A Hot New Food: Chia Seed

by in Food News, June 17, 2009

One of the latest “superfoods” is actually a blast from the past! Remember Chia Pet, the fuzzy novelty plants that were popular in the ‘80s? Well, the sprouts that grow out of those pottery figurines come from germinated chia seeds. These days, the seeds are popular in the health food arena, but are they worth the hype?

What Is Chia?
Chia seeds come from an annual herb that belongs to the mint family. Native to Mexico (chia comes from an Aztec word meaning “oily”), health-food fans praise them for their high fiber and healthy omega-3 fat content (they’ve got ALA, similar to flax seeds). Because of these nutrients, Chia is often pushed for helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and treat symptoms of diabetes. Some small studies have tied eating chia seeds to lowering blood pressure, but the jury’s still out on the effects of long-term consumption, particularly in men at risk for prostate cancer (too much ALA can increase risks more).

One of the most popular packaged and sold versions of chia is Salba — and it comes in a variety of ways: whole or ground seed or as an oil in liquid or gelcaps. They also offer snack bars. You can use ground chia like you might use wheat germ — add it to smoothies, yogurt, cereals and salads. It also works in baking; use three parts flour to one part ground chia powder. Like many hot new “health foods,” chia can be expensive; I found prices ranging from $20-30 for a one-month supply.

Nutrition Info
One tablespoon of ground chia seed has 46 calories, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 1900 milligrams of ALA omega-3 fats (about 300 milligrams more than the same amount of ground flaxseed). Chia also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, copper and vitamin C.

Bottom Line
Chia might be worth trying in small amounts, but don’t get too attached. Flaxseed, whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables provide many of the same nutrients and are more readily available (and cheaper). If you’re curious, go for it, but mix things up to keep your diet exciting.

TELL US: Have you tried it yet? What did you think?

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Comments (16)

  1. Sierra says:

    Chia seeds?!? Who tried to actually eat them in the first place?

  2. DawnMarie says:

    I asked my doctor at a recent visit last week about Chia Seed, he said it was real good for people who are working out. It helps build muscle quickly and safely. He said it cant hurt your body in anyway. Interesting Chia retains just the right amount of water for those of us who are irregular, if you know what I mean. I've done my research; it's also good for diabetics and many other things too. Look it up, you'll find it interesting. I havent read anything bad about it, only good. Any who, I'm gonna give it a try. Oh yeah, chia turns to a jello substance once it's in any liquid. It enriches any taste and it's a ratio of 9-1. add it to jello/ pudding this means you only need to use a little to get a lot. less calories. yahooooo

  3. Judith says:

    I have been using Chia seeds for about six months now. I get them from Nuts On Line. They are a bit expensive but only using them one teaspoon at a time makes them go a long way. I grind them in a coffee grinder and add them to my yogurt. I have Celiac disease and have a lot of intestinal difficulties. The Chia seeds have helped so much.

  4. Samantha says:

    Chia seeds are amazing! Ancient Aztec warriors supposedly thrived on mearely a handful a day! I get them from taste waves already ground up. They taste great made into a "pudding". Just add almond milk or coconut water to a couple tsp of chia seeds (ground or whole) add a pinch of cinnamon and top with berries, banana slices, chopped walnuts, and organic dried coconut =) and it makes a delicious breakfast or snack. I eat them an hour before a tough swim or water polo practice or a long run and I definitely notice that my stamina and endurance have increased. Good Luck and enjoy!

  5. Janie Mancilla says:

    I've tried chia seeds I add them to my lemonade or any drink and enjoy. They are good for you and if you are trying to lose weight. If you take it before a meal they make you feel full, therefore, helping you eat less. Give it a try I'm sure you will like them.

  6. Marta Davis says:

    They are super good. I travel to Mexico City twice a year so I bring them from there, super cheap and real, you find ait at markets where they charge you around 2.5 dollars for a little more than pound (1/2 kilogram) and it is great for your Omega 3 daily ingest. One teaspoon in my brekfast smoothie is only 40 calories.

  7. Lynn says:

    In Japan they use them as a weight loss aid. Because they plump when mixed with water, they make the stomach feel full. Chia seeds come in individual packages containing about 2 teaspoons and can be taken throughout the day.

  8. Paula says:

    These seeds are also mentioned in a great book, Born to Run. TheTarahumara runners eat them. Great post!

  9. Pali Ward says:

    I've been eating Mila, the special chia seed variety created by Dr. Wayne Coates, the guru on chia. He is quoted in the Jan 2010 Opray Magazine. I have a lot more energy, and my joint inflamation disappeared within a week. I have been a very active and athletic person my entire life (mid-life now) and I feel 10 years younger. My skin is also looking real nice and smooth. There have been many other benefits from others, like my neighbor's hot flashes have gotten much better. Anyway, check out http://www.LifeFit.lifemax.net for this special seed. Thanks!

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