Until recently, mentions of the word “chia” conjured visions of clay figurines sprouting chia “hair.” But new research is uncovering potential health benefits of the ancient Aztec seed. The nutrient-dense chia is a top source of omega-3 in the form of alpha-linolenic acid or ALA (also found in walnuts and flaxseeds). ALA is a precursor of EPA and DHA, fatty acids that may promote heart health. Indeed, one recent human study found that chia consumption helped lower both blood pressure and inflammation.

Chia provides a bounty of other conventional nutrients, including a whopping 44% of daily fiber, 20% of daily calcium, 15% of iron, 25% of phosphorus and 30% of manganese — all packed into a mere 1 oz. serving size. Compared to walnuts, the same serving is lower in fat and calories.

For the ALA to be bioavailable in chia seed the seeds must be milled or ground…whole chia seeds do not allow ALA into the blood. Chia seeds are great sprinkled on top of yogurt, oatmeal, cereal or salads.

Published May 1, 2010