By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Chia seeds first gained popularity back in the late 1990‘s and early 2000‘s with the famous Chia Pet; TV ads for Chia Pet’s were found on almost any TV channel at almost every time of day. Though the Chia Pet may not be as famous on television as it once was, chia seeds have taken to a new spotlight as a superfood.
Chia seeds have become a hot commodity in the nutrition world and can be found at various grocery stores, specialty stores, and are found in countless recipes that range from smoothies to meatballs. So why are chia seeds considered a superfood, and why should you consider adding them to your every day?
7 Reasons to Add Chia Seeds to Your Diet:
Chia seeds are versatile, neutral and flavor, and pack a lot of nutritional punch. They are also relatively inexpensive and are becoming easier and easier to find for purchase.
1.) Loaded with fiber: Fiber is a key nutrient when it comes to satiety and gastrointestinal health. Research suggests that consuming adequate daily fiber may help prevent colon cancer, and it also helps to maintain regularity. Fiber also helps to slow gastric emptying that plays a role in blood sugar control and in satiety. Two tablespoons (28 g) of chia seeds contains a whopping 10 grams of fiber.
2.) Omega 3 fatty acids: Omega 3’s have been touted for their anti-inflammatory, heart healthy and brain healthy benefits to name a few. Omega 3 fatty acids are primarily found in animal-based products like fatty fish (including salmon); however, there are a few good plant-based sources of omega 3 fatty acids, and the super chia seed is one of them. One serving of chia seeds (28 g) contains about 4.9 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that your body can convert into omega 3 fatty acids (unlike animal-based sources that are already in the form of omega 3’s. (Note: Because your body has to convert ALA to omega 3, the conversion isn’t 100% and ranges from person to person).
3.) Satiety: Chia seeds act in two ways to benefit satiety; 1.) Their whopping fiber content, 2.) The structure of the chia seed changes when mixed in water (or another fluid). When water is added to chia seeds, the seed swells and expands to up to 10x it’s original size, occupying more space in your stomach and helping to keep you satisfied. The way chia seeds change structure can be demonstrated in both making overnight oats and chia seed pudding.
4.) Bone-health: Chia seeds pack a lot of nutritional punch when it comes to bone health as they are a source of calcium, manganese, and phosphorus- all involved in bone health. One tablespoon of chia seeds contains 110 mg of calcium.
5.) Protein: Just another benefit of consuming chia seedsn – one serving (28 g) contains about 5 grams of plant-based protein that can help to improve satiety and aid in cell rejuvenation and muscle repair amongst other important functions.
6.) Great for baking with: Similar to flax, chia seeds can be combined with water (which makes a gel) and can be used as an egg replacement in baking.
7.) Naturally gluten free: This one speaks for itself for all of you that are gluten free!
What’s the difference between chia and flaxseeds?
One of the most common questions I get when discussing chia seeds is whether they are healthier or different than flaxseeds. The short answer is that they are both a healthy part of a balanced every day meal plan; however, while similar in some ways, they do differ in others.
– Flaxseeds should be ground to meal before consumption to reap most of the benefits, whereas chia seeds can be consumed in their natural form
– Both are good sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that can be converted to omega 3 fatty acid by the body
– Both are a source of fiber, however 1 serving (2 tablespoons) of chia seeds has about 10-11 grams of fiber, whereas 1 serving (2 tablespoons) of flaxseeds has about 4 grams
– Chia seeds and flaxseeds contain about the same amount of calories per serving- about 90 calories
How to use the chia seed?
Chia seeds are very easy to use and very versatile. They can be used easily in smoothies, puddings, oatmeals, etc., and we have a ton of great recipes for you to check out. They don’t have much of a flavor either so they blend nicely with all different flavors. Check out our recipes below for specific ways to use them.
Chia seed recipes to make this week:
Mixed Berry Banana Chia Pudding
Rich & Creamy Strawberry Chia Pudding
Avocado Chia Seed Smoothie
Cacao Blueberry Smoothie
Typically, there’s only one downside to superfoods: the super high price tag. Not so when you shop Thrive Market, where every item—chia seeds included—is always 25% to 50% off retail. And for a limited time, they’re offering a FREE bag of Thrive Market Chia Seeds along with a free trial membership.