02 Aug 10 reasons chia seeds have become a popular food supplement
Chia seeds – the seeds of the flowering plant Salvia hispanica – have fast become a go-to food supplement. You’ll find them included in healthy breakfast and smoothie menus everywhere, and as powdered supplements added to protein shakes and meal replacements. Why have they become so popular in nutrition and the health food industry?
Here are 10 reasons:
1. They’ve been declared safe by respected food safety bodies
In June 2019, the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) became one of the more recent major food health and safety bodies to declare powdered chia seeds safe to use in food products. Two powders derived from whole seeds, ‘Xia 125’ and ‘Xia 435’ have been approved, opening up the European market further for chia-based supplements and additives.
2. They have a high protein content
Many good protein sources (animal protein in particular) are also high in other nutritional content that is harmful in excess. There are 16.5 grams of protein in 100 grams of chia seeds, making them a popular addition to healthy protein shakes and other supplements.
3. Chia seeds are high in healthy fats
Healthy fats (such as omega fatty acids) are important for wellbeing. Chia seeds contain high Omega-3 and Omega-6 levels. These fatty acids help to lower your risk for many chronic conditions, including cancer, heart disease, and inflammatory conditions.
4. They are naturally gluten-free
Gluten-free foods have soared in popularity in recent years as people have increasingly embraced gluten-free diets to alleviate gluten intolerance or for other dietary reasons. Although chia seeds contain 42.1 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams, these are healthier carbs: There are zero grams of sugar in 100 grams of chia seeds.
5. Chia contains important micronutrients
In addition to major nutrients such as protein, chia seeds contain many micronutrients that are equally important for physical health. A tablespoon of chia seeds contains 17% of your daily recommended intake of phosphorous, for example. This assists bone development and is key for the body’s ability to use protein, fat, and carbohydrates effectively.
Another important micronutrient chia contains is selenium – a tablespoon contains 14% of your daily selenium needs. This mineral plays a key role in maintaining a healthy metabolism, and also has antioxidant properties that protect the body from cell damage.
6. They are naturally high in fibre
Fibre has many nutritional benefits, from helping us feel full for longer (so that we don’t get into habits of unhealthy snacking) to ensuring gut health. A single tablespoon contains nearly 5 grams of fibre. Because the seeds absorb large quantities of water, they digest more slowly in the body. That’s why they help you to feel fuller for longer.
7. They may help to reduce blood sugar
Healthy blood sugar levels are important, not only in diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals. Initial studies have suggested that bread made using chia raises blood sugar levels less than traditional breads made using gluten-containing ingredients.
8. They may have inflammation-reducing properties
One of the known nutritional benefits of chia seeds is their high alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) content. This is a type of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid. They also are good sources of magnesium, l-arginine and vitamin E, all of which are thought to play a part in reducing inflammation, as the Arthritis Foundation discusses here.
9. Chia seeds support healthy bones
In addition to their above-average phosphorus content, supporting healthy bones, chia seeds also contain a high amount of calcium. A 28-gram service of chia seeds contains 18% of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) of calcium. This is in addition to several other nutrients not mentioned above, including zinc, vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B1(thiamine) and vitamin B2.
10. They are easy to incorporate into meals and use as a substitute
Chia seeds are one of the many substitutes for egg used in vegan cooking (to replace an egg, you can mix a tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes).
Given the many nutritional benefits of chia seeds and their approved use in food supplements, it’s easy to see why they continue to grow in popularity as a go-to healthy eating ingredient.