Why Chia Seeds Are Suddenly Everywhere

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chia-seedsWhat's as small as the head of a pin, but (almost) as healthy as freshly grilled fish? It sounds like a riddle, but the latest superfood to arrive is chia seeds, peppering everything from juices to granola with odd little specks of black. Eerily suspended in our favorite kombucha, they look like something from the future, but in reality it’s the same seeds we came to know so well in our youth. (Ch-ch-ch-chia!)

While nutritionists have always known about the powerful punch of these tiny black seeds, it seems the rest of the world is only just now getting in on the secret. Somehow over the last few years, chia seeds managed to leap out from the bulk bin, sprinkling themselves everywhere we look. These tiny, tasteless seeds can be added to just about anything to deliver rare omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, protein, and calcium.

“They are just super easy,” says Britanny Mullins, a holistic health coach who recommends chia seeds to, as she puts it, “pretty much anybody.” Unlike flax seeds, which need to be ground up, chia seeds don't require special treatment to unlock their nutritional superpowers. Suspend them in juice, grind them into a flour, or just sprinkle them into your yogurt; you’ll get the same nutritional boost.

Chia seeds are also popular with people trying to lose weight, though claims of chia being a fat-shedding miracle aren't true. "It’s a misconception,” says Dr. Jessica Fanzo, a nutritionist at Columbia University. (As part of a balanced diet, however, the high fiber in chia seeds can make that plain cup of yogurt or bowl of oatmeal feel more filling and satiating.)

If you haven’t yet equipped your kitchen with a sugar shaker full of chia, you’re probably getting your chia in juices, super-charged granola, and even the occasional chia pudding. If you’re buying juice and granola anyway, go for the ones with chia seeds –– but don't assume that chia alone means a food is healthful. “They're making a claim on one ingredient,” warns Dr. Lisa Young, a nutritionist at New York University, “forgetting about the the other ten ingredients.” Those may include sugars, fats, and oils — not such a good choice overall.

So, while a spoonful of chia seeds might not keep the pounds off, adding them into your diet for health is pretty much a no-brainer. As for growing your own Chia Pet, well, you're on your own. Photo: Courtesy of NavitasNaturals