Fit Food Spotlight: Chia Seeds

Healthy Dining dietitian, Kathleen Papandrea, talks about what chia seeds are, and how to include them in a healthy diet for fitness.

Healthy Food

By Kathleen Papandrea, RD

Chia seeds, a current superstar on the superfood circuit, come from a plant known as Salvia hispanica, which is a desert plant and a member of the mint family. Chia seeds were a staple food in the Americas during the pre-Columbian era, as they were an important part of the diet of Aztec and Mayan warriors and soldiers.

The word Chia means “strength,” and this tiny seed packs a powerful nutritional punch into a very small serving.  The seeds provide an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as an excellent source of fiber at 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons). They also contain protein and a wealth of minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. While more research is needed regarding the long-term health benefits of consuming chia seeds, emerging studies suggest that including these seeds as part of a healthy diet may help improve cardiovascular risk factors.


Having chia a few minutes before a long, intense workout can help provide extended fuel. Eating them after a workout can provide tissue repairing protein. For extra stamina, you can even use chia during other activities, such as hiking and bicycling, as these seeds are a great source of complex carbs.

Chia seeds can be found in many health food stores as well as some grocery stores. When used in cooking, chia seeds have a thickening effect and can add more substance and nutrition to a dish. They have a subtle flavor and can basically be used just like a supplement: try swirling them into a smoothie, adding them to yogurt, or sprinkling them atop oatmeal to enjoy all of their healthful benefits!

Nuts and seeds like chia seeds can be a great addition to your healthy diet, and with so many varieties, there’s something for every taste.