Chia seed

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Color and detail of chia seeds close-up

Chia seeds are the edible seeds of Salvia hispanica, a flowering plant in the mint family (Lamiaceae) native to central and southern Mexico,[1] or of the related Salvia columbariae, Salvia polystachia, or Salvia tiliifolia. Chia seeds are oval and gray with black and white spots, having a diameter around 2 millimetres (0.08 in). The seeds are hygroscopic, absorbing up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked and developing a mucilaginous coating that gives chia-based foods and beverages a distinctive gel texture.

There is evidence that the crop was widely cultivated by the Aztecs in pre-Columbian times and was a staple food for Mesoamerican cultures. Chia seeds are cultivated on a small scale in their ancestral homeland of central Mexico and Guatemala and commercially throughout Central and South America.


Chia seed measuring 2 mm
Chia seeds

Typically, chia seeds are small flattened ovoids measuring on average 2.1 mm × 1.3 mm × 0.8 mm (0.08 in × 0.05 in × 0.03 in), with an average weight of 1.3 mg (0.020 gr) per seed.[2] They are mottle-colored with brown, gray, black, and white. The seeds are hydrophilic, absorbing up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked; they develop a mucilaginous coating that gives them a gel texture. Chia (or chian or chien) has mostly been identified as Salvia hispanica L. Other plants referred to as "chia" include "golden chia" (Salvia columbariae). The seeds of Salvia columbariae are also used for food.

Seed yield varies depending on cultivars, mode of cultivation, and growing conditions by geographic region. For example, commercial fields in Argentina and Colombia vary in yield range from 450 to 1,250 kg/ha (400 to 1,120 lb/acre).[3][4] A small-scale study with three cultivars grown in the inter-Andean valleys of Ecuador produced yields up to 2,300 kg/ha (2,100 lb/acre), indicating that favorable growing environment and cultivar interacted to produce such high yields.[20] Genotype has a larger effect on yield than on protein content, oil content, fatty acid composition, or phenolic compounds, whereas high temperature reduces oil content and degree of unsaturation, and raises protein content.[5]

Chia seeds, dried, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy486 kcal (2,030 kJ)
42.1 g
Dietary fiber34.4 g
30.7 g
Saturated3.3 g
Monounsaturated2.3 g
Polyunsaturated23.7 g
17.8 g
5.8 g
16.5 g
Vitamin A equiv.
54 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.62 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.17 mg
Niacin (B3)
8.83 mg
Folate (B9)
49 μg
Vitamin C
1.6 mg
Vitamin E
0.5 mg
631 mg
7.7 mg
335 mg
2.72 mg
860 mg
407 mg
4.6 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water5.8 g

Percentages estimated using US recommendations for adults,[6] except for potassium, which is estimated based on expert recommendation from the National Academies.[7]


Drawing from the Florentine Codex showing a S. hispanica plant[8]

S. hispanica is described and pictured in the Codex Mendoza' and the Florentine Codex, Aztec codices created between 1540 and 1585. Tribute records from the Mendoza Codex, Matrícula de Tributos, and the Matricula de Huexotzinco (1560), along with colonial cultivation reports and linguistic studies, detail the geographic location of the tributes and provide some geographic specificity to the main S. hispanica-growing regions. Most of the provinces grew the plant, except for areas of lowland coastal tropics and desert say, and it was given as an annual tribute by the people to the rulers in 21 of the 38 Aztec provincial states. The traditional area of cultivation was in a distinct area that covered parts of north-central Mexico, south to Guatemala. A second and separate area of cultivation, apparently pre-Columbian, was in southern Honduras and Nicaragua.[9]

Chia seeds served as a staple food for the Nahuatl (Aztec) cultures. It may have been as important as maize as a food crop. Jesuit chroniclers placed chia as the third-most important crop in the Aztec culture, behind only corn and beans, and ahead of amaranth. Offerings to the Aztec priesthood were often paid in chia seed.[8]

In the 21st century, chia is grown and consumed commercially in its native Mexico and Guatemala, as well as Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.[10][11][12][13] New patented varieties of chia have been developed in Kentucky for cultivation in northern latitudes of the United States.[14]


Dried chia seeds contain 6% water, 42% carbohydrates (including a high content of dietary fiber), 16% protein, and 31% fat (table). In a 100-gram (3.5 oz) reference amount, chia seeds are a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of the B vitamins thiamin and niacin (54% and 59% DV, respectively) and a moderate source of riboflavin (14% DV) and folate (12% DV). The seeds are rich in several dietary minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc (all more than 20% DV; see table).

