Chia: Seeds for Change

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A look at the human health potential, sustainability impact, and functional food potential of this mighty seed Chia


An Ancient Superfood for the 21st Century

The seeds of change may start small, but in the right environment, they grow mighty. That can certainly be said of the chia plant, whose minuscule seed grains nourished ancient civilizations for centuries - and has, in recent decades, experienced a revitalization as a superfood ideal for meeting the needs of modern consumers.

Most of us refer to chia as a seed, though it’s technically a grain. Regardless of how consumers categorize it, the tiny black or white orbs far surpass their seed or grain counterparts when it comes to nutrition: Chia brings together protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, and an array of minerals, all in a package no bigger than a pinhead. In fact, it’s the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids you can find in nature.

An Ancient Food with the highest Omega-3 content found in Nature: with unsuspected health benefits, Chia is an amazing sustainable source of essential nutrients.

This unique nutritional profile has made it possible for chia to sustain advanced civilizations such as the Aztecs and the Mayans. And today, a mounting body of evidence shows that the grain has the potential to aid in addressing some of our most pressing health concerns, including heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, and neurocognitive and neurodegenerative conditions. Chia’s nutritional components have also proven integral to fetal and child development, positioning it to support the health of coming generations through pre- and postnatal nutrition.

Chia, too, is a food that supports the health of the planet. Requiring few resources to thrive in its native environment, the crop supports humanity’s need for increased sustainability, reduced water usage, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions in our global food supply. It also contributes little to no waste in terms of unusable byproducts. The versatile grains can be enjoyed whole (both raw or soaked) or cold-pressed into a nutrient-dense oil, while the leftover matter can be ground in a fiber- and protein-rich flour.

Altogether, chia’s nutrition, sustainability, and versatility make it a highly appealing option for consumers and food manufacturers. Here’s a closer look at what the science has uncovered about this impressive little seed, and how chia can be utilized to support the health of people and our planet as a whole.

40% of Dietary Fiber

22% of Proteins

20% of Omega-3

6% of Omega-6 Minerals

Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium Vitamins Antioxidants



Chia’s History in a Nut (or Seed) Shell

Chia, or Salvia Hispánica L, is a native plant of the Central American sub-tropical region. A dietary staple of Aztec and Mayan societies, chia was consumed as a nourishing, high-energy grain and employed in tribal and religious ceremonies. It was so valuable, in fact, that the Aztecs used the crop as a form of currency.

Records indicate that chia sustained these advanced civilizations from as early as 3,500 B.C. The crop was banned and replaced with European food crops like wheat and barley when the Spaniards invaded South America in the 1500’s. Chia production largely lay dormant for several hundred years thereafter, until unexpectedly and enthusiastically reemerging in the late 20th century.

The banned crop …. Revived!

In the early 1990s, chia’s exceptional nutritional benefits and strong food industry potential earned it a spot in the North Western Argentina Regional Project (NWARP), a joint project of the University of Arizona and the Argentinean government aimed at identifying and producing alternative crops at industrial scale. Chia earned the heart—and trust—of a number of growers who provided the project with a formal business structure to support the seed's expansion. This cooperative eventually evolved into Benexia®, the Chilean-based world’s foremost chia ingredient specialist company.

Today, chia has leapt from a little-known alternative crop to an industrial one, with between 60,000 and 100,000 tons produced annually. It has earned recognition from scientists and nutrition experts alike as a novel food offering many of the nutritional properties currently lacking in human diets, such as omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, and a suite of potent phytochemicals.

The fact that chia is plant-based, free of gluten, zero net carbs, and high in protein has also made it popular among multiple dietary patterns, including vegan, low-carb/keto, and gluten-free diets.

That’s especially true due to the fact that chia is highly accessible, relatively affordable, and easy for consumers to use at home. At the same time, it can be incorporated into a wide range of functional foods to enhance their nutrition, improve palatability and textural performance, and strengthen a brand’s position as a supporter of sustainability.


The Health Benefits of Chia

Tiny but tremendous

Plenty of superfoods may fit this description, but none so more than chia seeds. While each individual grain is no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence, collectively, you'd be hard-pressed to find another food that packs so much goodness in a single spoonful. Chia's nutritional profile goes big on fiber, healthy fats, quality protein, and antioxidants, all of which have been shown to meet the needs of some of our most pressing health concerns.

Chia Nutrition at a Glance

What exactly makes chia so special?

When you take a look at the grain's nutritional high points, you'll quickly see what sets it apart.

A one-ounce (2 Tbsp) serving of chia seeds contains1:

140 Calories

5 g Protein

10 g Fiber

12 g Carbohydrates

9 g Fat, including 5 g ALA omega-3 fatty acids

5 g ALA omega-3 fatty acids

179 mg Calcium

2 mg Iron

95 mg Magnesium

244 mg Phosphorus

0.262 mg Copper

0.771 mg Manganese

15.6 µg Selenium


Chia seeds aren't just any source of omega-3 fatty acids. They’re the richest source of the essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found in nature with more than 60% of their total fat being ALA. They’re also an accessible and affordable option for omega-3s compared to other foods.

