detox process. Maintaining normal bowel movements is the key to good digestion and keeping toxins at bay.

Here’s a fun fact: dry chia seeds can absorb up to 27 times their weight in water, which is why letting them soak in water beforehand is usually the way to go when consuming the seeds.