Chia oil is highly nutritious and healthy containing a high percentage of essential fatty acids (59.9–63.2%) and low content of saturated fatty acids.[15] The fats of chia seed oil are mainly unsaturated, with linoleic acid (17–26% of total fat) and α-linolenic acid (50–57%) as the major fatty acids (see table).[16]

As food[edit]

Mexican agua fresca made using chía

Chia seeds may be added to other foods as a topping or put into smoothies, breakfast cereals, energy bars, granola bars, yogurt, tortillas, and bread.

They also may be made into a gelatin-like substance or consumed raw.[17][18] The gel from ground seeds may be used in place of eggs in cakes while providing other nutrients, and it is a common substitute in vegan and allergen-free baking.[19]

In Europe[edit]

Chia is considered a novel food in Europe because it does not have "a significant history of consumption within the European Union before 15 May 1997", according to the Advisory Committee of Novel Foods and Processes.[20] Under this rule, chia seeds may be 5% of total matter in bread products. Prepackaged chia seeds shall carry additional labelling to inform the consumer that the daily intake is no more than 15 grams per day and pure chia oil only 2 grams per day.[20]

Chia seeds sold in the EU are imported mainly from South American and Central American countries and require inspections for levels of pesticides, contaminants and microbiological criteria.[21]

Preliminary health research[edit]

Preliminary research remains sparse and inconclusive.[22] In a 2015 systematic review, most of the studies did not show an effect of chia seed consumption on cardiovascular risk factors in humans.[23]

Drug interactions[edit]

No evidence to date indicates consuming chia seeds has adverse effects on, or interacts with, prescription drugs.[22]

Chia pet[edit]

Chia pet alligator

Joe Pedott created a set of terracotta figurines called Chia Pet used to sprout chia. The first figurines were made in 1977, and they were marketed widely after 1982. During the 1980s in the United States, the first substantial wave of chia seed sales was tied to chia pets, clay figures that serve as the base for a sticky paste of chia seeds. After the figures are watered, the seeds sprout into a form suggesting a fur covering.

About 500,000 chia pets were sold in the U.S. in 2007 as novelties or house plants, to a total of 15 million as of 2019, with most sales occurring during the holiday season.[24][25]


