Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. Salvia hispanica seed often is sold under its common name “chia” as well as several trademarked names. Its origin is believed to be in Central America where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. The seeds of a related plant, Salvia columbariae (golden chia), were used primarily by Native Americans in the southwestern United States.

Chia seeds have gained attention as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid. They also are an excellent source of dietary fiber at 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), and contain protein and minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

Emerging research suggests that including chia seeds as part of a healthful eating style may help improve cardiovascular risk factors such as lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. However, there are not many published studies on the health benefits of consuming chia seeds and much of the available information is based on animal studies or human studies with a small number of research participants.

(eat right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2021)

Chia seed farm with workers

Chia seed still encased

Chis seeds exposed

The health benefits of chia seed

Nutrient Density

Nutrient dense foods contain rich amounts of nutrients per calorie. Chia seeds may be especially beneficial, given their content of a mix of vitamin and minerals as well as all three needed macronutrients, in the form of complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fat.

High in Fiber

Most Americans consume too little fiber, reported the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. One ounce of chia seeds provides a whopping 9.8 grams of fiber, going a long way toward the recommended 25 to 38 grams per day for adults age 50 or younger or 21 to 30 grams per day for adults over age 50.

Heart-Healthy Omega-3s

Nearly all of the fat in chia seeds are of the healthy, unsaturated variety. Five of the about 9 grams per serving are omega-3 fats. Consumed regularly, this fat form is linked with a lower risk for cardiovascular problems such as arrhythmias and blocked arteries.

Rich in Calcium

Chia seeds don’t get as much attention for their calcium content, but they’re a rich source. One ounce supplies about 180 milligrams, or 18 percent of the recommended daily allowance. This is about equal to the amount you get from 8 ounces of milk.

A Good Source of Iron

Most adults need 8 to 18 milligrams of iron daily. (If you menstruate, particularly heavily, you’ll be on the higher end.) One ounce of chia seeds provides over 2 milligrams of iron, which allows oxygen-rich blood to flow through your body and to your brain.

Valuable Electrolytes

Chia seeds provide minerals that serve as electrolytes in your body, producing a charge that helps your muscles and heart function normally. The seeds are particularly good sources of magnesium, providing 95 milligrams per one-ounce serving. They also provide moderate amounts of potassium.

A Good Source of B-Vitamins

B-vitamins play important roles in metabolism and cardiovascular health. Chia seeds provide numerous B-vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. At 2.5 milligrams of niacin per ounce, chia seeds can help you meet the daily recommended 14 to 16 milligrams.

Appetite Control

Chia seeds can improve appetite control in a couple of different ways. The fiber and protein they provide promotes blood sugar control, keeping your appetite and energy levels more stable between meals. They also absorb fluid when they’re added to beverages, which may make them even more satisfying.

Good for “Picky” Eaters

Chia seeds don’t have much flavor, so you can add them to dishes without worrying that the taste will change. This makes the seeds helpful for adding nutrients such as omega-3s and fiber to dishes for someone who has especially sensitive tastebuds or has trouble eating enough nutritious foods such as fish or vegetables.

Weight Loss and Cholesterol Benefits

A study published Nutricion Hospitalaria in 2015 linked chia seed with doing away with excess pounds. Eating the seeds daily for 12 weeks promoted significant weight reduction, particularly in obese participants. Participants also experienced improved cholesterol health.

( By August McLaughlin, 2018)


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