Chia seeds are a nutrient dense food from Mexico that has become a popular superfood.
Chia seeds pack quite a nutritional punch. However, as with all foods, each person must assess how a particular food benefits or hinders their energy, appetite and overall well-being before deciding if it should be part of their regular diet. Assuming no outwardly negative symptoms appear, chia seeds are full of health boosting goodies. Plus, they make a pretty good pet. 😉
Nutritional gems from chia
- Omega-3 fatty acids. With all of the omega-6 fatty acids from soy and corn entering our food supply, most Americans have unbalanced omega-6: omega-3 ratios. Omega-6 fats are more commonly associated with promoting inflammation in the body. While inflammation is a necessary part of health, it needs to be kept in balance by cholesterol, saturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are higher in omega-3 fats than any other plant source. However, as with all plant-based sources of omega-3’s, your body converts a relatively small amount of these short-chain ALA fatty acids into the very healthy long-chain fatty acids DHA and EPA. Animal sources such as salmon, tuna and algae are direct sources and therefore have a much more significant impact on raising the body’s levels. Still, it is nice to get a variety of dietary fats.
- Protein. Chia seeds have 19 amino acids and so provide a nice variety to supplement one’s diet. You would have to eat an enormous quantity of chia seeds to meet your daily allowance, but as a condiment, they sure pack a great amino acid array.
- Fiber. Chia seeds absorb 9 times their weight in water yet most of their fiber is insoluble. They are filling and tend to be absorbed more slowly and therefore promote a slow release of blood sugar (helpful for weight loss and those with blood sugar control issues).
- High in antioxidants. Chia seeds are higher in antioxidants than blueberries. It’s a good thing too because omega-3 fatty acids are very delicate and easily damaged, therefore, it is important that plenty of antioxidants are ingested to prevent a free radical cascade. Think of omega-3’s as a movie star surrounded by paparazzi. Without bodyguards (antioxidants), the “movie star” chia seed is going to get pummeled. Cholesterol is the most potent antioxidant. Foods high in cholesterol include animal-based foods (egg yolks, shrimp, butter, liver, and cheese).
Chia seeds, unlike flax seeds, can be digested without being ground. They gel in liquid and as mentioned, hold nine times their weight in water (so drink plenty of fluids before and after eating chia to avoid dehydration). Most brands sell the seeds intact. Chia seeds sold by Mila are sliced and are said to be more absorbable, so you may want to experiment to see what works better with your digestion.
There is some controversy about the anti-nutrients in chia seeds (and all nuts and seeds). Soaking overnight with a little sea salt is one way to reduce the anti-nutrient phytic acid, which can block the minerals supplied by the food.
Where to get chia seeds
Chia seeds are available at most health food stores. Reputable brands include Navitas Naturals, Bob’s Red Mill, Nutiva and Mila (available only through independent distributors).
How to eat chia seeds
Chia seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet. Here are a few suggestions:
- Mixed in salad dressing and sauces.
- Mixed in batter (i.e. pancake) or use to thicken homemade pudding.
- Sprinkle on yogurt or cottage cheese.
- Added to beverages. Hot cocoa with chia seeds is wonderful! My daughter and I enjoy it regularly.
- Add to nut butter and eat with celery.