  1. ^ "Salvia hispanica". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  2. ^ Ixtaina, Vanesa Y.; Nolasco, Susana M.; Tomás, Mabel C. (November 2008). "Physical properties of chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seeds". Industrial Crops and Products. 28 (3): 286–293. doi:10.1016/j.indcrop.2008.03.009. hdl:11336/152366. ISSN 0926-6690.
  3. ^ Coates, Wayne; Ayerza, Ricardo (1998). "Commercial production of chia in Northwestern Argentina". Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. 75 (10): 1417–1420. doi:10.1007/s11746-998-0192-7. S2CID 95974159.
  4. ^ Coates, Wayne; Ricardo Ayerza (1996). "Production potential of chia in northwestern Argentina". Industrial Crops and Products. 5 (3): 229–233. doi:10.1016/0926-6690(96)89454-4.
  5. ^ Ayerza (h), Ricardo; Wayne Coates (2009). "Influence of environment on growing period and yield, protein, oil and α-linolenic content of three chia (Salvia hispanica L.) selections". Industrial Crops and Products. 30 (2): 321–324. doi:10.1016/j.indcrop.2009.03.009. ISSN 0926-6690.
  6. ^ United States Food and Drug Administration (2024). "Daily Value on the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels". Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  7. ^ National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Food and Nutrition Board; Committee to Review the Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium (2019). Oria, Maria; Harrison, Meghan; Stallings, Virginia A. (eds.). Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. The National Academies Collection: Reports funded by National Institutes of Health. Washington, DC: National Academies Press (US). ISBN 978-0-309-48834-1. PMID 30844154.
  8. ^ a b Cahill, Joseph P. (2003). "Ethnobotany of Chia, Salvia hispanica L. (Lamiaceae)". Economic Botany. 57 (4): 604–618. doi:10.1663/0013-0001(2003)057[0604:EOCSHL]2.0.CO;2. S2CID 35611803.
  9. ^ "A second apparently pre-Columbian cultivation area is known in southern Honduras and Nicaragua."Jamboonsri, Watchareewan; Phillips, Timothy D.; Geneve, Robert L.; Cahill, Joseph P.; Hildebrand, David F. (2011). "Extending the range of an ancient crop, Salvia hispanica L.—a new ω3 source". Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 59 (2): 171–178. doi:10.1007/s10722-011-9673-x. S2CID 14751137.
  10. ^ Kintzios, Spiridon E. (2000). Sage: The Genus Salvia. CRC Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-90-5823-005-8.
  11. ^ Stephanie Strom (23 November 2012). "30 Years After Chia Pets, Seeds Hit Food Aisles". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 November 2012. Whole and ground chia seeds are being added to fruit drinks, snack foods and cereals and sold on their own to be baked into cookies and sprinkled on yogurt. ...
  12. ^ Dunn C (25 May 2015). "Is chia the next quinoa?". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  13. ^ "First British Chia". Hodmedods. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  14. ^ Cheryl Kaiser; Matt Ernst (February 2016). "Chia" (PDF). University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Center for Crop Diversification Crop Profile. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  15. ^ Sundar, Shyam; Singh, Balwinder; Kaur, Amritpal (1 October 2023). "Influence of hot-air and infra-red pretreatments on oxidative stability, physicochemical properties, phenolic and fatty acid profile of white and black chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) oil". Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 123: 105556. doi:10.1016/j.jfca.2023.105556. ISSN 0889-1575.
  16. ^ Ayerza, Ricardo (1 September 1995). "Oil content and fatty acid composition of chia (Salvia hispanica L.) from five northwestern locations in Argentina". Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. 72 (9): 1079–1081. doi:10.1007/BF02660727. ISSN 0003-021X. S2CID 84621038.
  17. ^ "Chewing Chia Packs A Super Punch". NPR. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  18. ^ Costantini, Lara; Lea Lukšič; Romina Molinari; Ivan Kreft; Giovanni Bonafaccia; Laura Manzi; Nicolò Merendino (2014). "Development of gluten-free bread using tartary buckwheat and chia flour rich in flavonoids and omega-3 fatty acids as ingredients". Food Chemistry. 165: 232–240. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.05.095. ISSN 0308-8146. PMID 25038671.
  19. ^ Borneo R, Aguirre A, León AE (2010). "Chia (Salvia hispanica L) gel can be used as egg or oil replacer in cake formulations". J Am Diet Assoc. 110 (6): 946–9. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.03.011. hdl:11336/189116. PMID 20497788.
  20. ^ a b "Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/2470 of 20 December 2017 establishing the Union list of novel foods in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 of the European Parliament and of the Council on Novel Foods". Eur-Lex. 20 December 2017. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  21. ^ "Entering the European market for chia seeds". Centre for the Promotion of Imports, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands. 18 January 2021.
  22. ^ a b Ulbricht C, et al. (2009). "Chia (Salvia hispanica): a systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration". Rev Recent Clin Trials. 4 (3): 168–74. doi:10.2174/157488709789957709. PMID 20028328.
  23. ^ de Souza Ferreira C, et al. (2015). "Effect of chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) consumption on cardiovascular risk factors in humans: a systematic review". Nutr Hosp. 32 (5): 1909–18. doi:10.3305/nh.2015.32.5.9394. PMID 26545644.
  24. ^ Owen Edwards (December 2007). "Chia pet". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  25. ^ "About Chia Pets, Joe Pedot, Joseph Enterprises, Chia Pet". 25 June 2020. Archived from the original on 25 June 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2021.

External links[edit]

Media related to Category:Chia seeds at Wikimedia Commons