Chia seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients including proteins, n-3 fatty acids – especially alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Due to this exceptional nutritional profile chia seeds have shown to be beneficial in lowering risk of the chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
The scientific name for Chia seeds is Salvia hispanica L. It originated in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico and Colombia. So natives belonging to central Mexico (Aztec civilization) have been known to use chia seeds extensively in their food.
Nutritional value of chia seeds
Healthy fats: 60% of fat in chia seeds comprises of alpha linolenic acid which is the source of Omega 3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA. A study among postmenopausal women showed that ingestion of milled chia seeds increased the plasma levels of alpha linolenic acid and EPA significantly. ALA may have cardioprotective effect, positive impact on bone health and provide modest protection against diabetes (Rajaram 2014).
Fiber: Chia seeds are concentrated source of fiber 34% i.e. 34g/100g of the chia seeds. Fiber has several health benefits including improved bowel function, growth of healthy bacteria, lowering blood sugar, binding cholesterol , lowering blood pressure and also prevention of certain cancers. Consuming chia seeds(7 g or 14g) with yogurt as a mid morning snack helped to induce satiety (feeling of fullness) and reduced intake at lunch among healthy subjects as compared to plain yogurt (Ayaz et al 2017)
Proteins: Chia seeds have an impressive protein content of 19–23% with a non-limiting amino acid profile which makes them excellent source of plant protein for vegetarians. Even vegetarian athletes can use chia seeds effectively to fulfill part of their protein requirements.
Anti-oxidant : Chia seeds can help reduce oxidative stress in the body due to presence of nutrients such as magnesium and phenolic compounds (mainly quercetin and kaempferol), which have antioxidative effect (Lee 2009; Caudillo et al. 2008). Antioxidants protect against inflammatory factors such as pollution, stress, viruses and other oxidative elements.
Controlling blood pressure: Calcium and potassium play an important role in managing blood pressure and chia seeds contain good amounts of these nutrients (Vuksan et al 2007).
Chia seeds are one of the few plant-derived sources of omega 3 fatty acids and proteins adding immense value to the diet of vegetarians and even vegans. It is highly recommended to use these seeds in daily diet , especially for special groups such as overweight, pregnant, diabetics, heart patients, and athletes to obtain beneficial health effects. Daily recommended dose is about 1 tbsp /15g of the whole or milled seeds.