Chia seeds: you’ve all heard of them! Most of you have probably used them in your recipes. But what exactly are chia seeds, and can you eat too many of them?
There’s something about chia…
The fancy name for chia is Salvia hispanica. Chia is native to central/southern Mexico, as well as parts of South America. Historically, it’s been an important food source, and is still used today in many of these countries. Chia is actually a member of the mint family. It has a very mild, nutty flavor, and is frequently used as a thickening agent in recipes like puddings and shakes. Chia also makes a tasty topping for cereal, yogurt, soups and salads (or whatever you please!).
The good news
Chia seeds are high in fiber, protein, healthy fats, and vitamins & minerals like calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Fiber helps lower your risk for high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood sugar, as well as promote bowel regularity.
One ounce of chia seeds (about 2 tablespoons) contains (approx):
- 136 calories
- 4.6 grams of protein
- 8.6 grams of mostly unsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids (higher than flax seed)
- 11.8 grams of carbohydrates
- 9.6 grams of fiber, or 38 percent of the daily value.
- Zero cholesetrol
Chia can be digested whole (unlike other grains) – it doesn’t have to be ground first. It is also high in natural anti-oxidants, so it can be stored (unrefrigerated) for a long time without going rancid.
But be aware...
Chia seeds absorb a lot of water (up to 10x their weight), so don’t go eating handfuls of them dry (not that you'd do that but you know what I mean!) else your bowels will NOT be happy (think constipation!). Presoaking whole chia seeds in water is good practice, plus it softens them up (milled seeds soften up quicker). Else make sure to drink plenty of fluids. Some people may experience gas and/or bloating with chia. As it is high in fiber, introduce chia slowly into your diet so your body has time to adjust.
One of the health benefits of chia is that it can lower blood pressure, however, if you have low blood pressure to begin with, or are elderly, this probably isn’t a good thing. The omega-3 fatty acids can also thin the blood, so you should avoid eating them if you are on aspirin, blood thinners, or have an upcoming surgery.
Allergies to chia are rare, but if you are allergic to sesame or mustards seeds, you might be allergic to chia seeds.
If you have any health concerns, ask your health care provider.
Can you eat too many chia seeds?
Can you eat too many chia seeds? Well, 2-3 tbsp a day are the recommended amount. But ultimately, the answer depends on your body and your health. And as with anything, moderation is key: don't rely solely on chia seeds for all of your fiber and protein. It's best to eat a variety of foods to provide your daily nutritional requirements.