- Julie R. Thomson
Essential Fatty Acids – Omega-3 & 6, Plant Protein, Antioxidants,
Chia seeds are everywhere. What was once a health food hard to come by is now a staple in restaurant desserts and grocery store granola bars. There’s an easy explanation for this seed’s surge in popularity: chia seeds are a true superfood. Although tiny in size, chia seeds pack a lot of nutrients.
These powerhouse seeds come from a flowering plant in the mint family known as Salvia hispanica. Unlike most seeds, chia seeds have a soft outer shell and don’t need to be cracked open or ground in order to be consumed. (As a comparison, think about how you have to spit out the outer shell of a sunflower seed to get at the tasty seed inside.) Chia seeds come in two equally nutritious colours: black and white. If you ever see brown chia seeds, avoid them! Brown chia seeds have been harvested immaturely, so these unripe seeds lack the nutritional value that chia seeds are known for.
(Photo from Choosing Chia)
Incorporating chia into your diet — which is super easy (see our tips below)! — provides a long list of health benefits including:
First and foremost, chia seeds are known for their high fiber content, made up of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Just one ounce contains nearly 11g of fiber, which is almost half of the recommended daily intake for adults. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in our intestines, making chia great for gut health. It helps promote digestion and prevent constipation. Plus, since chia seeds absorb lots of water and expand in your stomach, they keep you feeling fuller longer.
In the same way oxidation makes a car rust, too much oxidation can harm the body and promote aging and degenerative diseases. Antioxidants help to counteract the damaging effects of oxidation in the body, and luckily, chia seeds are packed with this natural compound.
Essential fatty acids are fats that are essential for health, but since the body can’t produce them on its own they must be obtained from food. In a typical North American diet it’s much easier to get Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3s. Both are important, but an improper ratio of these two omegas can lead to inflammation in the body. Chia seeds save the day as a great source of both types of fatty acids, with an ideal Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio of 3:1!
Chia seeds are a high quality protein. They contain 16% protein (or more depending on the source) which is much higher than most plant foods, and they contain a healthy balance of amino acids. For anyone following a vegetarian or vegan diet, chia seeds are an optimal source of plant-based protein.
Chia seeds are packed with minerals important for many bodily systems and pathways. Just 1 ounce (28 grams) of chia contains about 18% of the recommended daily value (DV) of Calcium, 40% DV of Manganese, 30% DV of Phosphorus (bone health), 25% DV of Magnesium (muscle and heart health), and 10% DV of Zinc (immunity, hormone regulation, GI tract and more).
(Photo from Love and Lemons)
How To Use
One of our favourite things about chia seeds is that because of their soluble fiber content, they create a gel when soaked in liquid. As strange as this sounds, chia seeds are a game changer for vegetarians, vegans, and plant-based eaters alike! This gel can act as an egg replacement in recipes, or be used to create creamy desserts like pudding without animal products.
Don’t be intimidated by this superfood seed! Their neutral taste makes them easy to incorporate in almost any recipe. Use chia seeds to make an energizing chia fresca or add them to any kind of smoothie! Sprinkle them on top of breakfast bowls or use these powerhouse seeds to create a nutrient-rich porridge. You can even add them to salads or roasted dishes as a superfood seed sprinkle. If you’re a baker, they’re incredible in granola bars, muffins and breakfast cookies, or use them to make homemade jam and slather on a piece of toast.