The Balance is Essential

Here's why omega-3s matter: balancing out the types of fat in the diet by adding omega-3s is beneficial for health. The typical Western diet includes too much saturated fat and not enough unsaturated fats (i.e., monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats). Within the polyunsaturated fats category, there is disproportionally more omega-6 polyunsaturated fats than omega-3s given the prevalence of ingredients like corn, soybean and safflower oil.

While omega-6 fatty acids are healthy, balancing out the type of fat in the diet by adding omega-3s and limiting saturated fat is beneficial for health. A diet high in omega-3-rich foods can help bring a better balance for good health. That can help the body function optimally, and in turn support cardiovascular health, immune health, reduced inflammation, neurodevelopment, and mental health.


63% plant omega-3


FATTY ACIDS FROM PLANT-SOURCE OILS FATTY ACIDS (% TOTAL FA) Oil Fatty Acids Hemp Borage Sasha Inchi Flaxseed Perilla Ahí Flower Chia Seeds PUFAS 75 56 81 73.6 75.8 78.5 82 OMEGA-3 ALA 16 0.6 48 <58 60 42 >63 GLA 4 20.4 <0.1 <0.1 <0.1 4.5 <0.1 SDA <0.01 <0.01 <0.1 <0.1 <0.1 17 <0.1 OMEGA-6 55 35 33 15.3 14.7 15 15.4 RATIO O6/O3 2.8 1.7 0.69 0.27 0.24 0.24 0.23


Fiber is a must for satiety, sustained energy, and balanced blood sugar control. But that's only the beginning. Fiber is essential for maintaining the health and integrity of the gut microbiome, exerts a cholesterol lowering effect4 , and even offers protection against some forms of cancer 5,6 . In short, staying healthy without roughage is rough!

The problem is, only one in 20 Americans meets the daily recommendation for fiber7. Eating more chia seeds is one of the easiest ways to bridge this gap, though. A single ounce (about 2 Tbsp) delivers nearly 40% of an adult's daily fiber needs 8 , and offers both soluble and insoluble types of fiber. To call it nature's fiber supplement wouldn't be inaccurate.


Analysis of total dietary fiber components

Total Dietary Fiber (TDF) Unsoluble fiber Soluble fiber

Sources: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23; J Agric Food Chem, 2010, 49: 2437; Cereal Chem, 1999, 76: 788; cereal Chem, 2000,77: 673.

60 50 40 30 20 10 0
Xia Whole Whole Brown Rice, Powder-435 LM Oats Wheat Long Grain
GLYCEMIC INDEX (GI) COMPARISON 100 70 60 58 25 Glucose White Bread Whole Grain Bread Oats (Hot Cereal) Chia Flour: Xia Powder-435 LM (Bread) 0 20 40 60 80 100

More (Plant) Protein, Please!

Nearly two thirds of consumers say they're trying to consume more protein. In fact, it's the number-one nutrient people say they want more of in their diet. And sustainable sources of plant protein, like chia seeds, are more desirable than ever, with one in four adults saying they're trying to get more protein from plants compared to a year ago10 .


Consisting of 20% protein, chia is a high-quality, plantbased source of this all-important nutrient. Protein is central to the construction of bodily tissues, is intricately involved in the immunological process, and is needed to generate antibodies, enzymes, and hormones. Unlike many other plant sources, chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids, including high amounts of glutamine, in a highly bioavailable form with no known anti-nutritive factors. It's also highly digestible, with a PDCAAS score of 0.859

High Quality Plant-based Protein


Foods like kale and berries rack up a lot of attention for their high antioxidant capacity. In fact, chia seeds deserve the same consideration. They're packed with phytochemicals including phenolic acids, tocopherols, tocotrienols, and phytosterols, and boast a total ORAC capacity between 8,000 to 11,000—very high and varies as with all crops depending on Mother Nature under optimal farming conditions— which is on par with blueberries and cranberries11. These supernutrients are known to guard cells from free radical damage and revert the cell aging process and oxidation. Altogether, that can have a protective effect against cancer, heart disease, lung disease, cognitive decline, and more12 .


Chia's mineral content towers above most other ancient grains, including quinoa, amaranth, spelt, and millet. It's rich in phosphorus and magnesium, and is a good source of copper, selenium, iron, manganese and calcium. Altogether, chia provides an easy, tasty way to fill up on essential micronutrients that aren't always easy to find elsewhere.


Animal, 10 (11), 1883-1889. doi:10.1017/S1751731116000902.

