Chia Seeds: Nutrition Facts, Benefits and Uses
A Registered Dietitian breaks down everything you need to know about chia seeds, including what they are, their nutrition information, evidence-based health benefits, and how to add them to your diet.
What are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are the edible seeds from the flowering plant, Salva hispanica. They originate from Mexico, and are approximately 2mm in diameter and can be black, white or grey in colour.
These days, these seeds are sold in most grocery and health food retailers. You may see different varieties of them in the stores, including:
- Black chia seeds which are black in colour
- White chia seeds which are white in colour (there are virtually no differences in taste, texture, or nutrition between the black and white varieties)
- Milled chia seeds, also known as ground chia seeds
Chia Seeds Nutrition Facts:
Several important nutrients can be found in the tiny but nutritious seeds. They are an excellent source of fibre, a good source of healthy fats (including polyunsaturated fats), and a source of plant-based protein, too.
Chia seeds are also a source of important micronutrients like magnesium, calcium, and iron. 2 tablespoons offers 10% daily value for both calcium and iron, so it’s a good plant-based source to include for individuals who don’t consume meat or dairy.
They’re also are a good source of magnesium, which most North Americans don’t consume enough of. 2 tablespoons offers approximately 80mg of magnesium, which is 24% of the recommended daily value.
Other notable nutrients offered include phosphorus, manganese, and selenium.
Chia Seeds and Fibre:
Most notably, chia seeds are an excellent source of dietary fibre, offering 10 grams of fibre per 2 tablespoons. This is 36% of your recommended daily value of fibre.
This fibre is primarily soluble fibre. Soluble fibre attracts water and creates a gel-like consistency. They can absorb 10 times their weight in liquid, which is why they’re great for recipes like chia pudding.
Chia Seeds Protein:
These little seeds make a great complimentary source of protein, offering 6 grams of plant-based protein per serving of 2 tablespoons. Therefore, their protein content per tablespoon is 3 grams.
Add 2 tablespoons to your smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, baked goods, or toast to boost the protein content of your meal or snack.
In addition to being a good source of fibre and a source of protein, chia seeds are also offer healthy fats.
2 tablespoons provides 7 grams of total fat, with more than 6 grams of those being heart-healthy fats, including polyunsaturated fats, including omega 3 fatty acids.
Chia Seeds for Weight Loss:
Some people wonder if chia seeds can help with weight loss or weight management.
A systematic review on healthy strategies for successful weight loss and weight maintenance included increased fibre intake as one strategy, in addition to overall calorie reduction (a caloric deficit) and dietary fat reduction, and nutrition education programs.
Increased fibre intake may be useful as one weight loss strategy as it slows down digestion and helps you feel full, which can result in decreased calorie intake.
Blood Sugar Control:
In addition to slowing digestion and increasing feelings of fullness, dietary fibre also can also help to slow down the body’s glucose response after eating.
By adding fibre-rich foods (like chia seeds) to your meals and snacks, this slows down the breakdown and absorption of carbohydrates (glucose) into the blood, keeping blood glucose levels more stable, and decreasing the body’s insulin response.
Chia Seeds and Cholesterol:
Because chia seeds are high in soluble fibre, they likely also offer cholesterol-lowering benefits.
Research suggests that diets high in soluble fibre (7-27 grams per day) can reduce LDL cholesterol levels by approximately 3-10% in those with normal and elevated cholesterol levels.
Additionally, The Canadian Cardiovascular Society recommends dietary patterns high in soluble fibre for the treatment of high cholesterol.
Research also demonstrates that replacing dietary saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats (like omega 3s and omega 6s, both found in chia seeds) can help manage high cholesterol and decrease cardiovascular disease risk.
Use of Chia Seeds:
Chia seeds are small and have a very mild taste, meaning they are quite versatile. If you’re looking for ways to add chia seeds to your diet, there a plenty of options you can explore!
Try adding chia seeds to:
- Yogurt – with fruit and/or granola
- Oatmeal – with berries or sliced banana and nut butter, or overnight oats
- Smoothies – like this Ultimate 5-Minute Morning Smoothie
- Chia Pudding – like this banana chia pudding or vanilla chia pudding
- Baked Goods – stir them into muffins or breakfast cookies or granola bars before baking
Chia seeds are little nutrition powerhouses! As an excellent source of dietary fibre (particularly soluble fibre) and a good source of polyunsaturated fats, these tiny seeds may offer benefits related to weight management, blood glucose control, and reducing cholesterol levels (particularly LDL cholesterol) and cardiovascular disease risk.
They’re also a plant-based source of important nutrients like protein, calcium, and iron, so they make a great addition to meals and snacks like yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, and baked goods.
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