Chia seeds are classed as power superfoods; you know the kind you really want to have in your diet. The seeds fit comfortably with the raft of other ‘magical’ foods such as the goji berry, acai and wheatgrass.
These are all believed to offer higher than average levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help to boost your health and stimulate your energy levels, in a natural way.
What are chia seeds?
Chia Seeds (also known as Salvia hispanica L), are part of the mint family and while they are pretty much well known across the US, Europe has only recently started to pick up on the trend.
The seeds were originally used by the Aztecs for both medicinal and religious purposes. In Mexico and Guatemala, chia has been a staple food source for several centuries and people swear by the many health benefits these seeds provide.
Chia seeds are shaped like small ovals and are greyish brown in colour, with speckles of black and white. Although these seeds look pretty much unassuming, they certainly pack a punch in terms of their nutritional value. They are rich in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids and protein. In fact chia seeds are said to have higher levels of the fatty acid than salmon, and that’s really saying something.
A helping of just 2 tbsp (approx. 15g) of these seeds will provide you with roughly 3g of protein, 4.5g of fat and 6g of soluble fibre. The seeds also contain high levels of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals such as niacin, thiamin, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium and sodium, which are necessary for the overall functioning of your body.
Depending on which camp you are in, you’ll either love the nutty taste of chia or you’ll condemn it as bland and tasteless. If you fall into the second camp all is not lost. The good thing about chia is that you can find so many ways of adding it to your diet without having to necessarily taste it.
For example you could add it to your favourite cereal in the morning, grind the seeds down and add them to your favourite juice drink or sprinkle them onto your salad. You’ll hardly notice the taste and still reap the many health benefits of chia.
One thing to note if you’re adding chia to your juice is that it will expand slightly creating a pulp. This doesn’t affect the taste, but it does fill your stomach up, making you feel less hungry.
Chia seeds for weight loss
People everywhere are falling over themselves to shout about how amazing the chia seed is for weight loss, but is there any truth in this? Actually, there isn’t anything particularly special about chia seeds when it comes to weight loss. And this is echoed by scientific studies that claim chia seeds are not a miracle cure for weight loss.
That’s not to say that chia seeds don’t offer some assistance in weight control, after all they do contain extraordinarily high levels of soluble fibre, which is known to make you feel fuller for longer. As mentioned above, ground chia seeds added to liquid form a pulpy gel like solution, filling up your stomach and making you less prone over-eating. But then and again, the same can be said of other fibre rich foods.
So as you can see, it’s not the chia seed itself that stops you from putting on weight. That said, chia seeds offer many other health benefits, which make them a worthy addition to your diet.
Where can you buy chia seeds?
You can find chia seeds in most health food shops across the US. As for the UK, at the time of writing this, chia is only available in bread form. However, keep a close eye on Holland and Barrett, as I hear a little rumour that they will soon be stocking these seeds in their stores too.
Also, don’t forget chia seeds are readily available online. Amazon.com is selling 16 oz bags of chia seeds or you could go for something larger like this 5 pound bag of the seeds. In fact if you buy online, you’ll be saving yourself quite a few dollars – let’s face it, chia seeds are definitely more expensive than regular seeds, so it’s worth exploring online options.
Just be mindful that it isn‘t always easy to spot the genuine items online, so stick to reputable retailers or brands you know you can trust.
You may also be interested in:
- USDA National Nutrient Database – nutrient data for chia seeds
- Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults – Nieman DC, Cayea EJ, Austin MD, Henson DA, McAnulty SR, Jin F, Nutr Res. 29(6):414-8. Jun 2009
- New research into ancient seeds suggests ‘superfood’ potential – University of Southern Queensland, Apr 2011