Chia seeds: information, properties and benefits

 Chia Seeds
  Origen and description
  How it works in our body
  Benefits of chia
  Studies carried out

Chia seeds are and have been for several centuries an important source of nutrients, as well as a staple food in some Central American cultures, and in today’s medicine: in accordance with the progress of investigations, the effectiveness of the properties contained in these small but powerful seeds have been acknowledged. It is known, due to its chemical composition and nutritional value, to be clearly recommended for anyone. In short: they are a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, anti-oxidants, proteins, B complex vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6 and B8), Vitamins E and A, minerals and a good source of dietary fibre, copper, manganese, boron, selenium, zinc, magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, calcium and sodium, although in a very small quantity.

 Origen and description

There is knowledge that chia seeds were used for the first time as the basic element of nutrition in 3,500 B.C. in Central America.
It is an herbaceous plant of the Lamiaceae family (as are mint, thyme, rosemary and oregano, to mention a few) and it is mainly cultivated in the valleys of Mexico.
Going back in time, it is known that in the pre-Columbian era this was, for the Mayan culture, one of the four principal crops used in their diet.
Chia was used as a raw material for different functions such as medicine, food and even paint; moreover it was offered to the gods during religious ceremonies.
Chia is also known as Salvia hispanica. Its seeds are rich in mucilage, starch and oil. It is 2 mm in length and 1.5 in width, is oval in shape and its colour ranges from greyish-brown to reddish. This plant is also tolerant to acidity and drought (as are most sages), but does not tolerate frost and needs plenty of sunlight, which means that it does not grow in the shade. In addition, it is known as one of the vegetables with the highest concentration of fatty acid alpha-linolenic omega-3 and a wide range of minerals which help with the balance and well-being of our organism.

  • The seeds soaked in water release mucilage, producing a gelatinous liquid which presents virtually no taste; thus, in some countries, it is drunk mixed with fruit juices or with essences as a refreshment.
  • Chia flour: the seeds are also often dried and grinded to make a fine flour with an intense flavour, usually consumed as sweet.
  • Chia oil: the oil is even more concentrated in omega-3 than the seeds. Best consumed cold.
  • The consumption of the tender shoots of this plant as a raw or cooked vegetable is preferably in salads.
  • The nutritional composition of chia seeds is: 20% protein, 40% dietary fibre (5% high-molecular-weight soluble fibre) and 34% oil of which 64% are omega-3 fatty acids. It doesn’t contain gluten which makes it suitable for coeliacs. No toxic components are known.
 How it works in our body

Being a source of essential fatty acids will allow the help that the body needs to emulsify as well as absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), help with the oxygenation of the body, cells, tissues and organs. Additionally, they help maintain the lubrication of cells and combine with protein and cholesterol to form the membranes which keeps cells together.
They are essential for normal glandular activity, especially for the thyroid and the adrenal gland. They nourish skin cells and are essential for healthy nerves and mucous membranes. Its function in our organism is to cooperate with vitamin D so that calcium is available in our bones, helping with the assimilation of phosphorus and stimulating the conversion of carotene in vitamin A.

 Benefits of chia

Medicine has recognized it as a complete and superior food, which contains a greater contribution, in a comparative study to others of our diet which assure fulfilment of the same requirements, so in a comparative scheme we can state the following:

  • 700% more omega-3 than salmon.
  • 100% more fibre than any grain.
  • 800% more phosphorus than whole milk.
  • 500% more assimilable calcium than milk.
  • 1,400% more magnesium than broccoli.
  • 100% more potassium than bananas.
  • 200% more iron than spinach.
  • 300% more selenium than flax.

Similarly among its many benefits we can mention:

  • Possesses a satiating effect.
  • Possesses more anti-oxidants than blueberries.
  • Provides all the essential amino acids.
  • Chia is the greatest plant-source of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Contains anti-oxidants, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and fibre.
  • Provides proteins (relevant to vegetarians).
  • Doesn’t contain gluten.
  • They may be consumed alone or incorporated in other foods.
  • Product of plant origin; it’s natural.
  • They have neither taste nor scent.
  • Supplies energy.
  • Helps control cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
  • Facilitates digestion, improves bowel activity and has a satiating effect.
  • Helps control appetite.
  • Assists in the maintenance of good cardiovascular health.
  • Helps improve the health of the nervous and immunological system.
  • Favours muscle development and the regeneration of tissues.
  • Improves cerebral activity and helps with emotional problems.
  • Helps control sugar levels; especially for diabetics.
  • They are low in sodium content (important for everyone, especially for hypertensive).
Its consumption is universal; it may be consumed be people of all ages.
 Studies carried out

Chemical composition of chia seeds, linseed and rosehip and their contribution of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Weber, C.W., Gentry , H.S., Kohlhepp, E.A., McCrohan, P.R. “The nutritional and chemical evaluation of chia seeds.” Ecology of Food and Nutrition. Number 26, (1991): pp. 119-125.
  • Bushway, A. A., Belya, P. R., Bushway, R. J. “Chia seed as a Source of Oil, Polysaccharide, and Protein.” Journal of Food Science. Number 46, (1981): pp. 1349-1356.


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