August 01, 2017

What are the health benefits of chia seeds and how can you use them?

Q: It seems like chia seeds are popular these days. What are the health benefits and how can you use them?

A: Like many types of seeds — such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax-seeds — the chia seed is a powerhouse of nutrition. Chia seeds have been an important crop of Mexico and Central and South America for centuries. Until fairly recently, they were found only in health food stores — or as the key ingredient of the sprouting clay critters known as Chia Pets.

Chia seeds contain an array of beneficial nutrients. A 1-ounce serving includes nearly 10 grams of fiber — both soluble and insoluble — high levels of antioxidant phytochemicals, 4.6 grams of protein, and numerous additional vitamins and minerals such as iron and calcium.

In addition, chia seeds are a rich source of a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is a healthy source of fat, but the body converts only about 1 to 10 percent of ALA into the heart-healthy omega-3s found in fish.

There hasn't been enough research done isolating the effect that chia seed consumption can have on specific health factors. However, there's plenty of research documenting the beneficial effects of consuming soluble and insoluble fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats, and plant-based sources of protein. In short, chia's main benefit comes simply from being a nutritious food that can be included in a healthy-diet plan.

Chia seeds have a very mild taste, and it's easy to sprinkle a tablespoon or two into a bowl of hot or cold cereal or a container of yogurt. Or, try them on top of a salad or mixed...