Chia seeds are tiny, brown, black or white seeds. They are almost as small as poppy seeds. They come from a plant in the mint family. Chia seeds are considered to be a "super food" by many because they can deliver several important nutrients in just a few calories.
You can eat this nutty-flavored seed in many ways.
Why They are Good for you
Chia seeds are rich in fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants that help prevent cell damage.
Chia seeds are a good source of insoluble fiber. The seeds expand quite a bit and form a gel when they come into contact with water. This gel adds bulk to your stool, which keeps bowel movements regular and helps prevent constipation. The added bulk also may help you feel fuller and so you eat less.
Just 1 tablespoon of chia seeds will give you 19% of your recommended daily fiber.
Some think chia seeds may help with weight loss and other risk factors, but this has not been proven.
Chia seeds are also rich in essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6. Essential fatty acids are fatty substances that your body needs to function. They are not made in the body, and you must get them from foods.
The oil in chia seeds contains higher amounts of essential fatty acids compared to other oils, even flax seed (linseed) oil.
Researchers are looking at whether consuming more of the fatty acids found in chia seeds can improve blood pressure, heart health, blood sugar, or provide other benefits.
If you plan to consume chia seeds or chia seed oil on a regular basis, talk with your doctor. Chia seeds can thin your blood and may affect how medicines such as warfarin (Coumadin) and aspirin work. You may need to avoid chia seeds before surgery.
How They are Prepared
Chia seeds can be added or sprinkled on almost anything. There is no preparation needed. To add chia seeds to your diet:
- Add them to your bread crumbs.
- Sprinkle them on salads.
- Add them to your drinks, smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal.
- Add them to soups, salads, or pasta dishes.
- Add them to your pancakes, French toast, or baked goods mix.
You can also grind chia seeds into a paste and add the paste to your dough or other mixes before cooking or baking.
Where to Find Chia Seeds
Chia seeds may be purchased at any health food store, or online. Major grocery stores may also carry chia seeds in the natural or organic food aisle. Simply buy a bag of chia seeds, milled or whole.
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Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. What Are Chia Seeds? Updated February 5, 2014. www.eatright.org/resource/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/what-are-chia-seeds. Accessed May 4, 2016.
Nieman DC, Gillitt N, Jin F, et al. Chia seed supplementation United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Services. Plant guide: Chia. Updated January 29, 2013. plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_saco6.pdf. Accessed May 4, 2016.
Vannice G, Rasmussen H. Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics: dietary fatty acids for healthy adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114(1):136-153. PMID: 24342605 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24342605.
Update Date 4/24/2016
Updated by: Emily Wax, RD, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.