Research promotes the consumption of chia seeds for a number of health benefits: they act to stabilize blood sugar, lower cholesterol, sustain energy, aid in digestion and decrease blood pressure in diabetics. Rightly dubbed a “superfood”, chia is high in many good-for-you things like protein, Omega 3s, calcium, fiber and anti-oxidants. Over the past decade, more and more health-conscious adults are supplementing their diet with chia seeds. However, children can also benefit from adding this superfood to their diets. In fact, it seems that chia seeds are especially well suited to children’s nutritional needs as well as their taste/food preferences. I've already shared some ideas on how to get chia seeds into tasty dishes your kids will actually eat.
Parents often worry whether their children, especially picky-eaters, are getting enough nutrients in their diet. While vitamin supplements are readily available, children are often reluctant to take anything but nutritionally weak gummy vitamins. Supplements can also be costly – particularly the higher quality brands. Besides, we know that our bodies more readily absorb nutrients when they come from whole food sources. Chia seeds are perfect for kids because they are nearly flavorless, versatile and can be incorporated into a variety of meal types – both sweet and savory. They are naturally easy to digest and gluten-free. Let's look at some of the ways this superfood can help our little ones grow up healthy and smart.
Support Brain Development
Chia seeds are loaded with essential fatty acids (EFAs), particularly of the Omega 3 variety, important for children’s cognitive development. Studies have found that children with a diet high in Omega 3s have lower rates of asthma and diabetes.[i] Most adults, and to a greater degree, children in the US are deficient in EFAs, including Omega 3s. Few children will readily (or consistently) consume enough cold water fish and green leafy vegetables (the main sources of Omega 3s in the standard American diet) to get the optimal amounts of Omega 3s. Chia seed snacks are a great way to increase children's Omega 3 intake.
Avoid Catching Colds and Flu
Children are exposed to germs at day care, school, and during routine play. As a result they are constantly getting sick. Chia seeds are full of antioxidants with immunity boosting properties, such as Vitamin C and Zinc, that can reduce the number and severity of illnesses.
Processed foods quite popular among children (such as Gerber Puffs, Cheerios, cookies, macaroni and cheese, and chicken nuggets) are low in fiber, which can lead to constipation. Chia seeds are high in fiber and have a unique ability to absorb and retain water throughout the journey through the digestive tract which can prevent constipation. The seeds when mixed with water form a gel-like substance, absorbing up to ten times their weight in liquid in just ten minutes.
It can be a struggle to keep kids well hydrated during hot summer days or periods of intense physical activity. Chia seed's unique ability to absorb and retain water can also help prevent dehydration. Chia is popular among long distance runners and cyclists who rely on this superfood for endurance and stamina.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Parents of picky-eaters or underweight children often worry that their child may not be getting enough calories in a given day to support healthy growth and development. Chia seeds are calorie dense with approximately 70 calories per tablespoon.[i] These superfood seeds are also a good source of protein and fiber. Fiber and protein rich foods can help kids feel fuller longer and reduce the number of snacks between meals.