Researchers say chia seeds are a superfood that could help fight world hunger and climate change

Researchers say chia seeds are a superfood that could help fight world hunger and climate change

Chia seeds are small and round, and come in colors such as black, brown, and white. It is a member of the mint family, and is related to rosemary and cochineal sage, among other herbs. Researchers say that apart from being of great nutritional value, it may be part of the solution to climate change and malnutrition in the world. Getty Images

Chia seeds have long been known to be a “superfood” – and new research provides even more reasons to support this assertion.


Scientists at Oregon State University recently sequenced the chia genome, as detailed in a research paper published Wednesday in Frontiers in plant science. The team was not the first to do this. But it was the first to delve into the genetics behind the crop’s nutritional properties — and put forward why chia seeds could be one of the solutions to the world’s hunger and nutrition crises, as well as climate change.

What are the health benefits of chia seeds?

Chia seeds are small and round, and come in colors such as black, brown, and white. It is a member of the mint family, and is related to rosemary and cochineal sage, among other herbs.

Like their genetic relatives, chia seeds are known to offer a wealth of nutritional benefits. They are rich in fiber and contain healthy fats and protein. What’s more, its flavor is mild, making it an easy addition to many beloved dishes such as smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, and granola bars.

But the tiny, speckled seeds offer more than just a simple nutritional boost. Among their quasi-medicinal properties — thanks to polyunsaturated fatty acids, protein and fiber, in particular — according to Oregon researchers:

  • Improve heart health and cholesterol
  • Anti-cancer properties
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Antimicrobial properties
  • Antioxidant properties

And there’s more. Additional health benefits of chia seeds, thanks to the generous helping of fiber they contain, include:

  • Improve gut health
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced risk of diabetes

The huge potential of chia

To date, researchers looking to genetically improve crops have focused primarily on grains such as rice, wheat, maize, and millet; Small grains and legumes. Oilseeds. And tuber crops. While formal education has alleviated global famine and saved millions of lives, “the hidden issue of hunger or malnutrition persists,” the study authors wrote.

This means that researchers must then turn to improving “minor” or “orphan” crops such as chia, cassava, yams, small grains and legumes. During the study, scientists were able to identify genetic markers associated with the nutritional properties of grains. Those who want to produce nutritionally improved chia seeds can use the list as a starting point for their research.

“We have reached a point where long-term food and nutrition security requires diversifying the human diet through breeding and making genetic improvements to nutrient-rich crops, or so-called ‘minor crops’ like chia,” said Sushma Naithani, an assistant professor at Harvard University. The Department of Botany and Plant Pathology said in a press release about the study.

More good news: Chia’s ability to grow on marginal lands helps mitigate the threat posed by global climate change, researchers write. They hope to bring chia farming to Oregon, where climatic conditions are similar to those in South America, where chia is primarily grown. Indeed, researchers at the University of Kentucky are leading chia development efforts in the state.

“This research opens possibilities for scientists to study chia seeds through the lens of improving human health, while continuing to advance our knowledge of all the nutritional benefits of chia,” said Pankaj Jaiswal, a professor in the Department of Nutrition at Oregon State University. botany and plant pathology said in the statement.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *