Are Chia Seeds a Superfood?

One of the great things about superfoods is the fact it's relatively easy to add them to your existing diet to boost the nutrient density of your meals: toss a few goji berries onto that salad to up the vitamin C value; add chlorella or spirulina to your morning smoothie for magnesium; sprinkle some bee pollen on that bowl of oatmeal to turn it into a nutrient-dense, super breakfast. This is one of the reasons the superfood chia seeds have quickly become one of my favourite superfoods to add to daily regimen - they're so easy to incorporate.

Chia seeds? Yes, they are indeed the very same things we smeared on the outside of a clay sheep to watch it grow green and fuzzy. But the use of chia seeds as a novelty toy is actually only a minor blip in the rich history of this superfood.

For centuries chia seeds have been used as a staple food by the Native Americans of the south western U.S. and Mexico. These tiny seeds were once so highly prized by the Aztecs that they were used as a form of currency and offered as a tribute to the rulers.

Historically, chia seeds were used as a high energy food. It is said that Aztecs on long journeys would subsist on nothing but small amounts of the seeds, and yet their energy levels never waned. Modern health-minded distance runners have found similar effects and value the seeds for their stamina-inducing qualities. This is hardly surprising given the sheer nutrient density of these little seeds.

Chia seeds are highly valued for their fatty acid profile. Like flaxseeds, chia seeds are one of the greatest vegetable sources of an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). One advantage chia seeds have over flaxseeds, however is that they do not need to be ground before being eaten. While whole flaxseeds will survive the digestive system intact, the hull of the chia seed is broken down in human digestion thus releasing all the powerful nutrients trapped inside.

Chia seeds don't scrimp on protein either. They are a complete protein, something quite rare in the vegetable kingdom and they have more protein by weight than any grains. They're also a great source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron and phosphorous.

Just 15 grams of chia seeds contain the same soluble fibre as 17 grams of wheat bran. Chia is so high in soluble fibre that if you put a couple of teaspoons in a glass of water and come back 30 minutes later or so, you'll have a glass full of a gelatinous squishy mucilage. This mucilage also forms in your stomach after you consume chia seeds, which slows down digestion of carbohydrates. This leads to a feeling of satiety and lasts for a great deal of time.

Because they're mild in flavour, chia seeds can be added to almost any dish without much notice. I incorporate them into morning smoothies, but you could also sprinkle them on salads or cereals, mix them into rice pilafs or use them to thicken soups, stews or sauces. They can be found in most health food stores or can be purchased online.

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  1. Great article. I recently discovered this powerfood my self. Didn't know all the history about it, that is great to know. Only thing you forgot to mention is how painfully expensive they are to buy. Even in the bulk stores. Not sure they are worth my penny yet. Sticking to Quinoa and Kasha for my complete proteins.

  2. My mid-morning snack was organic strawberry yogurt with 1 tbsp of chia seeds. Love chia!

  3. Chia is also great for helping with weight loss. The seed material expands in the stomach, giving one a feeling of satiety or fullness. It is quite easy to lose 10 pounds over a short period of time by consuming a little Chia on a daily basis. Its latin name is Salvia Hispanica L. There are over 150 strains of it and no one strain has all Omega 3's, Phytonutrients, Vitamins and Minerals, and Fibre across the board. One high quality brand of Chia is called Mila, being a proprietary blend of many types of Chia. It can help support brain health, blood health, bone and joint health and anti-aging.