Big talk about a little seed called chia

This seed’s name instantly brings to mind a catchy refrain from a TV commercial. But this chia is no pet. It’s a tiny seed that’s making a big splash on the nutritional front.

This seed’s name instantly brings to mind a catchy refrain from a TV commercial. But this chia is no pet. It’s a tiny seed that’s making a big splash on the nutritional front.

Everyone from health food gurus to TV talk show hosts are talking up the merits of chia. And scientists at major research institutes, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are studying whether chia’s health claims hold up under clinical trials.

Preliminary studies support claims that chia fuels weight loss and helps reduce triglycerides, blood glucose levels and blood pressure.

Chia seeds are harvested from the Salvia hispanica plant, a type of sage in the mint family. The word chia means “strength” in the Mayan language, and people of the ancient Americas used chia as a food and medicine. According to the USDA, the Diegueño, an indigenous people of North America, believed 1 tablespoon supplied 24 hours’ worth of energy.

USDA analysis shows 1 ounce (about 3 tablespoons) of the minty, nut-flavored seed contains 5 grams protein, 10 grams fiber, 12 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fat and 138 calories. Chia is loaded with antioxidants, phosphorus and magnesium, and the amount of calcium per 1-ounce serving is equivalent to that of 4 ounces of milk.

Nutritionists recommend no more than two servings per day; more than that can bring on bellyaching fiber overload.

“It is a great source of omega 3’s, especially for athletes who require a large amount of calories,” said Anna Grout, dietitian with Norton Sports Health. “Some can get burned out eating almonds and salmon to get in their daily omega 3’s.”

You’ll find bulk chia in the natural foods section of most grocery stores. It’s also becoming increasingly popular in baked goods, cereals and granola bars. But where chia really stands out is in smoothies, puddings and energy drinks. That’s because when chia seeds get wet, their crunchy outer coating turns to gel. This feature makes for a unique taste sensation.

In the future, you might not have to eat this powerhouse seed to benefit from its superpowers. Researchers have found that adding chia to livestock feed significantly lowers lipids in the animals, resulting in a healthier meat product.

About our dietitian
Anna Grout sees patients at Norton Orthopaedic Specialists – Brownsboro, Norton Medical Plaza II – Brownsboro, Suite 250, 9880 Angies Way, Louisville, KY 40241; (502) 394-6341


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