Chia seeds have become a popular superfood, mainly for their high protein and omega-3 essential fatty acid content. They are a healthy addition to green smoothies.
Chia (salvia hispanica) is native to central and southern Mexico, as well as Guatemala. It was consumed by the Aztecs, though we’ve just recently caught on to this highly nutritious seed.
Even if you have never eaten chia seeds before, you have probably heard of them. Remember those ads on TV for Chia Pets? And that catchy jingle – Ch-ch-ch-chia!
Well the very same seeds that made terra cotta animals sprout fur are the same seeds that have become one of the most popular health foods.
Chia Seed Nutrition and Health Benefits
Nutrition: One ounce (28 grams, or roughly two tablespoons) of chia seeds provides 138 calories, 4.4 grams of protein (with all 9 essential amino acids), 8.7 grams of fat, and 12.4 grams of carbohydrates – 10.7 grams of which is fiber!
Most of the fat in chia seeds are omega-3 essential fatty acids – 311% RDA per ounce!
As far as minerals, one ounce of chia seeds contains about 179 mg of calcium (about 18% RDA), 34% RDA of phosphorus, 22% RDA of magnesium, 33% RDA of manganese and 9% RDA of zinc.
As with any superfood, there are some over-hyped claims about the health benefits and alleged miracle cures attributed to chia seeds. Some claim that chia seeds are “medicinal”, while others go as far as to say that it can assist in curing cancer.
However, there are some legitimate health benefits of chia seeds. They include:
Antioxidants: Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, which may help protect against disease and support overall health.
Weight Loss: While chia seeds are not a magic weight loss cure, they can help you lose weight due to the fiber and protein content. Fiber bulks up your green smoothies. The protein in chia seeds help satisfy hunger and keeps you feeling full longer.
Cholesterol: Preliminary studies have shown that consuming chia seeds may have a positive effect on cholesterol. While the data is inconclusive, it is likely that chia seeds would exhibit the same cholesterol-lowering effects that most other fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds do as part of a plant-based, whole foods diet.
Bone Health: Chia seeds provide a good source of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus – three crucial minerals that help strengthen bones and support overall health.
Supports Digestion & Gut/Colon Health: Chia seeds are around 40% fiber by weight. Fiber is critically important for health because it feeds your gut bacteria and promotes colon health. Diets high in fiber may help prevent colon cancer.
Protein Digestibility: A much touted benefit of chia is the “high digestibility” of its protein content. Studies have shown that ground chia seeds provide the most digestible protein content with raw and then soaked chia seeds coming in at a distant second place.
Are There Any Downsides To Chia Seeds?
Not really. Chia seeds have been consumed for more than a thousand years (remember, the Aztecs were known to use them centuries ago, and they are a readily available in Central and South America).
However, there is one potential problem for people who have hormonal imbalances.
Like flax seeds, chia seeds are rich in a class of phytoestrogens called lignans. While these phytoestrogens do not have an effect on healthy individuals, those who have hormonal imbalances may want to limit their intake of foods, like chia seeds, that have high levels of these plant estrogens – particularly men who suffer from high levels of estrogen or low testosterone, or women who have higher-than-normal estrogen levels.
There is no clinical evidence that healthy people are at risk of developing hormonal imbalances from consuming chia seeds in normal amounts.
How To Use Chia Seeds In A Green Smoothie
Chia seeds have a mild, very slightly nutty flavor. A tablespoon or two won’t negatively impact the flavor of your green smoothie.
Add up to two tablespoons for a healthy dose of omega-3’s, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and manganese. Adding too much chia seed might make your smoothie gelatinous and could add too much fat to your smoothie, which can cause digestive difficulty.
Ground or milled chia seeds may provide more protein, but they can also turn your green smoothie into sludge as the fiber will soak up liquid from your smoothie.
I recommend two methods for using chia seeds in smoothies.
The first method is to soak the whole seeds for about 5 minutes in 1 part seeds to 3 parts water just prior to blending. The soaked seeds become gelatinous and blend up well in a high-speed blender.
This provides a couple advantages because it keeps the chia as a whole food up until you consume it (which reduces oxidation), and soaking improves digestibility, as well as enhances moisture content.
The other method of using chia is to add dry seeds to a coffee grinder and turn them into a powder, then adding that to your green smoothie.
If you do this, be sure to add a little extra water to your blender pitcher and drink your smoothie right away. Otherwise, if you let the smoothie sit, the fiber in the chia seeds might take up water turning your entire smoothie into a gelatinous glop clinging to your glass or blender pitcher. Not pleasant!
How To Select and Store Chia Seeds
In the United States, chia seeds are mostly purchased online – particularly at websites that sell superfoods. In larger cities, they might be available at health food stores although they are starting to become very popular and I have been able to find them at Costco.
As with all nuts and seeds, store them in a cool, dry place. I prefer to keep seeds and nuts in the refrigerator to avoid spoilage and rancidity.
Only grind or soak seeds that you will be using within 24 hours as nutrient loss and spoilage can occur.
Chia seeds are highly nutritious and easy to add to a green smoothie. Give them a try!
Some Of My Favorite Chia Seed Green Smoothie Recipes
- Almond Peach Strawberry Green Smoothie
- Apple Carrot Ginger Smoothie
- Cocoa-Berry Chia Smoothie Recipe
- Red Grape & Chia Seed Smoothie
- Chocolate-Cherry Green Smoothie
- Strawberry Lemonade Smoothie with Chia
- Pineapple with Avocado & Chia
Also, add them to smoothie bowl recipes.
And try these delicious chia seed puddings.