Source: BBC Food
What are chia seeds and do they deserve ‘superfood’ status? Discover their nutritional benefits and the research behind the health-claim headlines
What are chia seeds and where do they come from?
Chia seeds are the tiny black seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant, a member of the mint family which comes from Central and South America. Legend has it that the ancient Aztecs and Mayans used chia seeds as a source of energy.
Nutritional benefits of chia seeds
For such a small seed, chia seeds contain some important nutrients.
Chia seeds are rich in fibre – which helps with satiety, the feeling of fullness. A 25g portion of chia seeds contains approximately 9g of fibre. The daily recommended amount of fibre is 30g, so including a 25g portion of chia seeds each day could be a useful contribution. Fibre is important for a healthy digestive system and many of us do not reach the recommended target.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory effects, as well as enhancing brain and heart health. Chia seeds contain omega-3 in the plant form: alpha linolenic acid (ALA). It is much harder for humans to convert ALA into the form preferred by the body: DHA. Therefore the omega-3 content of chia seeds, compared to animal sources such as oily fish, is low. For those who do not eat fish, chia seeds are a welcome addition to the diet, but it’s important to recognise that conversion to DHA is minimal.