What is the deal with Chia?


A decade ago, the word Chia was almost exclusively associated with Chia pets, a fast growing plant that was popular in the 80’s and 90’s. In more recent years, Chia seeds have exploded onto the global health market. They have transformed from being exclusively sold in specialized health stores to being baked in bread at bakers delight chains. Which has lead me to ask, why are chia seeds so popular?


Chia seeds, or Salvia Hispanica, are traditionally from central and southern America. They are perfect for the health conscious crowd, chia seeds contain no gluten or grains. Therefore, all of the nutritional benefits of chia seeds can be obtained on a gluten-free diet, paleo, vegan, vegetarian or Omnivore diet.


Health benefits:


1.     Digestion: Chia is abundant in dietary fibre, which can improve the function of your bowels and stool composition. In addition, the fibre in chia seeds form a gel ball when they come in contact with liquids, making you feel full sooner.


2.     Multivitamin: Chia seeds contain a lot of components found in multivitamins. They are rich in fibres, protein, omega-3-fatty acids, vitamin A, B, E & D, minerals (Ca, P, K, Zn, Cu, Mg and Fe) and antioxidants. The high protein content reduces hunger, making you feel full sooner.


3.     Cholesterol: Chia contains α-linolenic acid and Omegas 3 & 6 oil that maintains a healthy fat level in the blood. Chia has been associated with reducing LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increasing HDL Cholesterol levels, which is attributed to cardiac and hepatic protection.


4.     Diabetes: Therapeutic effects of chia in the control of diabetes by regulating insulin levels. The high fibre content in chia does not raise the blood sugar level, reducing the amount of insulin produced that is ideal for diabetes.


5.     Gatorade replacement: Chia seeds have been associated with improving muscle glycogen stores. A small study in 2011 compared Gatorade with a chia seed-based drink and found that there was no difference observed in recovery from intense exercise.  Chia seeds have the added benefit of being low in sugar and high in Omega-3 & Omega-6.


Chia seeds have some amazing properties, however there are a few health concerns. Chia seeds hold more than 10 times their weight in water, there is a potential health risk if dry seeds are followed with fluids. There have been a few cases where chia seeds have caused a blockage of the digestive system, resulting in medical care to remove the blockage.


Another issue of chia seeds is that the native oils extracted from chia seeds exhibit very poor shelf life. Which means that buying in bulk may not save money, as you may need to throw the seeds out.


Chia seeds are easy to incorporate into your baking or drinks, or to make a chia porriage with fruit. Personally, I love to add chia seeds to my banana smoothie for an extra source of protein and Omega-3.


My recipe:

1 banana

2 TBSP of Light Greek Yohurt

½ Cup Skim Milk or Almond Milk if you prefer.

1 TBSP Chia Seeds.


Happy experimenting with Chia, maybe you can post about a recipe that you like with Chia.

Yours in Health,