CAKE/FLOUR PDCAAS Soy 0.99 Chia Seeds 0.95 Canola 0.9 Hemp 0.84 Pea 0.78 Quinoa 0.63 Sunflower Seeds 0.54 Fax 0.48 Sesame 0.43
P., Knaus, W., & Zollitsch, W. (2016). An approuch to including protein queality when assesing the net contribution of livestock to human food supply.

Chia and Health: What The Science Says

How do chia’s impressive nutritional stats translate to human health benefits? The omega-3s, fiber, and phytochemicals in this little grain are thought to offer significant benefits in helping protect against a host of diseases.


Chia comes packaged with a wide variety of anti-inflammatory compounds that may help reduce the risk for chronic diseases where inflammation has been identified as an important risk factor. Health conditions that have been shown to be associated with increased inflammation include, but may not be limited to:

• Diabetes and metabolic disorders

• Heart disease

• High cholesterol

• High blood pressure

• Memory-related disorders including dementia

• Obesity

• Arthritis and joint pain

• Skin-related conditions like psoriasis


Much of chia's anti-inflammatory, disease-fighting activity is owed to alpha-linolenic acids (ALAs), those essential plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. The fat in chia seeds consists of more than 63% omega-3s, which far exceeds other plant-based omega-3 sources such as hemp and flaxseed. Chia also boasts a highly favorable ratio of anti-inflammatory omega-3 to pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids13 .

There’s also a suite of potent phytochemicals to consider. Together, these compounds help thwart and prevent oxidative damage by activating anti-inflammatory activity and simultaneously suppressing the production of pro-inflammatory substances15,16

Diets supplemented with ALA have been shown to lower inflammatory markers. What's more, these protective benefits can be obtained by chia seeds directly. Individuals who supplemented with 4 g of chia seeds daily for 12 weeks showed a 40% reduction in C-reactive protein, an inflammatory blood marker17. Similar reductions in C-reactive protein levels have also been demonstrated in healthy adults, suggesting that ALA and chia may exert a preventive anti-inflammatory effect18

"Chia is an excellent food because of its unique matrix of nutrients and antioxidants that benefit health and nutrition. We know today that the Western diet is deficient in dietary fiber, and we could benefit from more omega-3 ALA. Chia is an excellent source of both plus a host of other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Together, these nutrients support the immune system, cardiovascular health, metabolic conditions, liver health and more."


How Chia Stacks Up

Just how nutrient-dense are chia seeds? Here's an ounce-by-ounce comparison to some other popular superfoods14 .

1,400% more magnesium than broccoli

800% more phosphorus than whole milk

700% more omega-3s than salmon

500% more protein than kidney beans

500% more calcium than milk

300% more selenium than flaxseed

200% more iron than spinach

100% more fiber than bran flakes

100% more potassium than bananas

More folate than asparagus

More antioxidants than blueberries

More lignans than flaxseeds

Worth noting is the fact that consumption of ALAenriched sources of omega-3 fatty acids can directly and significantly increase circulating levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)19, the omega-3 fatty acids that have historically received more attention for heart and brain health. In other words, consumers don't necessarily need to turn to seafood sources of omega-3s such as salmon or fish oil capsules. EPA and DHA can be effectively converted from plantbased ALA omega-3 sources such as chia.

Chia's fiber, specifically its soluble fiber (also called mucilage), plays a key role as well. Soluble fiber is a prebiotic that serves as food for probiotic ("good") bacteria in the GI tract. This essential nourishment helps maintain the balance of good and bad bacteria, in turn protecting the integrity of the gut lining and supporting a healthy immune system to keep body-wide inflammation low20. A balanced microbiome also supports adequate communication between the gut and the brain to ensure proper hormone and nerve function21, which may offer further protection against disease.

Chia's high fiber content, too, offers demonstrable effects against inflammatory diseases such as type 2 diabetes. In a recent analysis, chia seed consumption was found to significantly reduce fasting blood sugar levels, total cholesterol, and waist circumference while increasing adiponectin. These findings lead the authors to conclude that chia has potential to improve diabetes risk factors and even serve as an adjunct treatment for type 2 diabetes 22 .



IN FIBER 23 FOOD FIBER CONTENT ( g/100g) 2 Tbsp (25g) Chia Seeds 35 g 9 g Flaxseed 27.3 g 6.8 g Oat Bran 15.4 g 3.8 g Sesame Seed 11.6 g 2.9 g Sunflower Seed 11.1 g 2.7 g Buckwheat 10 g 2.5 g Quinoa 7 g 1.7 g Amaranth 6.7 g 1.6 g
of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019.

As if that wasn't enough, let's not forget chia's copious antioxidant compounds. The seed's potent phytochemicals are tied to decreases in reactive oxygen species and reducing inflammatory processes that may slow or thwart the development of disease. Chia's isoflavones, in particular, have also demonstrated anticarcinogenic properties 24


Eating chia seeds can raise blood levels of ALA by this much, research shows. Chia consumption also boosts blood levels of EPA omega-3s by up to 39% 25 .


