Chia Seeds & Omega-3s

Chia Seeds & Omega-3s

9 minute read

Chia seeds are considered ancient grains, but they've been exploding in popularity in the 21st century. These tiny-but-mighty seeds are incredibly nutritious for their small size. They're often referred to as "superfoods” due to their impressive collection of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants per serving.chia seeds omega 3 and protein

One of the most compelling reasons people include chia seeds in their diet is because they are a good source of plant-based Omega-3s. But it begs the question: how much Omega-3 is in chia seeds? Similarly, can you really get all of your Omega-3s from chia seeds alone? In this article, we'll talk about the mighty chia seed, including a discussion on why you should probably still be supplementing your Omega-3 intake with a supplement like microalgae oil to ensure that you're meeting your body's nutrition needs.

What are chia seeds?

What are chia seeds

Chia seeds are edible seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant. Despite their tiny size, these black and/or white seeds are very nutrient-dense, making them a popular addition to a healthy diet.  

Chia seeds are versatile and can be consumed in several different ways. For example, you can sprinkle these dried seeds on top of salads or mix them into smoothies for added protein and fiber. Chia seeds can also absorb a ton of liquids, meaning that you can mix them into milk or plant milk to create a healthy pudding base. In addition, chia seeds can be planted and sprouted into microgreens, which you can then use to top off your salads and entrees. 

Finally, chia seeds are a trendy dietary staple among plant-based eaters like vegetarians and vegans. They make a great egg substitute, so many vegans like to add chia seeds to their baked goods to improve the texture and the health profile. In addition, they're a great source of protein and Omega-3s, which can sometimes be hard to come by in plant-based diets.

Nutritional facts

chia seeds nutritional facts

A single serving of chia seeds (about 1 oz)  contains the following nutrients:

  • 138 calories
  • 4.68 g of protein
  • 8.7 g total fat
  • 11.9 g total carbohydrates
  • 9.75 g of fiber 

In addition, chia seeds are also a good source of several vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, B-complex vitamins, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, selenium, and niacin.

Health benefits

Even though chia seeds are so small, they're packed with plenty of nutrients that can benefit your health.

Health benefits of chia seeds


One of the biggest reasons that chia seeds have become so popular is due to their rich source of plant-based Omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of healthy dietary fats that play essential roles throughout your entire body. For example, one of their primary tasks is to form the structure of various cells.

Omega-3s are essential because they are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.* Inflammation is your immune system's response to a foreign "invader" like bacteria that could make you sick. When this happens, your immune system launches an attack, sending blood and chemicals to the site of the injury, which neutralizes the threat.

Unfortunately, certain circumstances can cause inflammation to become chronic. Chronic inflammation is linked to some of our most pressing chronic health issues, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, and more. 

While there are several kinds of Omega-3s, three of the most commonly found are: 

  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is important for healthy brain function and development. It's also thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), another Omega-3 that is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body
  • ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is an Omega-3 found in plant-based foods. Your body can convert small amounts of ALA to DHA and EPA, which it can then use.

So what type of Omega-3 is in chia seeds? Chia seeds are great sources of ALA, making them a staple for vegans, vegetarians, and others who want to increase their Omega-3 intake. However, they do not contain either DHA or EPA, which can also be a problem (more on that in a moment).


Chia seeds are also a great source of soluble fiber. Unlike other carbohydrates, fiber is not easily processed by your digestive system. Instead, it travels through your digestive system, keeping it healthy and regular. Soluble fiber is also linked to a healthy cardiovascular system and better blood sugar management. Finally, some people also find that eating fiber is useful for weight management since it can keep you full for longer periods of time.  

A single serving of chia seeds provides almost half of your daily fiber recommendations, which can make a major difference in your health and even your weight. Researchers have found that consuming 35 grams of chia flour daily led to significant but discrete improvements in weight and waist measurements. They also saw improvements in cholesterol levels among participants who initially had abnormal levels.


Protein is an incredibly important nutrient because it forms the structure of all your cells and tissues, including your muscles. Unfortunately, some vegetarians and vegans find it hard to meet their protein needs since most complete protein sources are from animal products like meat and dairy. 

