Remember the catchy Ch-ch-ch-chia chant? Well, move over chia pets. There’s a new chia in town, and it’s packing an impressive nutritional wallop in everything from nutrition bars and supplements to infant formulas and baby foods.
Why all the buzz about chia?
For starters, chia provides the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which has been shown to support cardiovascular and brain health, among other benefits. In fact, the omega-3 fatty acid found in chia is known as alpha linolenic fatty acid or ALA—an essential fatty acid that people must consume in their diets because the body cannot make it. (You may have also heard of the fatty acids EPA and DHA. The body manufactures those from ALA.)
But that’s not all. Chia also contains natural antioxidants and phytonutrients, has no cholesterol, is low in saturated fat, has no toxic or “anti-nutritional” factors, and is sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
Add that to the fact that chia seeds offer a balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, soluble and insoluble dietary fiber to support digestive health, and a source of high quality protein, and you have some pretty amazing nutritional factors.
The truth is that chia is one of the best functional foods—foods providing one or more health-promoting components—in the marketplace today. It often shares the spotlight with flax, which has similar qualities as chia.
And there's good reason why it shares the spotlight with flax. Flaxseeds are also rich sources of the essential fatty acid ALA. They contain antioxidants and offer a good source of digestion-supporting fiber, as well as magnesium. Flax, too, has grown in popularity recently, although its use dates back at least 3,000 years.
Flax is a favorite of many people, but for some vegans and vegetarians, it has been the seed of choice because it, like chia, offers a high-quality, non-animal source of omega-3 fatty acids.
But whether a person chooses chia or flax, it’s a win-win situation. Some people, however, choose both and get the benefits of this dynamic duo.