Chia seeds (salvia hispanica) have been known for a while to be a superfood, complete with protein, fiber, and a number of important vitamins.
However, they are sometimes a difficult food to include in your everyday diet and can often sit in your kitchen for months without being used.
If you have just discovered a new recipe for chia seeds after they have sat for a while, you most likely do not need to worry as the shelf life of chia seeds is quite long.
Chia seed nutrition
One serving of chia seeds is one ounce (28 grams).
This may not seem like a lot, but this tiny spoonful of this power food contains 4.4 grams of protein and 10.6 grams of fiber for only 137 calories–the perfect diet food or supplement to a vegan diet.(1)
This does not even include all the nutrients it contains:
- -30% of your daily value of manganese, which can boost the formation of connective tissues including bone and sex hormones.
- -27% of your daily value of phosphorus, which detoxifies your body, helps to maintain bone health, and boosts your body’s metabolism.
- -18% of your daily value of calcium, which is important for the maintenance of bone health but is also integral to heart and nerve function.
- -7% of your daily value of zinc, which is necessary to maintain overall health and has been shown to prevent disease.
It is not difficult to see why chia seeds are called a superfood, as it is absolutely packed with the nutrition necessary for everyday bodily function.
According to Dr. Martinez-Cruz, chia seeds have been shown to contain high levels of antioxidants.(2)
Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals, which occur with exposure to radiation or chemicals.
They are also produced naturally by the body.
Antioxidants are linked to heart health, a reduction in cancer rates, and a reduction in the rate of infection.
Most fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, and chia seeds are not an exception. Including this powerhouse of antioxidants might prevent or manage a number of diseases.
The NIH recommends taking antioxidants through food, since consuming antioxidants in foods has also been shown to be more effective in preventing disease than taking supplements.
How Long Do Chia Seeds Last?
Chia seeds, like most dried seeds, last for a particularly long time.
If they are stored properly, chia seeds can last anywhere from 1-4 years. Due to its high omega-3 fatty acid content, the shelf life of chia seeds is slightly lower than other seeds.
However, if they are kept in an airtight container away from heat sources–or even better, in the refrigerator–they can last almost indefinitely.
It is also optimal to keep chia seeds in a dark place, as light can degrade the healthy omega-3 fatty acids in the seeds.
Chia seeds have a naturally mild and nutty taste and turn bitter when they begin to go bad. Do not continue to consume chia seeds that have begun to taste bitter.
If chias have been cooked or otherwise made into a dish, keep the dish in the refrigerator and consume within the week.
Do chia seeds promote weight loss?
One serving of chia seeds only contains 137 calories but also 4.4 grams of protein and 10.6 grams of fiber.
Both protein and fiber promote a feeling of satiety, or fullness after eating.
This can reduce cravings for sugary foods or snacks, which will naturally promote weight loss.
According to Dr. Vuksan, chia seeds in particular have been found to promote a feeling of fullness even 2 hours after consumptions.(3)
This makes chia seeds a perfect breakfast addition, promoting a sense of fullness and high levels of energy until lunchtime.
Chia seeds and bone health
Chia seeds provide one of the highest levels of calcium in a plant food with 17% of your daily recommended value in only one ounce.
Calcium is needed to build and maintain bone, which is particularly important for adolescents who are still growing.
Menopausal women, who are particularly prone to osteoporosis and other forms of bone loss, also benefit greatly from eating a diet high in calcium.
According to a study by the Washington University School of Medicine, calcium from food sources is better absorbed by the body than that of supplements.(4)
Therefore, chia seeds are the perfect way to include a “supplement” of calcium in your diet, as it is a fully natural food.
Do chia seeds protect your heart?
Chia seeds have been shown to contain 544.85mg of omega-3 fatty acids per gram of lipids in the seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids promote heart health by increasing blood levels of HDL, or good cholesterol.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, balancing the ratio of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids promotes heart health and controls blood pressure.(5) It can also reduce inflammation, which is a factor in heart attacks.
Furthermore, those with diabetes benefit greatly from increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake, since their cholesterol profiles tend to be high in triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol).
What is a chia egg?
For vegans or those who do not consume eggs for other reasons, chia seeds can serve as a replacement for an egg.
1 tbsp of chia seeds soaked for 30 minutes in 2.5 tbsp of water can be substituted for one egg in any baking recipe.
The protein and fiber content of chia seeds soaked in water function similarly to the proteins in eggs.
What are the easiest ways to add chia seeds to my diet?
Chia seeds are foreign to most American diets, and many people have trouble including them in their everyday foods.
However, there are some simple, easy, quick ways to consume chia seeds and get their benefits without trouble or inconvenience.
- Make chia pudding. Soaking chia seeds in a liquid allow them to soak up water and produce a gel matrix that is similar to pudding. This makes a great breakfast food. Just put chias in your liquid of choice with flavorings and keep it in the fridge. This can be eaten the next day as chia pudding.
- Use chia seeds to thicken sauces or gravies. Similar to the way chia seeds can form a pudding, adding some chia seeds to your normal recipes can thicken them. The fiber from chia seeds forms a matrix that thickens and liquid. This can make recipes you already eat more delicious and healthier.
- Add them to an energy bar. Soaked chia seeds can have a slimy, jelly consistency that people do not like. Adding them to an energy or granola bar can circumvent this. You will not even be able to tell that an energy bar has chia seeds, but their nutrition and benefits will be there.
Are chia seeds vegan?
Yes! Chia seeds contain no animal products at all.
They come from a plant in the mint family and is traditionally grown in Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Furthermore, they are a great plant-based source of nutrients that can be difficult to find in a vegan diet, including protein and calcium.
Are chia seeds safe?
Chia seeds are totally safe to eat as long as they are treated properly.
Always soak seeds in liquid or cook them before eating, as swallowing dry chia seeds can cause them to be lodged in the esophagus.
This is particularly dangerous for people with a history of throat problems or difficulty swallowing.
The high amount of fiber in chias could also be a potential problem for people who do not currently eat enough fiber.
Fiber can cause diarrhea, constipation, and flatulence if your body is not used to it. This should resolve with regular consumption of a high-fiber diet, however, and is not dangerous.
Allergies to chia seeds are rare but not unheard of. It is important to be vigilant any time you try a completely new food.
Because of all the benefits of chia seeds, they are definitely worth keeping around the house for everyday use, either as a supplemental food or an integral source of nutrition.
Because they are dried seeds, they last for 1-4 years without little interference, but to maintain absolutely sure that your chia seeds stay as safe and fresh as possible take a few easy steps;
- Keep your seeds in an airtight container. Oxygen can cause rancidity in chia seeds, so an airtight glass jar or plastic bag is the best way to maintain their freshness.
- Keep your chias in a cool place– the refrigerator is best. Heat degrades seeds, so keeping them cool will allow them to last longer.
- Keep your chia seeds in a dark place. Light degrades the healthy fats in seeds, so keeping them in a dark place will prevent this.
Stored properly, chia seeds will not go bad until you have consumed them all and reaped all of their many, many health benefits.
[accordion title=”References” load=”hide”](1)http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3061/2