Chia seeds have been doing the rounds on superfood lists for years but if you’ve just decided to start downing them by the spoonful or sprinkling them over everything from your brekky to water, here’s everything you should know.
When an easy health booster gets rediscovered, you can be sure that they’ll hit your Instagram feed in seconds, as friends, family and celebrities alike expound the benefits of their new find.
More often than not, they’ll fade out of the limelight faster than you can say “fad”, but one little seed has stuck around through them all – chia seeds.
These tiny favourites are said to be a nutritional powerhouse. Not only are they the perfect way to fuel your day, they can be added to almost everything.
But before you go chia-crazy, read on to find out whether they live up to their superfood status.
Health benefits of chia seeds
Relative to their miniscule size, chia seeds are a frontrunner in the nutrition game. They’re packed with iron and calcium and are a fantastic source of fibre.
“Even one tablespoon of chia contributes to a large part of your daily needs,” says dietician for The Chia Co, Emma Morris.
“They’re the highest combined plant source of omega-3, fibre and protein, giving you a complete nutritional boost.”
In that single tablespoon (around 14 g), you’ll be getting 20 per cent of your daily fibre needs and 6 per cent of the recommended daily intake of iron.
A tablespoon will also meet 8 per cent of your calcium requirements. Impressive, considering one glass of full-fat milk (about 250 g) only provides you with 27 per cent.
But, the benefits stop here
However, the benefits become slightly unstuck at the omega-3 claim.
While it’s true that chia seeds are a fantastic source of this important fatty acid, the type it contains, ALA omega-3s, aren’t the ones doing the hard yards when it comes to keeping you healthy.
Yes, these ALAs contribute to overall heart health but the most directly beneficial omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA), come from deep-sea fish like salmon.
That’s not to say a tablespoon of chia will hurt rather than help. It’s just important to be mindful of the fact that chia mightn’t have all the benefits implied on the box.
Chia seeds for weight loss
It would make sense that this fibre-winner could help meet your weight-loss goals.
Fibre is known to keep you feeling fuller for longer and the logic could extend to suggest that this means you’re less likely to reach for a snack to keep hunger at bay.
However, research hasn’t quite caught up with the anecdotal evidence of weight loss with chia seeds.
A 2009 study found no correlation between the consumption of chia seeds and weight loss in overweight adults.
The jury still seems to be out on that one, then.
Side effects of chia seeds
Like all good things in the world, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one without some purported side effects. And chia seeds haven’t escaped the scrutiny.
Aside from the potential to cause bloating and constipation, there have been cases of allergies flaring up after crunching on chia.
Its high omega-3 content could also spell trouble for those with low blood pressure, as these fatty acids are known to contribute to blood thinning.
Chia seeds for pregnant women haven’t been blacklisted, nor have they been given the all-clear so for any concerns, it’s best to talk to a qualified health practitioner.
Chia seeds for kids
Fussy eaters at home? Chia seeds may be the solution.
“Chia seeds don’t really have a flavour meaning they’re easy to add to kids’ food unnoticed,” says Emma.
“It’ll give them a great nutritional boost to keep them fuelled throughout the day, without all the fuss that green veggies bring.”
A great way to get kids eating chia is to sprinkle a tablespoon over their morning cereal, or to bake them into bread.
“A tablespoon of chia goes an especially long way in meeting dietary nutrition for kids,” explains Emma.
How to use chia seeds, plus recipes
Chia seeds are super versatile and can be used for far more than your smoothies.
“Chia is a great addition to school or work lunchboxes,” says Emma.
“Incorporate them into your almond chia bliss balls or bake them in with your homemade muesli.”
Another great way to use chia seeds as garnishing for your stir-fries and desserts. Try this Tofu And Chia Stir-Fry recipe.
You could even just add a tablespoon or two of chia seeds to your water bottle for a quick and easy health boost.
It really seems you can’t go wrong with this tiny favourite! Packed full of vitamins and minerals, versatile and easy to incorporate into meals, it’s no wonder chia seeds are here to stay.
Text: Stephanie Marinkovic/The Singapore Women’s Weekly / Photos: 123rf.com, Pixabay