Chia seeds are the edible seeds of Salvia hispanica, a flowering plant in the sage family (Lamiaceae) native to central and southern Mexico, or of the related Salvia columbariae of the southwestern United States and Mexico. They develop a mucilaginous coating that gives chia-based foods and beverages a distinctive gel texture, when soaked in water. Chia seeds are easy to prepare and are often added to porridge or smoothies.
Dried chia seeds contain 6% water, 42% carbohydrates, 16% protein, and 31% fat. In a 100-gram (3.5 oz) amount, chia seeds are a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of the B vitamins, thiamin and niacin (54% and 59% DV, respectively), and a moderate source of riboflavin (14% DV) and folate (12% DV). Several dietary minerals are in rich content, including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc (all more than 20% DV). The fatty acids of chia seed oil are mainly unsaturated, with linoleic acid (17–26% of total fat) and linolenic acid (50–57%) as the major fats.
Chia seeds are high in antioxidants that help protect the delicate fats in the seeds. They also have various benefits for health.
Almost all of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fiber. This gives them the ability to absorb 10–12 times their weight in water. Fiber also has various beneficial effects on health.
Chia seeds are high in quality protein, much higher than most plant foods. Protein is the most weight loss friendly macronutrient and can drastically reduce appetite and cravings. Chia seeds are high in protein and fiber, both of which have been shown to aid weight loss. However, studies on chia seeds have provided mixed results.
Chia seeds are very high in the omega-3 fatty acid ALA. However, humans are not good at converting this into DHA, the most important omega-3 fatty acid.
Studies on the effects of chia seeds on heart disease risk factors are inconclusive. Some studies suggest benefits, others do not.
Chia seeds are high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and protein. All of these nutrients are essential for bone health.
Studies show that chia seeds may lower the rise in blood sugar after a high-carb meal, possibly benefiting people with type 2 diabetes.
Limited evidence suggests that eating chia seeds may reduce an inflammatory marker known as hs-CRP. However, more studies are required.
However beneficial the chia seeds maybe, we’ll have to handle them carefully.
One man with a history of swallowing problems developed an esophageal obstruction after he ate a tablespoon of dry chia seeds and then tried to wash them down with a glass of water. The seeds formed a thick gel in his esophagus that he was unable to swallow without medical treatment.
Hence, it is better to eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods, rather than concentrating on individual foods.