Remember those commercials from the 90’s when a kid and his adoring mom would spread that chia seed paste over the clay dog and watch in shear amazement as the seeds bloomed into a full on thick coat of fur right in front of their eyes? Cha-cha-cha-chia! Over and over it would repeat…but what happened to those little guys? Well apparently, they are still being sold, but a greater share of the chia market is now in supermarket and health food stores. Chia seeds are being sold at a premium price, and consumers are ripping them off of the shelves faster than you can say, “Cha-cha-ch”….okay, I’ll stop. So what is all of this chia hype? In fact, what are chia seeds in the first place? They are very small black and white seeds that are actually a member of the mint family. Grown in Mexico, the seeds have an ancient history. Legend has it that Mayan and Aztec warriors would carry these seeds with them as a concentrated source of energy to get them through long journeys. Apparently the word, “chia” means, “strength” in the Mayan language. These mild-tasting seeds certainly are concentrated with nutrients, so it is truly a believable tale. When placed in a liquid, chia seeds can absorb up to twelve times their weight. As they expand, they begin to have a somewhat slimy, jelly-like texture. In theory, if you eat chia seeds mixed in a beverage or smoothie, they will expand in your stomach and keep you more full for an extended period of time. This feeling of fullness will inhibit you from eating more, and you will in turn lose weight by simply eating less. This is essentially how the little seed has been touted as an amazing weight loss aid. Unfortunately, at this time science does not agree. Although there is not an abundance of research available on chia seeds and weight loss, the few studies that have been conducted showed no weight loss benefit from consuming chia seeds. Myth busted!
Now that is not a reason to throw chia out the window. These little gems have truly earned the hype that they are receiving- just not on the weight-loss front. They are filled to the brim with excellent nutrition. Let’s take a look at the nutrient make up of just one ounce, roughly two tablespoons:
- Fiber: Nearly 12 grams of dietary fiber. This reason alone makes chia a superfood. Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds do not require grinding to receive full benefits as they can be completely absorbed by our body. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends adults consume between 25 and 38 grams of fiber daily. Although the average American consumes only about 15 grams per day. Chia seeds are an excellent and super easy way to boost your fiber intake.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: 4915 mg of Omega-3 Fatty acids. What does that mean? Good health! We always hear about getting in our omegas, but the fact of the matter is Omega-6 fatty acids are everywhere and the Omega-3’s are harder to come by. Many experts believe that it is beneficial to change the ratio of fatty acid intake to reduce the Omega-6 intake while increasing our Omega-3’s. With a 3:1 Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio, this seed is a great starting point.
- Macronutrients: Many don’t know that macronutrients are simply Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat-no more, no less. The chia seed is the perfect example of a stellar macronutrient composition with 4g Protein (16%), 9g Fat (36%), and 12g Carbohydrate (48%). This is a mean source of energy.
- Calcium: The National Institutes of Health recommend adults (both men and women) consume 1,000 mg of Calcium per day. In just one ounce of chia seeds you will obtain 179mg of this bone building mineral. That is 18% of your recommended daily intake in just two measly tablespoons!
- Antioxidants: Chia seeds undoubtedly a great source for antioxidants as they contain a mixture of these free-radical fighting champions. Antioxidants reduce the overall inflammatory load in our systems and fight disease and premature aging. Need I say more?
I should also add that there are 138 calories in one ounce of chia seeds. So is there a downside? There are some drug nutrient interactions to be aware of. Chia seeds may interact with certain blood pressure medications and blood thinners, so please ask your doctor before gorging! There have also been reports of allergy to chia seeds. This is somewhat rare, but take special caution if you are allergic to mustard or sesame seeds. Oh and speaking of allergies, those of you with egg allergies (or simply don’t eat eggs) can actually substitute chia seeds for eggs in baking! You must first make a chia gel that is 1 part chia and 6 parts water- you probably want to blend this mixture in order to avoid big black seeds throughout. One tablespoon of this gel will replace one whole egg in baked goods. I couldn’t resist the temptation to make this post a twofer. Here is a super simple recipe to turn you on to chia seeds! Who could pass up a delicious desert that packs crazy amounts of protein (10g), fiber (16g), and calcium (45% recommended daily intake)!?!
- 1 Cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
- 1/3 Cup Chia Seeds
- 2 Tablespoons Honey, more or less to taste
- 2 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- ½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
- Pinch of Sea Salt
- Add all ingredients to a blender.
- Blend until very smooth.
- Refrigerate at least 4 hours.
Nutrition Facts: 284 Calories, 15g Fat, 1.8g Saturated Fat, 0mg Cholesterol, 277mg Sodium, 16g Fiber, 10g Protein, 18% Vitamin A, 26%, 45% Calcium, 17% Iron