Chia: Little Seed, Big Health Benefits

— Written By Tracy Davis
en Español / em Português

El inglés es el idioma de control de esta página. En la medida en que haya algún conflicto entre la traducción al inglés y la traducción, el inglés prevalece.

Al hacer clic en el enlace de traducción se activa un servicio de traducción gratuito para convertir la página al español. Al igual que con cualquier traducción por Internet, la conversión no es sensible al contexto y puede que no traduzca el texto en su significado original. NC State Extension no garantiza la exactitud del texto traducido. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que algunas aplicaciones y/o servicios pueden no funcionar como se espera cuando se traducen.


Inglês é o idioma de controle desta página. Na medida que haja algum conflito entre o texto original em Inglês e a tradução, o Inglês prevalece.

Ao clicar no link de tradução, um serviço gratuito de tradução será ativado para converter a página para o Português. Como em qualquer tradução pela internet, a conversão não é sensivel ao contexto e pode não ocorrer a tradução para o significado orginal. O serviço de Extensão da Carolina do Norte (NC State Extension) não garante a exatidão do texto traduzido. Por favor, observe que algumas funções ou serviços podem não funcionar como esperado após a tradução.


English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.

Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.

Collapse ▲

wooden spoon and chia seeds

I love discovering a healthy ingredient I can use to boost the nutrition of my favorite recipes and when I find one that also enhances color, flavor, and texture, that’s a huge bonus. While I have used chia seeds in the past, I am utilizing them more often now as I learn about the versatility of this mighty little seed.

Chia seeds are easy to use, easily digested, and incredibly nutritious. They are a member of the mint family and were a staple of the Aztec and Mayan diet. These tiny seeds are brown, white or gray in color and are grown in South and Central America and Australia. They have concentrated amounts of omega 3 fatty acids and significant levels of calcium, protein, iron, and fiber. Chia seeds are mild tasting and because of their tiny size they soften easily in liquid and do not need to be ground before eating.

Chia seeds are often sold in large bags and, therefore, can seem expensive. A 32-ounce bag can cost up to $8. This sounds like a high price, but when you consider this is about 70 tablespoons of chia seeds, you are only spending 11 cents per tablespoon. Contrast that with poppy seeds which are about 86 cents per tablespoon. Chia seeds also have a long shelf life of around 18 months when stored in a cool, dark location. This storage time can be extended even further by refrigerating or freezing the seeds.

I am always looking for a quick and healthy snack, especially during the busy work week. I rotate making several snack recipes such as Energy Bites, Lemon Muffins, Black Bean Brownies, and No-Bake Breakfast Bars, all of which contain chia seeds and other nutrient boosters. The Energy Bites, for example, provide omega 3 fatty acids and fiber from the chia seeds, healthy fat, and protein from the peanut butter and complex carbohydrates, and more fiber from the oats. The brownie recipe is low in sugar, contains high fiber black beans, and gets an antioxidant boost from walnuts and dark chocolate. The Lemon Muffins are a spin on a traditional poppy seed muffin. The flavor is similar, though not as sweet, since this recipe uses less sugar. The biggest difference is the chia seeds instead of poppy seeds. As already mentioned, chia seeds are more economical and have almost twice as much fiber as poppy seeds. The No-Bake Breakfast Bars are full of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and whole grains to keep you going all morning long. These recipes can be made ahead of time and individually wrapped for grab-and-go convenience. These and other recipes can be found on the Rutherford County website and my Family & Consumer Sciences Facebook and Instagram pages, rutherfordcountyFCS and CookingInRutherfordCounty, respectively. Copies can also be picked up at the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Rutherford County office, 193 Callahan Koon Road, Spindale or mailed upon request by calling 287-6010.

If you still are not sure you want to invest in purchasing a large bag of chia seeds, consider all the many ways you can use them: add to cereal, oatmeal, or granola; sprinkle on top of fruit salads, yogurt, or vegetable salads; add to batters, bread dough, or smoothies; add to flour and seasonings as a breading for chicken or fish; mix with your favorite spread – nut butter, jam, or cream cheese – for a toast topper.

Chia seeds can also be used as a substitute in recipes for cornstarch or eggs. If you are in the middle of baking and realize you do not have eggs, simply mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of hot water and let sit for 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes gelatinous. Stir and use as you would a raw egg in baking. As a substitute for cornstarch, mix 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in 1 cup water and let sit for 5-10 minutes, then stir into your recipe 1 tablespoon at a time to thicken soups or stews.

If you still aren’t convinced or you just don’t like chia seeds, not to worry. There are other nutritious ingredients you can use instead. Just like chia, pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds are considered nutrient-dense foods. This means they are healthy, whole foods that provide essential nutrients. The “nutrient density scale” is based on the amount of nutrients in proportion to the amount of calories that a food has. Leafy greens (i.e. kale, collards, spinach) and cruciferous vegetables (i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) are at the top of the scale, followed closely by berries, peppers, herbs, and beets. In fact, many fruits and vegetables, especially those that are dark in color, are nutrient dense. The deeper and richer the color, the more nutritious. Other foods high on the nutrient density scale include salmon, eggs, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, and ancient whole grains. This is not an exhaustive list of nutrient-dense foods, but it does provide a quick snapshot of the types of foods we should be including in our diets more often.

Some of the best ways to increase the nutrient density of your diet include purchasing seasonal, local produce, growing your own garden, and eating more healthy foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, berries, and all sorts of non-starchy veggies. Avoiding low nutrient-dense foods (i.e., processed foods) is also important for maximizing the nutrition of your diet.