Who doesn’t remember the iconic ch-ch-ch-CHIA pet of the 90’s? That fuzzy little plant was hiding a great source of nutrition right under our noses, or rather on our window sills in terracotta pots shaped like Homer Simpson. So, what’s the deal with this new health craze?
The chia seed is from a desert plant called Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. It is believed to have been one of the most important staples of the Mayan and Aztec diets. The seed is a great source of fiber, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and contains a good amount of protein. Chia is also packed with vitamins and minerals including thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid, calcium, iron and zinc. Research suggests that including chia seeds in your diet can help reduce cardiovascular risk factors by lowering cholesterol and inflammation. Chia has also been proven to reduce insulin resistance and aid in digestion due to its high fiber content. Two tablespoons of chia contain 10 grams of fiber, 35 percent of the recommended daily value.
So how does it stand up to flax seed in a side by side comparison? Chia has a few more benefits than flax. While both are great additions to a healthy diet, chia has about 24 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than flax. Unlike flax, our bodies can reap the benefits from chia without needing to grind the seed, making it easier to add to cereals, smoothies and yogurt. Chia has slightly more fiber than flax, twice as much as bran, and four to five times more fiber than quinoa.
Bottom line: Chia seeds are a versatile addition to a healthy diet. Try adding this nutrient-dense seed to baked goods, sprinkling on cereal or yogurt, or mixing it into soups. Chia also has super water-absorbing properties, making it great for pudding. Just soak it in your choice of milk and flavoring; try a little cocoa powder and honey for a healthy twist on chocolate pudding.
Written by: Laura Dutra, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
1. Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny
2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics