The tiny chia seed packs a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals. The size of poppy seeds, chia seeds can be healthy and versatile additions to your meals and are available in a variety of white and black colors. When selecting chia seeds, the color has only a minor impact on the nutritional quality of this nutritional food.
Origin and Varieties
Native to Mexico and Guatemala, chia seeds have more omega-3 and dietary fiber than any other natural food. Chia seeds are commercially grown in Mexico, Central and South America as well as Australia, which is the largest producer. Chia seeds are not pure black or white in color but rather spotted with different shades of brown, gray, black and white. When you consume them daily, chia seeds can boost the nutrient levels in your diet. The seeds contain plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, which is an essential healthy fat, as well as dietary fiber that aids your digestive system, eliminating toxins and waste from your body.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 ounce of chia seeds is a recommended daily serving and contains approximately 9 grams of fat, 5 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of dietary fiber and 4 grams of protein. The seeds also have 18 percent of the recommended daily intake of calcium, 27 percent of the phosphorus and 30 percent of the manganese, which is similar in nutrient content to other edible seeds such as flax or sesame. Chia is a complete plant-based protein food containing all eight essential amino acids.
Chia seeds can help you lose weight because they reduce your food cravings by preventing excess food from being absorbed into your digestive system. Chia helps make you feel fuller longer because the seeds absorb 10 times their weight in water, forming a bulky gel. The excess water weight in the gel keeps your body hydrated. The omega-3 fatty acids contained in chia seeds are vital fats that protect against inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and heart disease. Chia also reduces the rate at which your body converts carbohydrates into simple sugars, controlling blood sugar, which can be a great benefit if you are diabetic.
Costing around $10 per pound at the time of publication, chia seeds are relatively tasteless, so you can sprinkle them raw on foods as a nutrition booster without altering the taste. You can also add chia to breakfast cereal, yogurt, salads and soups. When mixed with water, the seeds form a thick gel that can be blended into smoothies or used as a binder in bread and muffin recipes. While some slight differences in the protein content and omega-3 fatty acid composition exist between the black and white chia seeds, they do not significantly alter the nutritional value. Selecting chia based on color is a personal choice based on whether you want to see the seed in your food.
- USDA NRCS National Plant Data Guide: Chia
- USDA: Chia Seeds, Dried, USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
- Chia: Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs; Richard Ayerza, Jr. and Wayne Coates
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images