Chia seeds—those tiny black and white morsels—are making a splash in the world of nutrition. People are sprinkling them on salads, mixing them into muffins, and blending them with beverages. But why the sudden fascination with the seed that until recently was mainly used to create funny hairstyles on terracotta animals?
In fact, the chia seed has a long history going back to the Mayan and Aztec cultures where it was a staple crop. Native to Mexico and Guatemala, Chia comes from a plant called Salvia hispanica that belongs to the mint family. When it was reintroduced to North America almost three decades ago, it was only available in a few health stores. Now, however, chia is widely available across the United States. Here are some of the reasons chia seeds have become so popular:
- They’re full of antioxidants. A two-tablespoon serving of chia seeds contains 11 percent of the RDA of selenium, which can lower the risks of heart disease and cancer.
- They’re high in fiber. One serving provides 10 grams of fiber: that’s 30 percent of the RDA!
- They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce cholesterol.
- They contain many important vitamins and nutrients like phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, folate, and copper.
- They build strong teeth and bones with 9% of the RDA of calcium.
- They’re high in protein for such a small seed: 2.3 grams in a two-tablespoon serving.
- They can support weight loss because of their “satiety factor.” That means that they make you feel full due to their high fiber and protein contents as well as their unique characteristic of forming a gel when they are mixed with a liquid.
- They can aid digestion and reduce blood sugar in people with type-2 diabetes. The gelling mechanism noted above slows down digestion and can prevent spikes in blood glucose levels.
- They can be eaten whole. Whereas flaxseeds need to be ground in order to release their health benefits, chia seeds can be consumed as-is.
The bottom line is that chia seeds pack a big punch in a small package. Look for healthy food suggestions identified by The Right Choice… for a Healthier You™ logo to find options enriched with this tiny superfood.