Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

The chia plant belongs to the Lamiaceae family, which also includes a number of common herbs such as mint, oregano and thyme, all of which are known for their...
chia-seeds-and-their-health-benefits

The chia plant belongs to the Lamiaceae family, which also includes a number of common herbs such as mint, oregano and thyme, all of which are known for their benefits on our health. Chia seeds are often promoted for being healthy, and this article will show you which nutrients are found in chia seeds,  in what quantities and explain how chia seeds will benefit your health.

 

Micro-nutrients in Chia seeds

Chia seeds are not abundant in many micro-nutrients. Chia seeds don’t contain any vitamins in any significant quantity, and only a small number of minerals in significant qualities, which can be seen bellow:

MineralAmount per serving (24g)Percentage RDA per serving (24g)
Calcium151mg63%
Phosphorus228mg23%
Potassium38mg1.2%
Zinc0.84mg5.5%
Manganese0.52mg25.92

As you can see from the table, the minerals which are in significant quantities for our nutritional requirements are manganese, calcium and phosphorus. These minerals will promote normal growth and development in the body. Chia seeds are particularly high in calcium, a mineral which is required to maintain a normal bone density and blood pH. Although these minerals are valuable for the body, the few which are found in significant quantities would not have a major impact on your health.

 

Macro-nutrients in Chia seeds

Bellow is a table showing the macro-nutrient breakdown of chia seeds:

NutrientAmount per serving (24g)Percentage RDA per serving (24g)
Carbohydrates10.5mg13.6%
- of which are fibre9mg36%
Protein4g7%
Fat7.5g11%
- of which are omega-34.2gNot set
- of which are omega-61.3gNot set

Carbohydrates & Protein

The carbohydrate content of chia seeds is predominantly fibre, which aids with digestion health. There are also no simple sugars, and so consuming chia seeds will not result in a sugar spike which is associated with increased body fat and fluctuating energy levels. The protein content of chia seeds is a little higher than you would expect for a plant sourced food, but the amount you would consume per serving is still quite small. The quality of the protein from chia seeds would also be quite poor for our nutritional requirements, and so there are no significant health benefits from the protein content.

Fats

Chia seedsThe fat content of chia seeds is quite high for a plant based food, but this is quite typical of seeds. However, one serving (24g) of chia seeds will provide 4.2g of omega-3 and 1.3g of omega-6. Although no RDA has been set, these quantities are high, and will have a significant impact on health. The three beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are EPA, DHA (which are found in fish oils) and ALA (which is the omega-3 fatty acid found in chia seeds). Although chia seeds do not contain any EPA or DHA, our body can convert the ALA into EPA and DHA, which will still give us the nutritional benefits. These fatty acids are known to be essential for a number of important biological functions, such as maintaining brain function, protecting cardiovascular health and reducing inflammation. Western diets are typically deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and so the abundance of ALA which is found in chia seeds makes it a exceptional nutritional addition to any diet.

Chia seeds also contain a significant amount of omega-6, which is also an essential fatty acid. Omega-6 fatty acids also fulfil a number of biological roles such as brain function and hormone regulation, and the Western diet is not generally deficient in these fats. The optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid is still debatable, but it is generally accepted to be between 1:1 and 1:5. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in chia seeds is within the optimum ratios for human requirements, but is closer to the 1:5 (more omega-3 than omega-6). As most western diets are abundant in omega-6’s, but deficient in omega-3’s, the ratio found in chia seeds is actually very beneficial in normalizing the rations.

 

Summary

Chia seeds are a relatively cheap way of dramatically increasing the amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. It is the high amount of these essential fats and lack of undesirable nutrients (such as sugars) which has resulted in chia seeds becoming a popular addition to many peoples diet. Other health benefits of chia seeds include their high content of a small number of minerals, and high fibre content.
 



 
Images courtesy of Stacy Spensley.

I hope you enjoy the site, and like what we have worked hard to create, any feedback is very much welcome, after all this site is for you! Graduate of Nutrition & Food Science (Bsc) at Reading Uni.
  • stardisgate

    I will pass this information along. I actually have some chia seeds in the kitchen, but where can you really get them? I got mine from my daughters chia pet. Are there other places that sell these on a regular basis, such as a health food store or garden center? I would like to know, because I am sure my family wouldn’t mind implementing these into our meals or daily diet on a regular basis. Thank you for the information though. Very informative.

    • Craig

      Wow, I had to Google ‘Chia pet’, had no idea what it was! Sounds good though 🙂 Aside from a chia pet, you should be able to get chia seeds from most health food shops. You may be able to get them from the bigger supermarkets, but I wouldn’t count on it.

  • donnisha08

    When i discovered chia seeds, I saw them at Albertsons, Traders Joe, and vitamin shops. At first they seemed expensive but they lasted a long time. I like to use them in my smoothies a lot because I can barely taste them and they give my morning a little boost. Another way to use them is to make chia pudding which I haven’t tried yet.

    • Craig

      Let us know how the chia pudding goes, I’ve heard of it, but it sounds a little strange to me :S

The Health Cloud was created in December 2011 by Craig and Morg who have been friends since high school. Our focus is to educate our readers with unbiased health articles and on the side we run our own online health shop. This website is for you, so drop us a comment or send us a tweet, we always take the time to reply!