Beyond the Chia Pet – Chia in Your Diet
Submitted by: Kathleen Van Wyck
Edited by: Marcia Bristow MS RDN CD
The word “chia” is often in reference to the novelty planters that are accompanied by a catchy jingle. Unbeknownst to many, the green “fur” that grows is a result of small, edible chia seed, which also contain nutrients that may be beneficial to health. These seeds are a product of the plant Salvia hispanica L., a member of the mint family. It is recorded that individuals in Central American cultures have reaped the benefits of chia seeds since before the time of Christopher Columbus. Hundreds of years later, we are still incorporating chia seeds into our diet as part of a healthful lifestyle.
To modify recipes, mindful eaters and chefs alike are finding new ways to sneak this tiny seed into a variety of foods. Chia seeds can be sprinkled on salads or incorporated into smoothies and baked goods. Simple puddings made from chia seeds are a sweet and creamy twist to the norm. Adding chia seeds to muffins or granola will increase your intake of fiber and provide a little boost of protein. Finally, chia seeds can be sprouted (just like in your chia pet!) for a delicious micro-green to be added to salads, sandwiches, or smoothies.
Chia seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Research shows that including omega-3 fatty acids in the diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and improve risks factors such as elevated fat levels in the blood. The complete benefits of this tiny seed are still being researched. Of four human trials conducted, none of them have proven a link between chia seeds and disease prevention. Therefore, further research is being done in regards to the use of chia seeds as a dietary supplement.
Although the specific benefits of chia are still being researched, they still contain important nutrients that are part of a healthful diet. In addition to omega-3s and antioxidants, just one tablespoon of seeds can give you 19% of your recommended daily fiber. Adding chia seeds to your meals can be a small way to add a delicious and wholesome kick to your diet. Continued research will determine their particular role in disease prevention and a healthful lifestyle – stay tuned!
Lonergan C. Why everyone should try sprouting chia seeds. Mind Body Green Web site. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12404/why-everyone-should-try-sprouting-chia-seeds.html. Published January 26, 2014. Accessed February 2, 2015.
Rosenburg I. Should you jump on the chia seeds bandwagon? Tufts University. Health & Nutrition Letter. 2013;31(1):6