Fat is no longer the enemy when it comes to heart health. Higher intake of ALA omega-3 fatty acids found in chia, specifically, may reduce heart disease risk factors and have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease death26 Consumption of ALAs also reduces the risk of ventricular arrhythmias by more than 25% 27 .


Heart health is multifactorial, and indeed, ALA serves to protect the heart through a number of channels. It supports healthy cholesterol by reducing levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, while decreasing the growth rate of artery-clogging plaque28 In fact, adults who consumed 4 g chia seeds daily for 2.5 months saw an 18% decline in LDL cholesterol and a 17% decline in triglycerides 29

Consuming of ALA-rich foods also reduces hypertension risk by encouraging healthier blood vessel function and exerting a blood pressure-lowering effect. For instance, adults with high blood pressure who consumed 35 g of chia flour daily for 12 weeks experienced an average 10-point drop in blood pressure30

ALA consumption, too, yields lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein, which is linked to lower incidence of heart attack and stroke31,32,33 . These benefits have been demonstrated in both healthy populations 34 as well as populations at higher risk for heart disease, including those with type 2 diabetes. 33


It's fair to say that fatty acids such as omega-3 ALAs support the brain's ability to fire at maximum capacity. ALA omega-3s are a key component of the brain's cell membranes, allowing them to remain nimble and flexible 35 . This increased neuroplasticity supports optimal neurotransmitter signaling, resulting in more effective chemical communication between the brain's neurons 36


The effects of this optimized brain functioning are potentially far-reaching. Animal studies suggest that consuming ALA can increase brain levels of DHA, which may reverse memory impairment for those with Alzheimer's disease37. ALA may also exert protective effects during seizures by reducing neuron loss during an episodic event 38 . Limited research has shown, too, that treatment with ALA after traumatic spinal cord injury may reduce cell death, in turn reducing the potential effects of central nervous system injuries 39

Psychiatric disorders may benefit from increased ALA consumption as well. Both attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression are associated with decreased levels of omega-3 fatty acids 40. Though more research is needed to understand the connection between psychiatric disorders and ALA, these findings suggest that omega-3 supplementation could play a valuable role in mental health.


Chia and Low Carb or Keto: An Ideal Match

Low-carb and ketogenic diets have grown increasingly popular in recent years, and the trend shows no sign of abating: Global values of the ketogenic diet market are expected to rise to $15.6 billion by 202748 . But developing low-carb baked good products that score high on taste and performance remains a challenge. One ingredient poised to solve this problem is our concentrated chia fiber, called Xia Powder 435 LM, which is both naturally high in fiber and contains quality chia protein. Containing zero net carbs, the high-fiber flour boasts thickening and emulsifying properties that can improve the flavor, texture, and crumb of ketogenic baked goods, helping them taste more like the traditional options consumers are accustomed to. From pancakes and waffles, breads and buns, donuts and muffins, to cookies and cakes, chia flour's unique composition can be utilized to achieve conventional flavors and textures - without the carbs. In short, it offers a way for low-carb consumers to, quite literally, have their cake and eat it too.


Omega-3 fatty acids have long been known to play a key role in brain and eye development and function, both in utero and in early childhood. These essential fats are constituents of the phospholipids in cell membranes, and concentrations of omega-3s in the brain and retina are particularly high, at 40% and 60% respectively41.

Concentations of Omega-3: 40% 60% in brain in retina

Omega-3s are transferred to the fetus during pregnancy via the placenta, and through breast milk for as long as a mother chooses to nurse. During both stages, omega-3s accumulate in the fetal and infant brain and retina at the expense of the mother. During pregnancy and throughout breastfeeding, mothers can consume adequate amounts of dietary omega-3s to ensure a steady fetal/infant supply of omega-3s without depleting their own vital stores 42 Historically, much of the focus had been specifically on marine-based omega-3 sources such as DHA and EPA. Now, we know that a healthy pregnancy needn't necessarily hinge on fish or fish oil consumption alone. ALA sources of omega-3s such as chia can also support brain development during the prenatal period, and in fact, it's recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women consume both DHA and ALA omega-3s. What's more, as a precursor to DHA 43 , ALA omega-3 intake can actually drive up levels of DHA and EPA. Research shows that chia oil consumption during pregnancy and breastfeeding increases the content of ALA (76%) and EPA (57%) in erythrocyte phospholipids and the content of ALA (60%) and DHA (50%) in breast milk44 .


Ensuring an adequate supply of ALA and DHA omega-3s isn't just important for the developing fetus, and later, the growing infant. Crucially, omega-3s may offer protection against postpartum depression. A recent trial found that women who take 5 g of omega-3s daily at the end of pregnancy and at the onset of breastfeeding have a greater chance of alleviating some of the symptoms related postpartum depression 45,46

Culture Check

As a vegan food that's high in protein and low in carbs, chia is poised to serve multiple food and health communities popular today.

