On a global scale, plant-based and vegetarian diets are becoming more socially acceptable and widespread. To that end, lots of research has been carried out to find some plant-based superfoods loaded in nutrition to optimize intake of nutrients that may otherwise be difficult to get with a plant-based diet.
One of these superfoods is the tiny, pebble-like, oval chia seed. Read further to explore its origins as well as its nutrition score. We also assess their suitability to a keto-friendly diet, possible alternatives and then conclude by addressing some FAQs. Enjoy your reading!
Chia seeds are harvested from the chia flowers after they have dried. While considered a novel food and hailed as a superfood in the last decade or so, they were actually an important staple of the Aztec and Mayan civilizations centuries ago. They are currently predominantly produced in Latin American countries such as Mexico and Guatemala.
Serving size: 1 tablespoon (15 g) of dried chia seeds
As you can see, these seeds are very rich in macronutrients such as protein, fat and fiber and relatively low in carbohydrates. It is important to note that the fatty acid profile for these seeds is most favorable; namely, they contain a significant amount of essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 fatty acids.
Additionally, they are very rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron as well as being a rich source of B-vitamins. The good news doesn’t stop here; they are also a rich source of phytochemicals including those with antioxidant activity.
Interestingly, they were also found to contain plant sterols which have shown potential in inhibiting cholesterol absorption.
You most certainly can! High in fat and protein and rich in fiber, with just 6.3 g net carbs per tablespoon, these seeds make an excellent ingredient and additive to mix into your dishes.
The truth is, they are not usually consumed on their own. They can be used as a topping for yogurt, or to make pudding with, among other uses.
That being said, it would be expected that you would use about 1 or 2 tablespoons per meal. If we assume a tablespoon is 15 g then it would be okay to consume between 2-4 tablespoons per day. This will give you a total of 2.3 g-4.6 g of net carbs, respectively.
Do remember that the high fiber content may cause mild digestive discomfort at first, especially if you are unaccustomed to eating large quantities of fiber. However, your body should adapt if you stick to it and symptoms will subside. It is advised to eat them alongside a drink, such as a glass of water or almond milk.
It is important to note that the seeds absorb fluid and so should be soaked before eating so that they have time to expand outside your body. Otherwise, they may absorb liquid internally and form a blockage. Also be aware that this food is not suitable for people with swallowing difficulties.
We have discussed until now the commercially available dried seeds that usually come in vacuum sealed bags or tubs. To the best of my knowledge, these are the only form of chia seeds commercially available in their natural form.
Other products may have chia incorporated as a compound ingredient, but they are not a chia product per say as the seeds will only reflect a small percentage of the ingredients.
Examples of such foods are the Zego Fruit and Chia Bar. This product has chia as an ingredient yet has a net carb total of 15 g per bar. And each bar only weighs 25 g! This is to show you how different this product is from the natural and unprocessed product.
So, be prudent and always read nutrition labels.
There are many ways to incorporate these nutrient factories into your keto-compliant lifestyle.
As a start, you can sprinkle them over yogurt or blend them into a smoothie. They work great on top of avocado or cottage cheese on a homemade seed cracker, and in breads, keto-friendly of course!
You can also try making chia pudding, a rather popular choice for chia lovers.
Learn more about how to incorporate this superfood into a low-carb high-fat lifestyle.
Yes. We know that chia seeds are rich in fiber, both the soluble and insoluble forms. Studies have shown how insoluble fibers have a rapid gastric emptying time and induce bowel movements. The implication of these studies is that sources of such fiber may have a positive effect in decreasing constipation symptoms.
Remember, when eating chia seeds, it’s important to soak them first to prevent a blockage.
Indeed you may! This will modestly increase the fiber content as well as the fat and protein without having too much effect on flavor. In fact, not only can you use it as a topping, there are even recipes that incorporate chia seeds into the actual batter mixture of the keto-style bread. Feel free to explore!
Yes! Chia seeds will absorb a lot of water overnight, meaning your liquid will morph into a gel-like substance. This is essentially the methodology employed in making chia pudding.
It’s really simple! Just add a quarter cup of seeds to a bowl and fill with almond milk or some other keto-friendly liquid and leave to set in the refrigerator. In as little as 15 minutes, the mixture will turn into a pudding. This is due to the amazing properties of these seeds in that they absorb water up to 10 times their weight!
It is important not to eat the seeds dry. Soak them before eating so they can expand.
People with dysphagia or any history of swallowing difficulties should eat these with caution as they can cause problems.
Like all foods, certain people will suffer an allergic reaction to some foods. This could range from a mild rash to anaphylactic shock. As a rule of thumb, always experiment with a small amount if it is your first time, especially if you have a history of other allergies.
What we do know about chia seeds is that they are a part of the Lamiaceae family, which include herbs such as thyme, sage, and mint.