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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Trends


Chia Seeds – Superfood or Scam?


chia seedsMore than 30 years ago, the Chia Pet craze burst onto the scene as a fun, tabletop plant. Now, chia seeds are being viewed in a different way: as a popular diet choice.


“While chia is certainly a unique food with a strong nutrient profile, its claim as the next superfood may be a bit premature,” says Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition and Health Specialist with University of Missouri Extension.


Chia is an unprocessed, whole-grain food that can be absorbed by the body as seeds (unlike flaxseeds). One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, calcium, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.


Chia seeds are gluten-free and do not trigger reaction for those allergic to nuts. The mild, nutty flavor of chia seeds makes them easy to add to foods and beverages. They are most often sprinkled on cereal, sauces, vegetables, rice dishes or yogurt or mixed into drinks and baked goods. They can also be mixed with water and made into a gel.


It’s unclear how much of the ALA in chia gets converted in the human body to the heart healthy omega-3s found in cold water fatty fish. Currently there is limited evidence to show that chia seeds are heart protective.


In theory, chia seeds are supposed to expand in your belly, helping you to feel full, eat less and ultimately shed pounds. But research indicates otherwise. A study conducted by Appalachian State University showed no reduction in body weight or body fat and no improvement in traditional cardiovascular markers from 50 grams of chia per day.


Mills-Gray adds, “If you have an allergy to sesame or mustard seeds or are on high blood pressure medications or blood thinners, you should ask your health care provider before adding chia to your diet.”


For more information contact your local MU Extension Center or Susan Mills-Gray at


National Institute of Health
Tufts University, Health & Nutrition Letter, March 2013


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Last update: Tuesday, June 04, 2013