The plant-based food retail market value was $7.4 billion in 2021, compared to $6.9 billion in 2020. Growth was three times faster than total food sales in 202147.

Chia is a naturally gluten-free grain whose flour can be utilized to add fiber, protein, and structure to gluten-free breads, tortillas, pizza doughs, baked goods like muffins and cookies, and more.

With less than 1 gram of net carbohydrates per 2-tablespoon serving, chia seeds are low-carb source of fiber and protein that fits the bill for trendy keto diets.


A Highly Sustainable Food Source

Chia is, by its very nature, a highly sustainable crop. Grown in its native South America, where it evolved to thrive—it’s the right plant for the right place—and can be grown with minimal additional resources. Benexia, a fully integrated company specializing in the production, processing, and commercialization of chia and chia-based ingredients, has built on these inherent qualities to yield an eco-friendly farming production process that gives back the local environment, local communities, and the planet at large. Ultimately, chia is a food people can feel good about.


From planting to harvesting, Benexia practices regenerative agriculture to achieve lower carbon and water footprints. These practices are incorporated by the brand's farming partners in Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay.

It starts with sustaining and facilitating 30 to 40 meter-wide natural barriers between chia fields. These barriers, consisting of a biodiverse network of native forest, allow chia plants to grow and thrive while supporting the wellbeing and reproduction of the local flora and fauna - from the kapok or silk-cotton tree and the Brazilian fern tree to the brown capuchin, the collared anteater, and the scarlet-headed blackbird. Once the chia seeds are planted, it's up to Mother Nature to turn on the water works: Benexia's farms rely solely on rainfall as a watering source, foregoing additional irrigation inputs and preserving the region's natural water reserves. This, of course, is made possible by the fact that chia has evolved to thrive in Benexia's hyperlocal growing regions. When you put a plant in the right climate, it doesn't need much beyond simple human stewardship to thrive.

No-till practices are employed when it's time for the chia to be harvested. Foregoing tilling preserves organic matter, allowing the soil to retain more nutrients, reduce CO2 emissions, limits soil erosion, and preserves insect life. It also helps the soil hold onto more moisture, creating additional humidity for future crops to flourish.

It's important to note that this no-till policy doesn't just support the environment. It yields a highly nutritious product that food manufacturers can rely on. Chia's nutrient composition (and indeed, the nutrient composition of all plant foods) is dependent on the health of the soil in which it’s grown. Foregoing tilling allows for the harvest of chia seeds with the highest omega-3 and antioxidant capacity, while ensuring greater nutritional consistency as well as product stability and shelf life. This, in turn, translates to a higher-quality product overall with better flavor.


the level of purity of chia seeds grown, cleaned and processed by Benexia

After a couple years of carefully monitored harvests, chia fields are left to rest crop-free for 1-2 years during which grasses are planted and animals can graze. Once the land has been fully replenished and the soil’s inherent nutrient composition is again optimal, a new crop is planted. These crop rotation practices support healthier soil, which in turn yields greater crop resilience as well as more reliable local economic activity.



Fresh from the field, Benexia's newly-harvested chia seeds are processed without the use of gas or water. Seeds are cleaned and separated using physical processes such as airflow and density-based separation methods, yielding a final seed product that's 99.95% pure.

From there, all parts of the seeds are used to ensure that nothing is lost - and no resources are wasted. After the seeds are cleaned, they are pasteurized with a specialized, organically certified process that uses no solvents, chemicals, or water, while the omega-3 rich chia oil is extracted from the seeds via a single cold pressing to retain maximum nutrition capacity. The oil is cleaned and purified through a filter, that, again, requires no chemicals or solvents.

Once the oil is extracted from the seeds, the leftover fibrous matter is dried and milled to separate the fiber from the protein. The powdered chia fiber and protein, now a fine flour, can be incorporated into baked goods, pizza crusts, breads, and more, as a source of zero-waste, functional nutrition.


Considering Benexia's commitment to the planet, it may come as no surprise that, since its founding in 2005, the company is equally dedicated to supporting the welfare of its local communities. Benexia is aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals and is on track to complete its B Corporation certification by 2023.

As a vertically integrated company, 50% of Benexia's partner shareholders are chia seed farmers. This guarantees fair pricing and technical support within the company's supply chain as well as full traceability of their ingredients.

Seeds of Potential: Present and Future Applications

Chia's versatility as a whole seed, oil, and flour unlocks vast potential for healthier, more satisfying, and more sustainable eating at home. It also provides manufacturers with opportunities to offer a broad array of food products made with chia ingredients that are delicious, nutritious, and optimized to meet a range of health needs.


Chia seeds are widely available at most large grocery stores as well as online - so they're easy for shoppers to find. They're also highly affordable, especially when compared to many other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as seafood. And when stored properly (in a dry, cool place), chia seeds also boast a long shelf life.

