Chia Seeds—a superfood worth exploring

If you watch television around the holiday season you can’t miss the “Ch-ch-ch-chia” jingle! That catchy tune introduced chia seeds to millions of people and helped sell thousands of cute little ceramic chia pets. Who knew then that the chia seeds of chia pets would evolve into a modern superfood?

Today, trendy chia seeds are in the spotlight for their array of nutritional benefits. Chia seeds are an unprocessed, whole-grain food that can be found in black and white varieties. They’re extracted from Salvia hispanica, a Mexican desert plant that go as far back as 3500 BC to Mayan and Aztec cultures where they were valued for the energy they appeared to provide. It’s even said that chia means strength in the Mayan language. These days, the seeds are similarly valued by individuals who put an emphasis on healthy eating.

Chia seeds have attained superfood status for a number of reasons. For starters, their slight nutty flavor makes them perfect flavor-neutral additives to a wide variety of foods—cereals, sauces, vegetables, baked goods, and yogurt—and drinks (smoothies).

Chia seed popularity may also be attributed to another key factor: even though they’re tiny, the seeds are one of the most nutritious foods you can find. They’re packed with fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and various micronutrients, all with relatively few calories. The nutrition facts on the Inspired Organic’s package label of organic chia seeds tell the story. A 26-gram (two tablespoons) serving of chia seeds contains:

It’s reported that consuming one ounce of chia seeds a day could provide 18 percent of daily calcium needs, 27 percent of phosphorus, 30 percent of manganese, along with smaller amounts of potassium and copper.

Plant-based foods have long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality. Chia seeds can be included in that category. They’re loaded with antioxidants and almost all the carbs in chia seeds are fiber, something most Americans get too little of. Chia seeds are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and in many bone nutrients—calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and protein.  They’re also a good source of iron—an ounce of seeds provides over two milligrams of iron—and B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin and niacin), which are important in metabolism and cardiovascular health. There is even some limited anecdotal evidence of chia seeds contributing to weight loss and providing cholesterol benefits.

Chia seeds are an easy and appetizing way to boost nutrient intake. Enjoy them to increase the fiber, protein, calcium, antioxidants, and omega-3s in your daily diet. Those qualities may well support their superfood status.