Growing up everyone had a chia pet. Plant the seeds, water diligently, and within days bald Homer is sprouting a jungle of luscious, green hair. A truly delightful experience for the young horticulturalist. These days, chia has many more purposes. In fact, the little black seeds you sowed as a child are packed with nutrients! Here’s 5 good reasons to eat chia before it becomes Homer’s hair:
- Fiber: A tablespoon of chia seeds contains a whopping 5g of fiber–roughly the same amount of fiber provided by one large apple. Fiber is associated with a host of health benefits including cholesterol control, colon cancer prevention, weight management and digestive health.
- Omega-3s: Chia seeds are packed with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. With 2g of omega-3 per tablespoon, chia may help protect your heart, alleviate joint pain and promote brain health.
**Pro tip: Chia seeds contain alpha linolenic acid, a different type of omega-3s to that found in fatty fish such as salmon, trout and sardines. Aim to eat fatty fish twice a week in addition to chia for the biggest benefits!
- Healthy Fats: Chia seeds are rich in heart-healthy fats and low in artery-clogging saturated fats. One tablespoon of chia provides 4g of fat and less than 0.5g of saturated fat. Healthy fats are important for cushioning joints and bones, forming cell membranes, and carrying fat soluble vitamins in the body.
- Manganese and phosphorous: One tablespoon of chia provides approximately 15% of your daily needs for manganese and phosphorous. Manganese is important for bone health, fertility, nutrient metabolism and blood sugar regulation, and helps protect against free radical damage. Phosphorous, on the other hand, is important for bone formation; energy production and storage; and the growth, maintenance and repair of cells.
- Calcium: Chia seeds are surprisingly rich in calcium! One tablespoon of chia contain approximately 10% of your daily calcium needs. Calcium is famed for it’s role in bone formation however it’s also essential for heart health, muscle contraction and nerve conduction.
Now you know why you should eat chia, lets get to the good stuff; how can you can incorporate chia into your favorite meals and snacks? Despite being related to mint, chia seeds have a relatively neutral flavor and a diversity of applications:
- Topping: Chia seeds can be sprinkled on top of yogurt or cereal (hot or cold) immediately before serving for an extra burst of nutrition.
- Thickener: Chia seeds congeal in liquid and can be used to thicken soups, sauces and smoothies.
- Pudding base: Combine chia seeds with low-fat milk and a handful of berries for a delicious and nutritious snack.
- Gluten-free flour alternative: Chia flour can be used as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour in recipes. Swap wheat flour for chia flour 1:1 in cakes, muffins and brownies or combine chia with other gluten-free flours if you’re are making a thinner batter.
- CHOCOLATE: Yep, that’s right. I saved the best one for last. Chia seeds are now found in your favorite healthy treat, Dark Chocolate Chia Energy Bite. Check your local supermarket to get your fix!
Edwina Clark, MS, RD, LDN, APD (Aus)