Most important, though, is the fact that they're simple for consumers to use in meals and snacks. They're an easy way to add protein, fiber and healthy fats to smoothies and can be soaked overnight to make satisfying breakfast puddings. Thanks to their binding ability, they're highly effective at replacing eggs or fat in baked goods. Their thickening power even aids in making fruit compotes and jams without the need for much added sugar.

Chia seeds absorb up to 12 times their weight in water. This allows them to add a moist and consistent texture to any recipe or application.

Home cooks can utilize chia oil at home, too. This highly nutritious, unrefined oil offers benefits in its own right, including a rich phytochemical profile. It can be used raw in smoothies, or as a stand-in for olive oil in salad dressings, grain salads, and pestos. The oil's surprisingly high smoke point - 420˚F / 214˚C, which exceeds common cooking fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and butter49 - lends itself as a healthier option for high heat cooking methods including stir-frying, sautéing, roasting, and baking.


Chia as Functional Food Ingredients

Chia seeds can be pressed into a highly nutritious oil or pulverized to make similarly potent flours. (A fiberrich flour for baking, called Xia Powder 435 LM, or a protein-rich flour for beverages, called Xia Powder 125 LM.) All of these ingredients boast high functionality and versatility, making them useful tools for functional food manufacturers to create products that meet the flavor and nutrition needs of health-minded consumers while delivering on palatability and stability.

Chia Oil

Cold-pressed from fresh, high quality, low-moisture chia seeds, chia oil is a pure, unrefined oil made without chemical solvents or diluents. Benexia's careful processing preserves chia's liposoluble nutrients and bioactive components, resulting in an oil with the highest concentration of essential omega-3 fatty acids among plant-based cooking oils.

Chia in the Dietitian’s Toolkit

Registered dietitians and health professionals play an important role in making consumers omega-3 literate - and highlighting the value of rich omega-3 sources such as chia. Though public knowledge of the benefits of omega-3s continues to grow, many individuals remain unaware of how achieving a healthy omega-6:omega-3 balance can impact their health, and more importantly, how a simple food like chia can help make that happen. Benexia is committed to serving health professionals and providing them with sciencebacked information to spread this important word, by providing materials such as:

• The latest research insights

• Consumer friendly cooking and shopping tips

• Easy, delicious recipes

• Continuing education related to chia seeds, plant-based eating, cardiovascular health, ALA omega-3s, and more

With 63% of chia oil’s total fat consisting of omega-3 ALAs, just one teaspoon provides twice the recommended daily ALA intake, qualifying as an “excellent source.”

For comparison, avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil contain less than 1% omega-3 ALAs, while canola oil contains around 9%.

Chia oil naturally possesses more omega-3s than any other oil, with higher oxidative stability and decreased rancidity, thanks to phytochemical compounds such as polyphenols (such as caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid), tocopherols (vitamin E), and phytosterols. Independent, third-party tests show that this remains true even after several heat treatments (such as sautéing or baking), making it a highly stable cooking option that isn't prone to damage or denaturing. As mentioned previously, chia oil has a smoke


Seed Oils: Are They Really So Bad?

Seed oils are in the spotlight, and some of the attention hasn’t been flattering. Recently, health-minded social media influencers have taken to suggesting that seed oils as a whole are dietary taboos. The argument? That oils like canola, soybean, corn, and sunflower are ultra-refined, prone to denaturation at high heat, and have a high omega 6-to-omega-3 ratio, which can increase levels of inflammation in the body. 3

Since chia oil is also derived from a seed, it’s natural to wonder whether it, too, might fall into this category, or whether in fact there’s much more to the story and related to our health.

The truth is that refined seed oils such as canola, soybean, corn, and sunflower may develop harmful by-products when they are reheated to high temperatures repeatedly such as in commercial fryers. However, a number of quality studies have shown that omega-6 polyunsaturated fats in general are an important component of heart health. 50, 51 On the other hand, while there’s no question we are eating far higher levels of omega-6s in the diet than necessary, the omega-6s are very often found in ultra-processed foods, which we know has a number of factors that may contribute to poor health, beyond oil-based ingredients, when consumed in high amounts. 52, 53

What we do know: Chia oil is unique among plant-based cooking oils because it has the highest concentration of omega-3 ALA, whereas most other cooking oils have higher percentages of monounsaturated fats and/or omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, and yet it also stays stable at cooking temperatures.

And chia oil is a seed oil that contributes on many levels to balancing this story and misperception about seed oils altogether. Chia oil is cold-pressed and unrefined, and is produced entirely without solvents and diluents. This process safeguards the oil’s nutritional characteristics and stability at high temperatures - up to 420 °F, as verified by independent laboratory tests. It also means, and has been shown, that the oil retains its anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids - in fact, 63% of the total fat in chia oil is omega-3s, with 3 grams of omega-3s (considered an excellent dietary source) in a single teaspoon. Despite the surrounding controversy, it’s one seed oil consumers can feel good about saying yes to.


