Are chai seeds nutritious? What are chia seeds? Chia seeds are the tiny black seeds of the chia plant (Salvia hispanica). Native to Mexico and Guatemala, they were a staple food for the ancient Aztecs and Mayans. In fact, “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength”.
Chia seeds contain large amounts of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, plenty of high-quality protein, and several essential minerals and antioxidants. They may improve digestive health, blood levels of heart-healthy omega-3s, and risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
Chia seeds are small, flat, and oval-shaped with a shiny and smooth texture. Their color ranges from white to brown or black. These seeds are highly versatile. They can be soaked and added to porridge, made into pudding, used in baked goods, or simply sprinkled on top of salads or yogurt. Because of their ability to absorb liquid and form a gel, they can also be used to thicken sauces or as an egg replacement.
Are Chia Seeds Nutritious?
The answer to the question “Are chia seeds nutritious?” is a strong “yes.”
Chia seeds contain 138 calories per ounce (28 grams). By weight, they are 6% water, 46% carbohydrates (of which 83% is fiber), 34% fat, and 19% protein.
The nutrients in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of chia seeds are:
• Calories: 486
• Water: 6%
• Protein: 16.5 grams
• Carbs: 42.1 grams
• Sugar: 0 grams
• Fiber: 34.4 grams
• Fat: 30.7 grams
• Saturated: 3.33 grams
• Monounsaturated: 2.31 grams
• Polyunsaturated: 23.67 grams
• Omega-3: 17.83 grams
• Omega-6: 5.84 grams
• Trans: 0.14 grams
Notably, chia seeds are also free of gluten.
Carbs and fiber
More than 80% of the carb content of chia seeds is in the form of fiber.
A single ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds boasts 11 grams of fiber, which is a significant portion of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for women and men — 25 and 38 grams per day, respectively (6Trusted Source).
One of the unique characteristics of chia seeds is their high content of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. About 75% of the fats in chia seeds consist of the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), while about 20% consist of omega-6 fatty acids.
In fact, chia seeds are the best-known plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids — even better than flaxseed.
Some scientists believe that a high intake of omega-3s relative to omega-6s reduces inflammation in your body. A low ratio is associated with a lower risk of various chronic conditions — such as heart disease, cancer, and inflammatory diseases — and a lower risk of premature death.
Chia seeds contain 19% protein — a similar amount to other seeds but more than most cereals and grains. High protein intake is associated with increased fullness after meals and reduced food intake.
Notably, these seeds offer all nine essential amino acids and are thus a high-quality plant-based protein. However, they are not recommended as the sole protein source for children.
Vitamins and minerals
Chia seeds provide high amounts of many minerals but are a poor source of vitamins.
The most abundant minerals are:
• Manganese. Whole grains and seeds are rich in manganese, which is essential for metabolism, growth, and development.
• Phosphorus. Usually found in protein-rich foods, phosphorus contributes to bone health and tissue maintenance.
• Copper. A mineral often lacking in the modern diet, copper is important for heart health.
• Selenium. An important antioxidant, selenium is involved in many processes in your body.
• Iron. As a component of hemoglobin in red blood cells, iron is involved in the transport of oxygen throughout your body. It may be poorly absorbed from chia seeds due to their phytic acid content.
• Magnesium. Often lacking in the Western diet, magnesium plays important roles in many bodily processes.
• Calcium. The most abundant mineral in your body, calcium is essential for bones, muscles, and nerves.
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