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Despite their small size, chia seeds, or salba seeds as some folks call them, are full of important nutrients. They were probably well used by the Maya and Aztec culture as the Salvia hispanica plants originate from Guatemala and Mexico.
They have a larger amount of nutrients and pack a bigger punch than flax seed. For instance, one tablespoon of each when compared side by side contains:
|Fiber:||5.5 grams||1.9 grams|
|Protein:||2 grams||1.3 grams|
|Fat:||4.5 grams (half are omega-3s)||3 grams (little over ⅓ are omega-3s)|
|Calcium:||9% of the RDI||2% of the RDI|
|Manganese:||15% of the RDI||Not Listed|
|Magnesium:||15% of the RDI||7% of the RDI|
|Phosphorus:||13.5% of the RDI||4% of the RDI|
|Iron:||Not Listed||2% of the RDI|
|Vitamin B1:||Not Listed||8% of the RDI|
|Notes:||*Small amounts of Zinc, Potassium, B1, B2, and B3||*Small amounts of Potassium|
They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, and they provide fiber, iron, and calcium. Remember, omega-3 fatty acids help raise HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that protects against heart attack and stroke. Two tablespoons of chia seeds have almost 10 grams of fiber. That’s around 40 percent of the recommended daily intake. Diets high in fiber have been linked to weight loss among other things. Like Flax, these seeds are loaded in antioxidants, known to help with strength in aging and lessening the risk of cancer.
Like flax seeds, but on a whole-other-level chia seeds deliver a high quality plant protein that staunches the need for snacking and satiates the body the same way carbs and meat can. So, if taken daily, it can be a natural appetite suppressant. Something that chia offers more than flax is the help with bone health. Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and protein all help keep bones strong and healthy, add in the bonus of phytic acid – which has been shown to reduce calcium absorption. Several studies show that eating chia seeds have improved blood sugar in people who have type 2 diabetes. Some studies show that these seeds help with chronic inflammatory issues, but there are still studies being made to be sure of this possible helpful situation.
If you buy chia seeds, they should be either black or white. They are bland and so can pretty much be added to anything without changing the flavors you already have. Also – you don’t have to mill them to get the best results.
When they are soaked and used in recipes, they remind me of tapioca. That’s why so many people use them in parfaits! It only takes maybe 15 minutes for the transition to make a “pudding” that can last up to 5 days in the fridge and you can use a little bit of anything to soak it in to give it the flavor you like – almond milk and fruit juice or nectar is usually preferred (pineapple is my fave but you can use anything you want). They can be ground up and added to all sorts of things, even dry recipes. Whole, if you add them into something wet, they’ll take on the flavor as they expand and sometimes there might be a crunch to it and some folks love that.
Another bonus for me is that they have a shelf life of a few years so long as they are kept in a dry storage area. You can also soak the ground version of chia seeds for over an hour and use them as an egg replacement in a lot of recipes. The cool thing is, like other foods that were once thought to only be specialized, these seeds can be found a little bit of everywhere now. Look at your local grocer for them, I know I’ve seen them at several big-box grocery stores as well as at my favorite bargain stop – Aldi…
I’ll be adding a lot of recipes on here for you that contain chia seeds, because over all, it’s very dense in nutrients compared to other seeds and grains.
WARNING: Chia seeds are able to absorb 10–12 times their weight in liquid. If they’re not soaked before you eat them, they may expand and cause a blockage, increasing your risk of choking. Also be careful of taking in too much fiber, especially when you’re on a vegetable based diet – you will experience a LOT of gas and intestinal issues. The recommended daily intake of chia seeds is 1 ½ tablespoons twice per day. So don’t go too wild!
Be sure to check out our blog article on flax seeds.
RDI – Recommended Daily Intake
Studies pulled from US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.