bowl of chia seeds on table

Chia – The Super Seed

Chia seeds are becoming a huge part of the health food scene. Food products such as peanut butter, granola bars, smoothies, and yogurts are products marketed with added chia seeds to gain consumer attention. Find out the ancient origins and benefits of this super seed and which products they may end up in next. 

The Ancient Origins of Chia

Chia seeds are cultivated in Mexico and Guatemala. They are a mixture of white and black seeds with a small, round appearance. Chia seeds were once a staple food for the Aztecs and Mayans. Actually, in the Mayan language, the word chia means “strength.” Chia seeds kept these groups feeling full and provided them with energy.  Among the Mayans, chia seeds were also known as a “runner’s food” because it allowed the warriors to run long distances throughout battle. 

blueberry drink with chia seeds

At first look, chia seeds have a hard appearance. However, when submersed in water, chia seeds absorb 9 times their weight! This gives chia seeds a unique gel texture. The ability of chia seeds to form a gel is useful in the food industry as a thickener. For example, chia seeds can in incorporated into soups for thickening or as egg replacers. They can also be used as fat replacers since they hydrate and give viscosity to baked products. 

7 Benefits of Chia Seeds

1. Nutrient dense

Chia seeds are packed with an assortment of nutrients.  Some of these include fiber, omega 3s, omega 6s, protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, and antioxidants. These nutrients make chia seeds a functional superfood. One tablespoon of chia seeds is 138 calories of pure health.

2. Full of fiber

Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, between 35% and 40% fiber content. Just two tablespoons of chia seeds provide 10 grams of fiber!  Fiber promotes digestion and can support heart health. Chia seeds have a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber.

3. Healthy fats

Chia seeds are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. About 60% of fats are from omega-3 fatty acids and 20 % are from omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with the potential to support heart health. Chia seeds are a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega-3 fatty acids. 

4. Protein

Chia seeds have a protein content of 15-25%. The protein in chia seeds give the feeling of satiety which can decrease food intake. In North America, about 5% of product launches with chia in the last five years have made a high or added protein claim.1

5. Minerals

Chia seeds are loaded with minerals. The most abundant minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.  All of these minerals are important in maintaining bone health.

  • Calcium is essential for growth and maintenance of the bones. Just two ounces of chia seeds gives you as much calcium as a glass of milk!  
  • Magnesium is involved in a myriad of different biochemical reactions in the body. Some of these reactions include maintenance of muscle and nerve function, supporting immune health, and bone strength.
  • Phosphorus is important for bone health and maintenance of tissues. 
  • Manganese plays a role in growth, development, and can increase metabolism.

6. Antioxidants

Chia seeds are packed with powerful antioxidants. Some antioxidants in chia sees are chlorogenic acid, quercetin, and kaempferol. The role of antioxidants involves inhibiting the destruction of free radicals in the body.  

7. Easy to use!

Chia seeds have little to no flavor so they adapt to the flavor of the food or beverages to which they are formulated. This allows chia seeds to be added to a variety of foods and beverages. It also offers food & beverage manufacturers a gluten-free, clean label nutrient boost to a variety of healthy snacking applications. 

Some easy ways to use chia seeds in your next product launch:

  • Add a crunchy gluten-free oat and chia topping to your next yogurt or plant-based yogurt alternative [For EMEA: yoghurt or plant-based yoghurt alternative] offering. The combination of textures can revitalize your standard yogurt offering to excite consumers. 
  • Formulate your next beverage with a finely milled chia seed to improve texture, taste and performance of your next plant-based fortified beverage.
  • Mix in or top your next clean label or gluten-free bakery innovation with milled chia. Either in the dough as a plant-based source of protein & fiber or gum replacement for breads, muffins or tortillas.

Glanbia Nutritionals offers a portfolio of chia solutions for a range of applications including beverages, snacks, and baking & cuisine. Our portfolio offers safe, stable, clean label, non-allergen easy-to-use solutions with all the nutritional benefits of chia. From ready-to-mix and ready-to-drink beverage applications to plant-based protein bars to gluten free dough, Glanbia’s chia solutions can help you incorporate the super seed into your next innovation. 

To learn more about our chia and other plant nutrition solutions, check out our plant solutions to learn more. 


References

1.    Mintel, Global New Product Database, February 2021