Like kale, avocado and coconut oil, chia seeds have become a modern healthy eating staple. But, if exactly why they’re so great is as much of mystery to you, as the sudden return of bike shorts is to the entire world, allow us to break it down. Here, the top four reasons you should give chia a chance…
These little seeds are a complete protein, which means they boast a full complement of essential amino acids. NBD, you say? Actually, that’s a huge deal, because it’s pretty rare for plant foods to contain all nine essential aminos. “These are amino acids that cannot be synthesised in our body and must be absorbed from our diet,” explains accredited practicing dietitian Emma Morris. “Our body uses protein to build and repair tissue and is the building blocks of bones, cartilage, muscles, skin and blood.” If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, chia seeds can help you up your protein intake. If not, they’re an excellent way to add more plant-based foods to your diet (and avoid steamed chicken fatigue). Stock your pantry with an Australian Grown option such as The Chia Co, so you know you’re getting sustainably grown, superior quality chia seeds, and you’re supporting Aussie farmers!
Fibre for the win
Chia seeds score highly on another big-name nutrient: fibre. In fact, “Chia contains the perfect ratio of soluble and insoluble fibre, which is needed to keep our digestive system healthy,” says Morris. As well as keeping you regular, high-fibre diets are linked to lower rates of bowel cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Got a long run coming up or keen to dodge the 3pm slump? Chia’s mix of soluble and insoluble fibre can help as it ensures a stable release of energy. “It slows down our body’s process of breaking down carbohydrates to sugars, which results in more stable blood sugar levels and reduces the possibility of insulin surges, the hormone that stabilises blood glucose levels,” Morris explains. Sprinkle some seeds on your salad at lunch to keep energy dips at bay, or make your own natural energy gel for a training session: stir 1 tablespoon of chia seeds into 250ml water and allow it to sit for five minutes.
The good fat
Omega-3 fatty acid is one of those essential nutrients your body can’t make itself – you can only get it from food. It’s vital for keeping your heart healthy, and it’s also great for glowing skin, brain function and immunity. Oily fish is one of the best-known sources, but chia seeds provide an important plant-based type of omega-3 known as alpha-linoleic acid, or ALA, which research has found is especially beneficial for lowering cholesterol, maintaining artery function and reducing the risk of heart disease. So, it’s worth adding some chia to your grilled salmon. In fact, The Heart Foundation recommends eating two to three serves per week of oily fish and a daily serve of ALA. “Just 1 tablespoon of chia will provide you with your full RDI,” says Morris. Too easy.
This might just be what gives chia its ‘super’ status: the teeny seeds are teeming with antioxidants. In case you need a refresher, antioxidants are enzymes and nutrients that are really good at fighting free radicals – molecules that, in large numbers, can do damage to the human body (anything from speeding up the ageing process to causing a bunch of cancers). Chia seeds contain an abundance of powerful antioxidants including quercetin, kaempferol and chlorogenic acid, which studies suggest have anti-ageing and anti-carcinogenic characteristics.
So yeah, chia seeds really do deserve their place in your morning smoothie. Bike shorts though? The jury’s still out.