Small, oval, and packed with nutrients, chia seeds are nature’s very own multi-vitamin tablets.
They’re venerable members of the superfood family – the benefits that belie their unassuming appearance having been known for centuries.
Native to Mexico, chia seeds were revered by the Ancient civilisations that once inhabited that region. For Aztec warriors they were a favoured snack, lauded for their strength and stamina inducing properties. The Mayans too knew of the physical boost that these humble seeds provided to their eaters – the word ‘chia’ actually derives from the Maya word for strength. So valued were the seeds by these ancient cultures that they were, on occasion, even used as currency.
But in spite of the mass of claims and anecdotal evidence that attests to the benefits that these seeds provide to those who eat them, very few scientific tests have been conducted studying the effects of their consumption by people.
What modern science has confirmed however is that chia seeds do contain a multitude of health-boosting ingredients. Within these little seeds you’ll find omega-3 fats, fibre, protein, antioxidants, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B9, C, E, and the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. And based upon what we already know about the positive influences that these individual ingredients can have on our well being, we can speculate about the ways in which these seeds can be good for us.
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy Carbohydrates Dietary fiber Fat Protein Vitamin A equiv. Thiamine (B1) Riboflibin (B2) Niacin (B3) Folate (B9) Vitamin C Vitamin E Calcium Iron Magnesium Manganese Phosphorous Potassium Zinc Water 486 kcal (2,030 kJ) 42.1 g 34.4 g 30.7 g 16.5 g (7%) 54 μg (54%) 0.62 mg (14%) 0.17 mg (59%) 8.83 mg (12%) 49 μg (2%) 1.6 mg (3%) 0.5 mg (63%) 631 mg (59%) 7.7 mg (94%) 335 mg (130%) 2.72 mg (123%) 860 mg (9%) 407 mg (48%) 4.6 mg 5.8 g
Vitamin A equiv.
486 kcal (2,030 kJ)
(7%) 54 μg
(54%) 0.62 mg
(14%) 0.17 mg
(59%) 8.83 mg
(12%) 49 μg
(2%) 1.6 mg
(3%) 0.5 mg
(63%) 631 mg
(59%) 7.7 mg
(94%) 335 mg
(130%) 2.72 mg
(123%) 860 mg
(9%) 407 mg
(48%) 4.6 mg
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
So let’s explore a few of the main health boosting benefits that are commonly attributed to chia seeds, and in doing so, make an attempt to uncover whether these superseeds really are the superseeds they’re claimed to be.
One often repeated claim attributed to chia seeds is that they can act as an aid to weight loss. Due to their high fibre content and water absorption qualities, it’s thought that chia seeds contribute to, and prolong satiety – the feeling of being full – and this forms the rational behind this claim. There’s no solid evidence however to support these supposed weight shedding attributes, and eating chia seeds alone is unlikely to bring about have any discernible loss of weight.
Many also regard chia seeds as a substantial source of omega-3 fatty acids, and consequently, that they can serve as a good supplement for these acids for those who don’t eat animals or fish. But these claims also fail to hold water. While chia seeds do contain omega-3s, the form they contain is the plant form, which differs from that found in fish and animals. The distinction is important, as unfortunately the plant form is much more difficult for our bodies to digest. The useful yield of omega-3s from chia seeds is therefore minimal.
But while chia seeds may fall short of delivering on two of their most often-claimed health benefits, their nutrient rich content is an indisputable boon for other aspects of our health.
Their rich fibre content is excellent for promoting the health of the digestive system. And as many of us fall far short of hitting the recommended target for daily fibre intake, chia seeds can provide an effective means of helping to increase the quantity of fibre that we consume.
Chia seeds also provide steady source of energy that’s released over extended periods of time. This is because they are digested at a comparatively slow speed owing to their high content in fibre, protein and unsaturated fats. This in turn helps to regulate the stability of blood sugar levels – and this is one reason why some argue chia seeds can help to prevent the risk of contracting type-2 diabetes and allay the effects of the disease for those already suffering from it. This mixture of fibre, protein and unsaturated fats is also of great for maintaining a healthy heart.
The significant quantity of calcium that chia seeds contain means that they are also excellent for maintaining the health of our bones. Remarkably, gram-for-gram, chia seeds contain over 4x as much calcium than milk.
Chia seeds also contain an abundant range of vitamins and other minerals that can also help to contribute to our overall health in various other ways.
What’s more, the introduction of chia seeds to the diet produces very little in the way of side effects. Although eating too many in one sitting may lead to constipation, chia seeds are known for being generally well tolerated. They’re also not known to produce any adverse effects when consumed while taking prescription drugs.
Chia seeds can be eaten cooked or raw and many use them as a topping for cereals or bake them into breads and cakes. But as they have little in the way of taste, they’re a versatile ingredient that can be added to pretty much anything. They can also be left to soak in water and then consumed simply in the resulting form, or then mixed with juices or smoothies.
So, although chia seeds may not deliver all of the many fantastic health-boosting benefits commonly attributed to them, they certainly do provide numerous health benefits, and are a versatile ingredient that’s easy to work into almost all diets.
As such, we think it’s fair to say that the humble chia seed is deserved of superfood status it has enjoyed for so long.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 15-20 mins
Recipe and photo by: Carolyn Ketchum – All Day I Dream About Food
- 1/2 cup organic chia seed ground (use coffee grinder)
- 3/4 cup Swerve Sweetener or other erythritol
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3 oz unsweetened chocolate
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 cup strongly brewed coffee
- 2 oz dark chocolate chunks 70%-90% cacao
- Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9×9 square baking pan. Line with parchment paper, with some overhanging the sides for easy release. Grease parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together chia seed meal, sweetener, baking soda and salt.
- In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate together, whisking until smooth.
- Whisk in eggs (mixture may seize), then whisk in coffee. Stir in chia seed mixture until well combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.
- Spread batter in prepared pan and bake 15 to 16 minutes for a fudgier consistency or 18 to 20 for a cakier consistency.
- Remove and let cool completely in pan.
- Remove brownies from pan by grasping the overhanging parchment and lifting carefully. Cut into 16 squares.