It seems like every week there is a new food that emerges as something that is better for us, more versatile and easy to use in the kitchen and everyone becomes interested. Soon it starts to appear in many of our foods. The chia seed is no different in this respect. You can buy the seeds in packets or added to foods (heard of chia bread lately?)
So what is Chia?
Chia is a wholegrain that was originally grown in South America and formed a large component of the Aztec and Mayan diets. Chia seeds are very versatile and were used as a beverage when mixed with water, eaten as a seed, pressed for oil or ground and made into flour.
It is classed as a “wholegrain” because it is not processed, that is, it still contains all the components of the grain – the bran, the germ and the endosperm.
What does this mean nutritionally?
Nutritionally, wholegrain is the best option to include in a healthy balanced diet. Chia seeds are classed as a wholegrain and as such have the following properties:
- 37% dietary fibre. Fibre is important for keeping our bowels regular. Fibre has also been implicated in helping to reduce weight by filling us up and keeping us feeling full for longer (so you’re less likely to snack on those packet of chips you know are staring at you). Research also suggests that wholegrain (and the fibre they contain) can help to lower the risk of diet related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
- 20% omega 3 ALA. To understand what this means I found it helpful to think of the following flow diagram:
Basically omega-3 is a type of polyunsaturated fat (the healthy fat) and chia seeds contain around 8 times more omega-3 than salmon (per 100g)! This is great for people who unable to eat fish… but no reason to stop eating fish.
- 20% protein. One of the selling points of chia is that it contains all 8 of the essential amino acids the body needs.
- High in vitamins and minerals (like calcium, potassium and magnesium)
How do you use Chia seeds?
These little seeds are able to be used in multiple ways. Adding them to smoothies, breakfast cereals or into bread to boost the fibre and omega 3 content are just a few examples.
This is also a gluten free grain which makes it a fantastic choice for people with gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease.
Is there a difference between the white and black chia seeds?
You may have seen different coloured chia seeds in the supermarket. Apart from the colour difference there is no nutritional difference between the two.
Are they healthy?
Chia seeds can be a healthy addition to meals and a great way to increase the fibre content. They can be pricey, particularly when you can get fibre, omega-3, vitamins and minerals from other foods, however sticking to the serving sizes suggested on the back of packets will help the seeds to last.
For further information, book an appointment to see our dietitian Rhiannon Welsh at ENT Wellbeing Diet and Nutrition, Sydney – Phone 1300 123 368.