Chia seeds: Prized food of Mayans

  • Chia seeds are a great source of energy. Courtesy photo

Monday, April 04, 2016 6:59PM

Yes, they are the ch-ch-ch-chia seeds that are known for growing green fur on terra cotta forms to create chia pets, but they are also way more than that.  These tiny packets of super nutrition supply remarkable amount of nutrients in a very small portion – about 2 tablespoons.  Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. The ancient Aztecs and Mayans valued these little powerhouses for their energy-boosting-properties.


Eight reasons to start eating chia seeds

1. Great source of antioxidants: An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules.  Diets including high amounts of antioxidants are good for your health and protective against diseases such as heart disease, cancer and even the aging process itself. Chia seeds are known to last for more than two years without refrigeration due largely to the antioxidant protection of their fat.

2. Excellent source of protein: Containing all eight essential amino acids, chia seeds are considered a complete protein. A two-tablespoon portion contains about 4.5 grams of protein, which is comparable to slightly less than an ounce of lean animal protein, which is very high compared to most plant protein.  Protein is important to help with appetite control and feelings of fullness.

3. A good Omega 3 profile: Chia seeds contain a high amounts of the plant based omega 3 fats, more omega 3 fats than salmon, gram for gram.  But the omega 3 is primarily ALA (alpha linolenic acid), which is not as valuable as fish-based omegas.  Studies have shown that chia seeds can increase blood levels of ALA and EPA, but not DHA.   Your best bet is to consume both fish and plant forms of omega 3 fatty acids.

4. High in fiber: Each serving of chia seeds (two tablespoons) contains 10 grams of fiber.  That’s a lot of fiber in such a small serving!   Americans are not eating adequate fiber to keep their gut flora or their GI tract healthy.  General recommendations are to consume 30 grams or more and, on average, we only get 12.

5. Chock full of minerals, especially minerals for bone health: Chia seeds are a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and protein, which are essential for healthy bones.  In fact, these tiny seeds are considered a good source of calcium for folks who avoid dairy.

6. Help you lose weight: In a study of 67 people with metabolic syndrome, those who drank a chia drink for two months experienced weight loss and a drop in triglycerides as well as blood sugar. It is believed that the combination of fiber and protein, as well as the gel-like quality chia takes on when combined with water, contributed to feeling of fullness and satiety.

7. May lower risk for diabetes: A study published in 2007 in “Diabetes Care” found that chia appears to help improve blood sugar control and heart-disease risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes. However, research is ongoing. The fiber content may be a bigger benefit. Chia seeds seem to slow glucose passage into the blood, which is helpful in preventing diabetes.

8. Easy to incorporate into your diet: Chia seeds can be added to almost everything.

Throw them in soups and casseroles and a side benefit is that chia acts as a thickener.

Add them to salads, yogurt and smoothies.  Keep in mind that they become gelatinous over time, so if you like a crunch, sprinkle them on at the last minute.

Combine chia seeds with blueberries and stevia to make homemade jam.

Make a homemade granola.

Try a chia pudding.

Add them to protein smoothies.

Check out my website www.SmartNutritionLLC.com for some easy delicious recipes that incorporate chia seeds.


Ruth Clark is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a master’s in Public Health and over 35 years of experience.  She lives in Sharon and has offices in Peterborough and Amherst.  After losing both her parents to heart disease at a very young age, nutrition became her purpose in life and she is passionate about helping mid-life individuals prevent illness and disease.