Food Facts! Chia Seeds

When you hear “chia” your first thought may be of the green fur or hair of Chia Pets, collectible clay figurines. But did you know that chia seeds can also be a healthful addition to your diet? Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. The seed is often sold under its common name “chia”, as well as several trademarked names. Chia seeds were a staple in the ancient Aztec diet and it’s origin is thought to be from Central America.

Chia seeds have recently gained attention in the United States as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid. They are also an excellent source of fiber at 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), and contain protein and minerals including as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. All of these minerals are essential for metabolic functions in our body. Some athletes find that chia seeds are excellent performance food due to their nutrient density, so you could them as pre-workout fuel. (*Be mindful that 10g of fiber will require adequate hydration and may cause digestive trouble. Ease into it!)

Emerging research suggests that including chia seeds as part of a healthy diet 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.

How to Eat Chia Seeds

Chia seeds can be eaten raw or prepared in a number of dishes. Sprinkle ground or whole chia seeds on cereal, rice, yogurt or vegetables. Chia seeds are very absorbent and develop a gelatinous texture when soaked in water making it easy to mix them into cooked cereal or other dishes. There are chia seed drinks that are quite thick, somewhat chewy and fizzy. They come in different flavors, so you can probably find one you like! A brand I have tried is ‘Synergy’ and I think it is quite good. I am not particularly keen on the texture, with the gelatinous, chewy nature of the drink. The seeds are not the only important part of the chia plant; the sprouts are also edible. Try adding them to salads, sandwiches and other dishes.

This would be the perfect example of a ‘good’ energy drink, not loaded with copious amounts of caffeine but nutrients to boost your metabolism and energy.

Have you tried chia seeds? What do you think? sls