What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are growing in popularity but what are they and should you be eating them?
Chia seeds originated from Central and South America and it is said that the ancient Aztecs used them to develop superhuman strength.
I’ve eaten chia seeds and I haven’t developed x-ray vision or the habit of wearing my pants over my tights so I doubt that they do give you superhuman powers but they do contain quite a lot of useful nutrients.
What’s in a chia seed?
Like all seeds chia seeds ate quite high in fat at around 50% or 31g per 100g. They are particularly high in polyunsaturated fats especially omega 3. However, the omega 3 in chia seeds is the plant based ALA rather than the DHA and EPA found in fish oils.
They contain around 42% or 14 g per 100g from carbohydrate but most of this (30 plus grams) comes from fibre, they are especially high in soluble fibre which is particularly beneficial for digestive health.
They also contain 34% protein or around 17g per 100 g. Unlike a lot of plant based protein sources they do have a complete amino acid profile which makes them pretty useful for vegans but that doesn’t change the fact that they are still comparatively low in protein calorie for calorie.
They are also significantly high in calcium, iron and magnesium. Chia seeds come in at around 480 kcal per 100g but with a glycaemic load (how quickly the energy is absorbed) of just 1 they are an extremely slow release food.
How to eat them
Chia seeds are good for blending into smoothies and sprinkling on salads. But they’re best used to make form ‘chia pudding’. You see, chia seeds turn gelatinous when soaked in fluid. Chia pudding can be made with water, milk, fruit juice or yoghurt and mixed with nuts, berries or other seeds.
Chia pudding is very nutritious but due to the high fat content it is very calorie dense so be aware that 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contains about 150 kcal, so mixing this with yoghurt nuts and other seeds can result in a tasty but very energy dense meal that isn’t as high in protein as the equivalent calories from, say, eggs.
However, because they are so energy dense and such a slow release energy source they could come in useful for long sustained efforts like marathons or long bike rides. This could explain why the Aztecs were so fond of them.
If you really enjoy chia pudding you will have to allow for the extra calories but might find that it’s quite satiating and will keep you going for hours making it a useful option for breakfast in some cases.
- Chia are tiny nutrient packed seeds that are also very energy dense
- They are high in essential fatty acids and fibre and offer a complete amino acid profile
- Potentially good for endurance sport but due to high calories can make weight loss tricky
- Contrary to popular belief they do not give you super powers and all of the nutrients in chia seeds can be found in other less energy dense foods