by Marion Nestle
Jul 17 2007

Chia Seeds

Today’s question (see Flaxseeds) is about Chia seeds: “I have heard and read that Chia seeds, (Salvia hispanica, a plant of the genus Salvia in the Mint family) are very high in omega-3s and very nutritious in several other ways. They were highly prized by the Aztecs and have been touted as a little-known “superfood”. Have you any knowledge about them or the accuracy of this?”
I consulted my standard sources for this sort of thing, Wikipedia (always a good place to start and then confirm independently) and the USDA’s authoritative data on food composition. As you suggest, Chia seeds have a good balance of omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids. But does this really make it a “superfood?” I think foods are foods. All natural, unprocessed foods have a mix of nutrients and the best approach is to eat a lot of different kinds of relatively unprocessed foods that together provide the nutrients and other components of food that promote health. Chia seeds, like flaxseeds or other kinds of seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and grains contribute good things to the diet, but it’s the overall combination of foods you eat that counts. Enjoy Chia seeds if you like them, but are they a miracle food? I wish it were that easy.