Otherwise known as Salvia Hispanica L. (go ahead… say that out loud), this whole grain has been used for years by humans. It is native to the regions of Mexico and Guatemala and the plant is a member of the mint family. The seeds, vegetative components, and roots were all used to some extent for food, oil, and medicines. However, if you’re like me, when I first heard of chia, I instantly thought of “Cha Cha Cha Chia Pets!” the wonderful green fur growing clay figurines from my childhood. While these micro greens can actually be added to a salad or sandwich for extra crunch, I much prefer to use the seed instead of cutting sprouts off my Chia Pet.
What makes them so special?
Chia seeds have been the talk of the town recently due to their strong performance in the nutrient profile sector. They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids (over 50% of the oil content is alpha-linolenic acid) that help keep your heart healthy, as well as, they contain about 8 g fibre in 2 tablespoons which is a nutrient that can be hard to get enough of throughout your day sometimes. If this little power packed nutrition genius hasn’t done enough already, it also contains protein, iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc which are all a part of a balanced diet. There is new research out there that suggests including chia seeds in your healthy diet may help to improve cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol, help to lower blood pressure, control blood sugars, and help with constipation. However, these studies are not conclusive and much of the research so far has been done on animals, so take those crazy claims you see in the papers with a grain of salt. If there is anything I can’t stress enough, it is don’t believe everything you read! Do your research or confide in an expert.
There is no definitive portion size yet for the Salvia Hispanica grains, but I would recommend 1 to 2 Tbsp a day as a good addition to a diet. If you are not used to fibre in your diet (make sure to drink enough fluids with your fibre to prevent digestive upset or bloating) or consume other seeds/nuts daily, stick with 1 Tbsp. After all, variety is the spice of life! Chia seeds can be found in most health food stores or your local grocery store and will be black in colour with the odd white grain. They have a mild nutty flavour that makes them easy to add to foods and beverages. Eat them raw or if you enjoy creating crazy concoctions like me, you can mix them into almost anything. I add them to salads, cereal, oatmeal, waffles, bread, smoothies, etc. My favourite use is by adding a tablespoon to my greek yogurt and fruit combination, as chia seeds are very absorbent and develop a slight gelatinous consistency much like tapioca – adds another level of texture and crunch!
So, to end this blog… yes, chia seeds can be a healthy addition to your daily food routine. Their nutrient composition is definitely a highlight and their versatility is an asset. Much like any other food choice however, too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing. Keep your body on its toes by including a variety of whole foods in your diet. This is also the best way to ensure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs throughout the day to perform at its best. Otherwise, take a confident step forward in knowing that you can ‘Chia On’ my friends!