Getting By

Been wondering what the chia seed craze is about? Who remembers the catchy tune – “cha, cha, cha, chia”? These are indeed the same seeds that grew into the green “fur” of the popular Chia Pets and other characters. Now, chia seeds have gained a new attention related to our diets. They can be a healthy addition to foods we eat. But why?

Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica L. which is a member of the mint family. They are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids*. In addition, chia seeds are high in fiber, protein, calcium and phosphorus. Chia seeds are considered a complete protein because they contain all nine essential amino acids. The breakdown of two tablespoons of chia seeds includes approximately 140 calories, 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, 7 grams of unsaturated fat (beneficial fat), 18% daily allowance for calcium and some trace minerals including zinc and copper.

*A diet containing a variety of omega-3 rich foods has been shown through studies to have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health such as lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides. The fiber found in chia seeds is soluble fiber, which may help to lower LDL cholesterol and slow down digestion, creating a feeling of fullness and preventing blood sugar spikes after eating a meal. While there is not extensive research about the specific benefit of chia seeds on cardiovascular risk factors in humans, again, incorporating chia seeds with other healthy food choices along with healthy lifestyle behaviors can lower your risk of many illnesses and medical conditions.

There are some cautions necessary to mention. Be sure to eat chia seeds that have already been soaked in liquid or serve them with moist food. Consuming dry chia seeds may cause them to swell internally and cause blockage. Individuals who have difficulty swallowing or other digestive issues should be aware of this if eating chia seeds. Chia seed sprouts are also edible but great care is needed in growing sprouts for safe consumption. The ideal conditions of warm temperatures and high moisture for sprouts to grow are also the ideal conditions for the growth of harmful bacteria.

Chia seeds come in black and white varieties and absorb water quickly, up to 10 times their weight in liquid. They can be eaten whole because their surface breaks apart easily with moisture. Because chia seeds have little flavor, they are can be added to many different foods to boost nutritional value without altering the taste. Add chia seeds to soups, stews, breakfast items, salad dressings and other sauces and baked goods. Chia seeds last for 4-5 years without refrigeration if stored in a cool, dry spot.

Sources: Harvard School of Public Health,

Additional information is available by contacting Janell at the Chouteau County Extension Office at 622-3036, or in the Chouteau County Courthouse at 1308 Franklin St in Fort Benton.

Follow us on Facebook @ChouteauCountyExtension to keep up to date on what is happening in Chouteau County Extension and 4-H.

Montana State University, US Department of Agriculture and Montana Counties Cooperating. MSU Extension is an equal opportunity/affirmative action provider of educational outreach.

Rendered 06/11/2024 04:52