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Chia Seeds: Nutraceutical Ingredient Spotlight

Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) have gained considerable in popularity over the past several years. In fact, the global chia seed market generated approximately 66 thousand metric tons in sales in 2017.[i] That’s a lot of chia! And like flaxseeds, chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor. But unlike flax seeds, they can be eaten whole, as well as ground up into a meal or flour.

In any case, chia seeds pair nicely with both sweet and savory foods. They add crunch and texture, but little flavor. Chia seeds are even said to have been used by Mayan and Aztec cultures for their “supernatural powers”.[ii] Nowadays, chia seed consumption has hit the mainstream health and wellness markets as a verifiable “superfood.”[iii]

Supernatural powers notwithstanding, chia seeds certain offer significant nutritional content, including protein. Studies have also shown that chia seeds may offer a significant range of additional health benefits.

Nutritional Content of Chia Seeds

The three main nutritional components of chia seeds are key fatty acids, protein, and fiber.[iv]

The fatty acid content in chia seeds varies from 25% to 40%, with 60% of the total fatty acids made up of alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and 20% composed of linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid).[v] Interestingly, a paper on vegetarian diets from the working group of the Italian Society of Human Nutrition indicated that vegetarians can ensure good omega-3 fatty acid status by habitually consuming chia seeds.[vi] Research[vii] [viii] has shown that ingestion of 25 g/day of chia seed meal meaningfully increased plasma ALA and EPA levels (ALA can convert to EPA).

Fun Fact: A study[ix] was conducted to examine the effects of incorporating chia flour (10%) and olive oil into frankfurters (aka hot dogs) to improve their fat content. The results were that chia increased linolenic acid content of the frankfurters, as well as total dietary fiber and minerals (potassium, magnesium, calcium and manganese) content. Still—I wonder if the world is ready for chia seed hot dogs?

When the oil is extracted from the chia seed, what remains is a significant concentration of dietary fiber (33.9g/100g) and protein (17g/100g).[x] When chia seed extracts were analyzed, different phenolic compounds were found. These compounds are important dietary sources of natural antioxidants for protection against oxidative stress.[xi]

Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

Some of the primary health benefits of chia are related to these seeds ability to help promote weight loss, and improve satiety. This was seen in several studies including the two described below:

A double-blind randomized controlled trial[xii] was conducted to assess the effect of chia seeds on body weight and visceral fat in 77 overweight adults. The subjects were split into two groups, with both groups following a 6-month calorie-restricted diet. One group received 30 g/day of chia seeds for every 1000 calories consumed, and the other control group received 36 g/day of oat bran for every 1000 calories consumed. The results were that, at 6-months, participants using chia seeds had lost more weight than those using oat bran (4 lbs vs. 0.66 lbs, respectively), accompanied by a greater reduction in waist circumference (3.5 cm vs. 1.1 cm, respectively).

In another randomized, controlled, crossover study,[xiii] 15 healthy participants received a glucose drink alone, or supplemented with either 25 g ground chia seeds or 31.5 g flax seeds, on three separate occasions. Results were that both chia and flax helped maintain healthy blood glucose levels more so than when the glucose drink was consumed alone. When compared with flax, chia significantly reduced the desire to eat, as well as overall appetite when compared with flax.

The researchers concluded that, despite the similarities in nutritional composition, chia seeds appear to have the ability to convert glucose into a slow-release carbohydrate and affect satiety to a greater extent than flax—possibly due to the higher fiber viscosity.

Conclusion

Chia seeds are a popular superfood that contains meaningful amounts of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, protein and fiber. Research has suggested that chia seeds may help promote weight loss, as part of a reduced-calorie diet, and help improve satiety and reduce the desire to eat.

For more information on how you can formulate your next product using this popular nutraceutical ingredient, give us a call at 855-492-7388 or click to send us your request for a free price quote!

References

[i] Sales volume of chia seeds worldwide in 2017 and 2027 (in 1,000 metric tons). Statista 2018. Retrieved June 28, 2018 from https://www.statista.com/statistics/727193/global-chia-seed-sales-volume/.

[ii] Neville K. Chia Seeds: Tiny Seeds with a Rich History. Food & Nutrition. December 28, 2013. Retrieved June 28, 2018 from https://foodandnutrition.org/january-february-2014/chia-seeds-tiny-seeds-rich-history/.

[iii] Groeniger JO, van Lenthe FJ, Beenackers MA, Kampuis CBM. Does social distinction contribute to socioeconomic inequalities in diet: the case of ‘superfoods’ consumption. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017; 14: 40.

[iv] Valdivia-López MÁ, Tecante A. Chia (Salvia hispanica): A Review of Native Mexican Seed and its Nutritional and Functional Properties. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2015;75:53-75.

[v] de Souza Ferreira C, dd Sousa Fomes Lde F, da Silva GE, Rosa G. Effect of chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) consumption on cardiovascular risk factors in humans: a systematic review. Nutr Hosp. 2015 Nov 1;32(5):1909-18.

[vi] Agnoli C, Baroni L, Bertini I, Ciappellano S, Fabbri A, Papa M, Pellegrini N, Sbarbati R, Scarino ML, Siani V, Sieri S. Position paper on vegetarian diets from the working group of the Italian Society of Human Nutrition. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2017 Dec;27(12):1037-1052.

[vii] Nieman DC, Gillitt N, Jin F, Henson DA, Kennerly K, Shanely RA, Ore B, Su M, Schwartz S. Chia seed supplementation and disease risk factors in overweight women: a metabolomics investigation. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Jul;18(7):700-8.

[viii] Jin F, Nieman DC, Sha W, Xie G, Qiu Y, Jia W. Supplementation of milled chia seeds increases plasma ALA and EPA in postmenopausal women. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2012 Jun;67(2):105-10.

[ix] Pintado T, Herrero AM, Jiménez-Colmenero F, Ruiz-Capillas C. Strategies for incorporation of chia (Salvia hispanica L.) in frankfurters as a health-promoting ingredient. Meat Sci. 2016 Apr;114:75-84.

[x] de Souza Ferreira C, dd Sousa Fomes Lde F, da Silva GE, Rosa G. Effect of chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) consumption on cardiovascular risk factors in humans: a systematic review. Nutr Hosp. 2015 Nov 1;32(5):1909-18.

[xi] Oliveira-Alvesa SC, Vendramini-Costa DB, Cazarin CBB, et al. Characterization of phenolic compounds in chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seeds, fiber flour and oil. Food Chem. 2017;232:295-305.

[xii] Vuksan V, Jenkins AL, Brissette C, Choleva L, Jovanovski E, Gibbs AL, Bazinet RP, Au-Yeung F, Zurbau A, Ho HV, Duvnjak L, Sievenpiper JL, Josse RG, Hanna A. Salba-chia (Salvia hispanica L.) in the treatment of overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes: A double-blind randomized controlled trial. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2017 Feb;27(2):138-146.

[xiii] Vuksan V, Choleva L, Jovanovski E, Jenkins AL, Au-Yeung F, Dias AG, Ho HV, Zurbau A, Duvnjak L. Comparison of flax (Linum usitatissimum) and Salba-chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seeds on postprandial glycemia and satiety in healthy individuals: a randomized, controlled, crossover study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2017 Feb;71(2):234-238.

 

October 11th, 2018

About the Author:

 
Gene Bruno

Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH(AHG) - With decades of experience working along side healthcare professionals and natural product retailers, developing innovative nutraceutical formulations, and working with academic institutions, Gene has cultivated a truly unique and impressive catalog of nutraceutical knowledge and insights.