The Science on Smoke Points

A fat’s smoke or burning point is the temperature at which an oil or solid fat starts to produce visible, bluish-gray smoke and an unpleasant odor. Oils heated above their smoke point undergo oxidation and chemical breakdown, forming compounds that may increase health risks to humans.

At 420 °F, chia oil’s smoke point is naturally higher than many other common cooking oils, making it a good fit for medium-high heat applications—and high enough for the majority of cooking and baking approaches.

point of 420 °F (214º C), which is significantly higher than commonly utilized cooking oils such as olive, sunflower, or coconut.

Utilizing chia oil in food products such as dips, salad dressings, soups, rice, sautés, sauces, smoothies, fruit and vegetable compote ‘pouches’ formulated for infants and toddlers and adult snacking, and baked goods provides a built-in opportunity to dramatically increase a product’s ALA omega-3s and overall health benefits. The mild, nutty taste works well in a variety of flavor profiles too. Simply by adding more products made with chia oil, consumers have an easy, delicious way to balance the types of fat in their diets.

Chia Fiber Flour

A byproduct of the chia oil production process, chia flour has high potential as an ingredient for food manufacturers while diverting highly nutritious food matter away from landfills. Made from pure, pulverized and chia seeds, Benexia’s chia flour is produced through a low-temperature, micro-milling system process that standardizes the ingredient without the need for additives, processing aid ingredients, solvents, or enzymes for a clean, pure ingredient. The result is a functional, alternative flour that's ideal for the clean snack and baking category.

From a nutrition perspective, chia fiber flour consists of 56% fiber and 25% protein and is an excellent source of omega-3 fats.

And since it’s milled from pure white and/or black chia seeds, it yields a pale, golden-colored flour that won’t negatively impact the appearance of baked products with a traditional ‘whole grain’ color. These attributes make it a wholesome and visually acceptable choice that can stand in partially or fully for wheat flour in a variety of betterfor-you baked applications including: bread, tortillas, pizza dough, cookies, muffins, brownies, cakes, waffles, pancakes, crepes, bagels, flatbreads, pie crusts, and more.

FAT SMOKE POINT Grapeseed Oil 510 °F 268 °C Avocado Oil 480 °F 250 °C Refined Soybean Oil 450 °F 234 °C Palm Oil 433 °F 223 °C Chia Oil 420 °F 214 °C Refined Sunflower Oil 408 °F 209 °C
Virgin Olive Oil 400 °F 207 °C
Oil 381 °F 194 °C Virgin Olive Oil 340 °F 175 °C

In addition to delivering added nutrition, chia fiber is highly functional - it can make healthy baked goods taste better and last longer.

With a high viscosity, the flour can be used to replace eggs, gums and thickeners (such as xanthan gum and guar gum), and oils. Its impressive absorption rate (up to 20 its own weight) means that the flour can also be utilized to help baked goods retain moisture, maintain shelf life, and achieve a more palatable texture and crumb. Benexia has pioneered the development of bakery applications with the use of chia fiber. Collaborating with industry baking partners, these partners have paved the way for innovation in the field of keto- and low carb-friendly baked goods such as cookies, muffins, breads, and more.

Important to point out, too, is the fact that chia flour is naturally gluten-free. This makes it an appealing alternative to lower-nutrition ingredients often found in the gluten-free sphere, such as white rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch. Not only does it deliver added nutrition, it performs on key functions such as binding, emulsifying, and raising. In fact, replacing 10% of any starch source in the bakery with chia flour provides an additional 3.2 g fiber, 1.3 g of protein, and 300 mg omega-3s without a reduction in baking functionality.

Protein in Chia Fiber Flour

Chia Fiber contains more than 20% high-quality protein. Here’s how the ingredient stacks up against other high-protein plant flours 54

Indeed, chia fiber contains <1 g net carbs, making it a shoe-in potential in the ketogenic/low-carb baking space.

Removing key baked good ingredients such as wheat flour, sugar, or starches doesn’t just pose flavor challenges, it can also have a significant effect on texture. Chia flour is a keto-friendly flour that can solve these problems. Its thickening and emulsifying properties enhance the texture and crumb of low-carb baked goods without the need for traditional flours or added sweeteners.

FLOUR PDCAAS Soy 0.99 Chia 0.85 Canola 0.91 Hemp 0.84 Pea 0.78 Quinoa 0.63 Sunflower 0.54 Flax 0.48 Sesame 0.43

Chia Protein Powder

Chia protein is a functional powder designed to be used for liquid beverages, such as protein drinks or shakes. What makes it unique is the fact that, unlike many other powdered proteins, chia protein is also a rich source of fiber.

Like chia fiber flour, chia protein is a byproduct of the chia oil manufacturing process. Once the chia seeds have been expeller-pressed to remove the omega-3-rich oil, the remaining particles are defatted and separated by size. The larger particles are used to make chia fiber (which also contains lesser amounts of protein); the smaller particles are used to make chia protein (which also contains lesser amounts of fiber).

