Chia Seeds Protein - Nutrition, Benefits, and Trends
Derived from the desert plant Salvia Hispanica, this member of the mint family is believed to have its origin in Central America. These seeds were a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. Chia seeds are a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acid, and fiber (10 grams per ounce).[i]
The protein in chia seeds is accompanied by other essential minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. This article discusses the nutritional profile, numerous benefits, and trends of chia seeds.
What are Chia Seeds?
Often referred to as superfood or functional food, chia seeds provide many health benefits – no wonder celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Ellie Goulding , and Miranda Kerr swear by them. They are believed to lower cholesterol and improve gut health. Chia seeds also find applications as a functional ingredient.[ii]
Nutritional Content of Chia Seeds
If you're wondering what nutritional value do chia seeds have, here's the answer! If you take two tablespoons of chia seeds (1 ounce or 28 grams), it will approximately contain:
- 140 calories
- 4 grams of protein
- 11 grams of fiber
- 7 grams of unsaturated fat
- 18% RDA for calcium
- Trace minerals including zinc and copper
Carbohydrates and Fiber
Chia seeds' 80% carb content is in the form of fiber. One ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds comes with 11 grams of fiber. This is a significant portion of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for women and men (25 grams and 38 grams per day, respectively).[v]
Chia seeds have a unique advantage over other functional foods; they boast a high heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid content. Nearly 3/4th of the fats present in chia seeds consist of the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and 20% contain omega-6 fatty acids.
In fact, chia seeds work as a better source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids than flax seeds. Since the omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds are not remotely as potent as those in fish or fish oil (EPA and DHA), the ALA needs to be changed into its active forms (EPA and DHA) before your body can utilize it.[vi]
Chia seeds contain a healthy 19% protein. This is the same as other seeds but a higher amount than most cereals. Another noteworthy nutritional fact about these seeds is that they are a source of all nine essential amino acids and are considered a high-quality plant-based protein.
Chia Seeds Vitamins and Minerals Content
Chia seeds provide considerable amounts of the following minerals:
- Manganese: Whole grains and seeds contain a high amount of manganese, promoting metabolism, growth, and development.
- Phosphorus: It is usually found in protein-rich foods and improves bone health and tissue maintenance.
- Copper: This mineral is important to keep the heart healthy and is often lacking in the modern diet.
- Selenium: An important antioxidant, selenium plays an essential role in various processes in your body.
- Iron: An essential component of hemoglobin in red blood cells, iron helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Chia seeds may not be able to efficiently provide iron due to the presence of phytic acid.
- Magnesium: Magnesium plays a big part in many bodily processes.
- Calcium: The most abundant mineral in your body, calcium keeps bones, muscles, and nerves healthy.
Other Plant Compounds
Chia seeds contain a plethora of beneficial plant compounds, including:
- Chlorogenic acid: This antioxidant is believed to maintain healthy blood pressure levels already in a normal range.
- Caffeic acid: Commonly found in plant foods, it may help reduce inflammation associated with physical overexertion.
- Quercetin: A powerful antioxidant that can support heart, bone and immune health.
- Kaempferol: Often associated with immune health.
What are the Benefits of Chia Seeds?
Chia seed benefits range from improving bone and heart health to providing fiber and fatty acids that are not easily available. These seeds help:
- Increase blood levels of omega-3
- Increase fiber intake
- Maintain cholesterol levels already in a normal range
- Support heart health
- Promote digestion and detox
- Maintain bone health
- Reduce inflammation associated with physical overexertion
Are Chia Seeds a Complete Protein?
Unlike most other plant-based protein sources, chia seeds are considered a complete protein source with all nine essential amino acids. They contain an exceptionally high amount of omega-3 fatty acids that play a vital role in your body's and brain's functioning.[vii]
Chia Seeds Market Trend
Expected to reach $4.7 billion by 2025, the global chia seeds market size is expected to grow at a CAGR of 22.3%. This growth can be attributed to increasing concerns about maintaining healthy blood sugar, blood pressure and respiratory health. A new report by Grand View Research, Inc. points to the rising demand for gluten-free products.
Whole chia accounted for the largest market share of 44.14% in 2018. Chia seeds can be purchased in various forms, such as oil and milled/ground, whole, and pre-hydrated seeds.
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