Don’t underestimate these little guys. The tiny seeds of the mint family are nutrient-dense sources of protein, healthy fats, dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala, the original markets for chia seed were confined mostly to Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico, and Guatemala. Production in the United States is reported as late as 2014 by the Kentucky-based company, U.S. Chia,¹ which caters primarily to equine feed. Prior to 2014 , Bolivia and Argentina were the leading producers of chia seeds.²
You can thank the antioxidant-punch that chia seeds pack for it’s lengthy shelf life. Feel free to store them for up to five years.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Chia seeds are one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, with 60% of its lipid profile made up of polyunsaturated fats like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Nearly 20% of each serving is made up of of this omega-3. ALA is important in maintaining healthy heart and artery function, lowering cholesterol and reducing cardiovascular disease.
As a rich source of antioxidants, chia seeds may aid in the repair and maintenance of healthy cells. Antioxidants have also been shown to reduce the effects of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and muscular degeneration. The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score measures antioxidant levels; chia seeds ORAC value is 10,000 vitamin E equivalents.
The protein in chia contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a “complete” protein that is also plant-based. A standard serving size is typically made up of nearly 20% of protein.
How to Use Chia Seeds:
Rich in nutrients and virtually tasteless, chia seeds can be used as a supplement in smoothies, breads and tortillas, granola, even stir frys.
Due to their high fiber content, chia seeds can hold up to 12 times their weight in water. When allowed to soak with liquids, the seeds will form into a gelatinous substance much like tapioca puddings.
They also make a great substitute as a vegan “egg” when baking, providing both nutrients and texture similar to eggs.
Vegan Chia Seed Eggs
To make: mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15 minutes. Viola!
Serving Size: 1 oz (Roughly 28 g, or 2 tablespoons)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (4,915 mg)
Omega-6 fatty acids (1,620 mg)
- B vitamins (thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, folate)
- Calcium (177 mg, 18% D/V)
Manganese (0.6 mg, 30% D/V)
- Phosphorus (265 mg, 27% D/V)
- Zinc (1.0 mg, 7% D/V)
- Potassium (44.8 mg, 1%)
- Fiber (10.6 g, 42% D/V)