A multifunctional, high-protein micro-milled chia powder, Benexia's Xia Powder-125 W LM is a high-quality vegan protein that is easily dispersible, low in saturated fat, and free of solvents and additives.

Unlike many plant-based protein options, chia protein is a complete protein, with a PDCAAS score of 0.95, similar to soy protein which is often considered the benchmark complete protein among plant sources. It contains all essential amino acids, including significant levels of glutamine and branched chain amino acids such as leucine, valine, and isoleucine. With high digestibility and bioavailability, chia protein powder an ideal plant-based alternative to conventional protein options such as whey and egg.

As a whole food protein concentrate derived from high-quality chia seeds, it's important to note that Xia Powder comes with added nutritional benefits rarely found in other protein powders: Xia Powder-125 consists of 20% dietary fiber (in the form of soluble and insoluble fibers) and 6% omega-3 fatty acids. To top it all off, it's highly palatable: The flavor is mild and nutty while the texture is smooth and grit-free, making it an acceptable alternative to consumers who may be used to more conventional powders such as whey protein.


The Future of Chia: Looking Ahead

The consumer demand for plant-based foods and food products that are both sustainable and nutrient-dense will continue to grow in the years and decades to come. So too will public awareness on the benefits of consuming high-quality proteins, more fiber, and achieving a healthier balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. As a growing number of shoppers seek out foods with these qualities, they’ll increasingly look to chia (and products made with it) as a go-to that’s accessible, affordable, and highly versatile.

And while nutrition is key for health-minded consumers, it’s not enough to stand on alone. Today, savvy shoppers demand high-quality, clean-label products with a demonstrable track record for doing good. Ultimately, food products that fall into the better-for-you category demand a robust sustainability platform to even be considered viable.


Environmentally-friendly, low-resource production methods. Loads of functional applications that eschew food waste. This ancient supergrain, in short, is a food that can support a healthier future - for both people and the planet. With its science-backed benefits, it’s up to manufacturers, nutrition professionals, and early adopters to educate consumers about this small-but-mighty seed.



CHIA SEED CHIA OIL CHIA FIBER CHIA PROTEIN Serving Size 2 Tbsp 100 g 1 tsp 100 ml 2 Tbsp 100 g 2 Tbsp 100 g Gram Weight or Volume 25 g 100 g 5 ml 100 ml 20 g 100 g 26 g 100 g Calories 93.75 375 45 900 36.2 181 80.6 310 Total Fat g 7.9 31.6 5 100 1.82 9.1 3.952 15.2 Sat Fat g 0.85 3.4 0.5 10.8 0.22 1.1 0.494 1.9 Omega-3 mg 5000 19900 3000 63000 1100 5500 2392 9200 Carbohydrate g 8.575 34.3 0 0 11.36 56.8 7.41 28.5 Fiber g 8.55 34.2 0 0 11.34 56.7 7.384 28.4 Available Carbs g 0.025 0.1 0 0 0.02 0.1 0.026 0.1 Sodium mg 0.1 0.4 0 0 0.56 2.8 1.326 5.1 Cholesterol mg 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Protein g 5.625 22.5 0 0 4.94 24.7 11.232 43.2 Calcium mg 130 520 0 0 178 890 218.4 840 Iron mg 1.7 6.8 0 0 5.6 28 7.28 28 Magnesium mg 100 400 0 0 82 410 166.4 640 Phosporus mg 197.5 790 0 0 186 930 390 1,500 Potassium mg 182.5 730 0 0 166 830 312 1,200 Zinc mg 1.25 5 0 0 1.08 5.4 2.34 9



Wendy Bazilian

Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RDN is a doctor of public health, registered dietitian and American College of Sports Medicine-Certified Exercise Physiologist. An award-winning journalist and author of several books, Dr. Bazilian is an expert nutrition strategy and communications consultant to the spa industry, to start-up and established food and commodity groups, and to the healthcare industry; and frequent nutrition and wellness keynote presenter. @bazilians

Carolina Chica

Carolina Chica, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist with over 20 years of experience in functional ingredients, fats and oils in human nutrition, and is a leader in research and development projects on functional food and nutritional supplements and their effects on human health. In the clinical arena, she works with non-transmissible chronic diseases, and as part of integrated interdisciplinary work teams to develop a program of intervention and nutritional and dietary education.

Marygrace Taylor

Marygrace Taylor is an award-winning health and wellness writer based in Philadelphia, where she lives with her husband and son. Visit her at

Please note that the following information is intended for business-to-business use and should not be interpreted as scientific or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations.

For labeling or advertising purposes aimed at end consumers, it is essential to take into account the specific regulatory information relevant to the country or region in question.

Benexia ® holds no responsibility for any damages that may arise from relying on or using the information provided in this document. Additionally, the content of this document is subject to change without prior notice.



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