Chia seeds: an ancient nutrient comes back to life


Chia seeds are a great source of nutrients, providing you with protein and fiber.

Minah Kim , News Editor-Emerita

This one is for all the dieters looking for an elixir.  Consumers of these fiber and omega-3 dense whole grains can curb their food intake and gain nutritional benefits without the discomfort of swallowing a pill, or tasting grassy bitterness.  More widely recognized by their association with the grass-haired clay figurines known as Chia Pets, chia seeds are finding their way into supermarket aisles.

Treasured in Aztec culture and still grown in the Mesoamerican region, chia seeds have been hyped up in the media for their nutritional value and versatility.  Chia seeds are considered a superfood with 2 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and 1.75 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per tablespoon.

Although similar to the flax seed, another common superfood, chia seeds are more user-friendly as they have a longer shelf life and can be eaten whole.  Chia seeds absorb water easily and turn into a thick, gelatinous substance which allows the seeds to stick to Chia Pet pottery.  This property also eases the digestion of chia seeds as opposed to the more stubborn flax seed which contains high levels of indigestable lignans.

With a mild, nutty flavor, chia seeds are easily added to salads, granola, and oatmeal.  Supposedly the seeds are nearly flavorless and can be hidden in various dishes and drinks.  A popular use for chia seeds is incorporating raw seeds, ground or whole, into smoothies.  Food manufacturers including Nature’s Path and Dole have advertised chia seeds and incorporated them into granola bars and cereals.  The brave can plainly eat the gel formed when chia seeds absorb water.

The benefits of chia seeds extend beyond the food market.  They have been utilized in the skin care industry because of their hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties.

As more snacks with added chia seeds line the supermarket shelves, chia seeds may become unavoidable in the Western diet.  While raw chia seeds used to be available only for those willing to trek out to their nearest hippie mart (i.e. Whole Foods), they are undoubtedly becoming more accessible.

Whether it be to boost protein and fiber intake, manage weight, or improve skin, chia seeds are worth trying.  As tempting as it may be to infuse every home-cooked meal and home-baked dessert with chia seeds, as with any food or non-food item, moderation is key.