Health & Nutrition

October 11, 2010

Chia seed, an amazing source of Omega-3

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Health,Diet,Omega-3,Omega-6I first heard of the chia seed from my boyfriend. He was reading the book Born to Run and told me about the Tarahumara, a tribe in Mexico’s Copper Canyon.  According to the book, a staple of the Tarahumara diet is the chia seed.  The chia seed is partially credited with giving the Tarahumara the ability to run effortlessly.  Intrigued, he ordered a bag and suggested I try it for my next workout.

However, when the 3 lb bag arrived I first thought, “Three pounds!?!”  After the shock of what now seems like a small bag, I was surprised to read that the seeds are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and promote the right balance to Omega-6 fatty acids.  Why is this important? Our bodies cannot make them.  When the body cannot manufacture something it is referred to as essential and it must be supplied by the diet. Thus our essential fatty acids are Omega-3 and Omega-6.

These essential fatty acids are complementary, each providing something the other cannot. For instance, Omega-6s are important to brain function and normal growth and development.  Omega-3s help prevent blood clots, protect against irregular heartbeats, lower blood pressure, support our immune systems and reduce inflammation.

To complicate matters, Omega-6 and Omega-3 compete in our bodies for the same enzymes in order to be absorbed.  So when we have too much Omega-6 in our bodies, they win the competition for the enzyme and now we are deficient in our Omega-3s.

Today’s typical diet is overloaded with Omega-6 fatty acids.  We receive  Omega-6 fatty acids through nuts, corn oil, safflower oil, seeds, meats, chicken, and eggs.  Whereas, we receive Omega-3s  in oils such as flaxseed and canola, walnuts, oysters and fatty fish such as salmon.  Personally, I do not eat oysters or salmon on a regular basis.  Also, given the cost of flaxseed oil and nuts I consider those items luxury and indulge in their usage sparingly.  Is it not surprising our diets are high in Omega-6?

So how do we boost our Omega-3 intake?  Chia seed to the rescue!  This “runner’s food” is not just for runners. Two tablespoons of chia seeds provides a 3 to 1 ratio of Omega -3 to Omega-6.  It is important to note that there are no specific daily recommendations for these two fatty acids and that simply decreasing your intake of Omega-6 is discouraged. Rather, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, increasing your intake of Omega-3s to no more than 3 grams daily has been found to be most beneficial.

Observing their advice 3 grams is approximately 1.5 tablespoons of chia seeds.  So add some chia seeds to your salad, in your next batch of muffins, bread, or mix some in with your next smoothie!  I have added chia seeds to cookies and muffins to give them a little nutritional boost without altering the taste or texture.  Check back Wednesday for our chia enhanced smoothie.

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25 thoughts on “Chia seed, an amazing source of Omega-3

  1. i learned something new today! Never knew about chia seed and I’m wondering if the benefits are also in chia teas??? I have recently noticed chia is showing up in desserts these days. Would the benfits still be there when heated?

  2. Tabitha can answer this better than me, but in regards to the tea I believe you might thinking about chai tea, which comes from a different plant.

  3. This might be a dumb question, but I thought I had heard some problems with different sources of Omega-3’s. I have recently heard on the news that many food companies are advertising Omega-3’s on their packages, but they are not the important ones that everyone knows about from foods like salmon. Do you know if there is any truth to this and if so do these seeds contain the most important Omega 3’s?

    1. When you eat plant based omega-3 only .2-5% converts to EPA and 0% converts to DHA. So vegans can get into big trouble cause they are not getting hardly any EPA or DHA and this can cause mental health (especially depression) problems and many other health problems.

  4. Hi Gail, the benefits from chia seeds are still present even when used in baking which is why I like to add them to cookies.

    Hi Isaac, do you know which products have been referenced in the news? Regarding chia seeds the structure of the Omega-3 fatty acids are different from those in salmon but the quality is still the same. Our bodies will break down the chia seed Omega-3 (in small amounts) to the same two types found in salmon. I like to think of it this way, as long as I give my body adequate amounts of the essential nutrients, the building blocks it needs, then my body will make whatever it needs in whatever amounts it needs.

  5. I love chia seeds! I eat a tablespoon a day for energy. I have been doing that for about a year now. Chia seeds make my brain alert which is so important after my brain injury! I notice a difference in how I feel about 5 minutes after I take them.

  6. Hey Molly, do you mix the chia seeds with anything? The most common thing I do is soak them in water, 1 part chia seeds, 8 parts water, and add some freshly squeezed lemon juice. After a while it turns into almost a gel and I can drink it like that or add it to some type of fruit juice.

  7. Hi Tabitha,

    I dont know what products, Ill see if I can find them. I wonder if maybe they cant be broken down into the form you are referring to, so they just get excreted and are kind of useless. Ill look around.

    Chia seed gel huh? Sounds interesting…

  8. Patti, yes I’ve tried the chia shakes. Luke and I make the gel on a regular basis and I add the seeds to any breads, cookies, or muffins I bake. – Tabitha

  9. Hi Tabitha, I like to add them to my lemon water, and they also work in puddings for raw fruit pies, as they help to make it nice and thick. I put them in any type of smoothie…you just have to make sure that you do not add to many, as they can make it too thick and then you have to eat it with a spoon…but its still good. They don’t have much of a taste so they go good with any recipe..avocados, bananas, oranges, leafy greens…you name it.

  10. I’ve been looking for more information regarding the chia seed and this article is very informative. Thank you.

    1. Hi Curt,

      You should be able to find them in a health food store as well. I think they are a great alternative to anyone who does not like to eat fish and may not eat a lot of nuts due to the fat content (although it is good fat). Let us know how you like them if you decide to give them a try.

  11. Hi
    Do not buy from health food store. Some stores sell in bulk. You will get 2X more seed for the same price. In Vancouver B.C. go to Whole Foods. Don’t let anyone tell you white seeds are better than black seeds because they aren’t. Also if you read – up on the internet there are no organic chia seeds because chia seeds have no enemies to ward off. No need to buy what some stores call organic and charge more for. Read up as much as you can on the internet on chia seeds and you,ll find they are a wonder food and packed with all the right stuff. In the morning I add it to cereal and if I miss breakfast I spoon raw seeds into my mouth and chase it with lots of water. I add it to everything I put in my mouth either by spoon or on the food. Check and see the benefits of using them if you have type 2 diabetes as I do and other things they can do for you. Good luck.

  12. Earle
    Hi – I forgot to mention people are getting confused over Salba seeds ( white seeds ) and the black seeds. They are the same seeds with very little to no difference as you will find out as you investigate for yourself. It’s another gimic to charge you more money. I always buy the black in bulk.

    1. Thanks for the tips Earle! I haven’t even heard of the Salba seed before now! We’ve been adding chia seeds to our meals, too. What do you think of ordering in bulk from Amazon?

  13. Just to throw in some extra information try adding quinoa seed when eat chia. I mix 2 desertspoons of each with hot water and leave for 15 minutes and then eat. I follow this with 5 desertspoons of homemade yogurt. This provides a sulphur protien to help the body absorb and use the omega 3 and 6 properly.

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