However, the good news is that most plant-based foods also contain smaller amounts of protein. Like other nuts and seeds, chia seeds are great sources of plant-based protein, with each serving containing about 5 grams.

However, like other plant-based sources, the protein found in chia seeds is considered incomplete. This means it does not have adequate amounts of amino acid that your body needs to form one whole protein molecule. Because of this, the best way to get adequate protein from plants is to include a wide variety of high-protein plant foods in your diet that can fill in the gaps.


Our bodies can become exposed to damaging molecules called free radicals from factors like pollution, poor diet, and other lifestyle factors. Unfortunately, these free radicals can damage our cells, which has been linked to inflammation and even severe chronic health concerns.

Antioxidants are compounds that are thought to help minimize some of that oxidative damage. Helpful antioxidants can be found in many plant-based foods since they contain chemicals called polyphenols that are nutritious. In this case, chia seeds are a rich source of many antioxidants, including chlorogenic acids, caffeic acids, quercetin, and kaempferol.  


Finally, many people choose to add chia seeds to their diet because it is highly satiating, which can help you lose weight when paired with the proper diet and exercise regimen. 

In addition to their filling fiber contents, chia seeds can absorb up to ten times their weight in liquid. Because of this, many people soak chia seeds in liquids like milk or almond milk before eating. The seeds absorb the liquid and form a thick, gel-like texture that can keep you full for long periods and minimize the number of calories that you eat during the day, ultimately helping with weight loss.

Can Chia seeds provide enough Omega-3s?

Can Chia seeds provide enough Omega-3s

Chia seeds contain many healthy nutrients, making them valuable to any plant-based diet. But it still begs the question: can chia seeds provide enough Omega-3s to meet your needs? Unfortunately, this usually is not the case. 

Remember, chia seeds mostly contain Omega-3s in the form of ALA or alpha-linolenic acid. The problem with this form of Omega-3 is that it needs to be converted into EPA and DHA before your body can actually use them. Unfortunately, the conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA is extremely low in humans. Researchers have found that only 5% of ALA is converted to EPA, while less than 0.5% is converted to DHA.

Ultimately, ALA is often considered an inferior Omega-3 source due to this insufficient conversion process. As a result, many vegans and vegetarians find that Omega-3 supplements are still necessary to meet their Omega-3 needs even if they eat a nutritious diet with ALA-rich foods.

A better Omega-3 alternative for plant-based eaters

A better omega-3 alternative for plant-based eaters

There are several plant-based Omega-3 supplements on the market like flaxseed oil and other food sources like walnuts and soybeans. Unfortunately, many of these options have the same general issues as chia seeds: even though they contain ample amounts of ALA, the conversion process to EPA and DHA is inefficient.

Using traditional Omega-3 supplements usually isn’t an option either. Fish oil is perhaps the most common Omega-3 supplement found throughout the world. This Omega-3 supplement is made from oils extracted from cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna. As a result, fish oil contains plenty of EPA and DHA, both of which are the Omega-3s that your body needs. Unfortunately, fish oil is not suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Fish oil is also not a good option for people with a fish allergy or those who want to limit their fish consumption.

fish getting omega-3 from algae

So the best solution for getting enough Omega-3s as a vegan or vegetarian is to use a microalgae oil! Microalgae oils are harvested from algae, which are aquatic plant organisms. Microalgae are easy to isolate and grow in facilities, which means that their production does not cause harm to natural marine environments in the same way that fish oil production can.

Most compellingly, algae oil is one of the only plant-based foods producing Omega-3s DHA and EPA instead of ALA! Microalgae are the reason that cold-water fish are such good sources of Omega-3s to begin with. Microalgae naturally produce EPA and DHA via the process of photosynthesis. Then, these Omega-3s are passed from the microalgae to the fish that eat them, like salmon and mackerel. 

Essentially, choosing a microalgae oil supplement allows you to get all of the right kinds of Omega-3s without compromising on your dietary preferences. In addition to a healthy, balanced eating pattern, adding a microalgae oil supplement to your diet can help ensure you get all of the EPA and DHA needed to function at its best.


Chia seeds are a highly nutritious food, and they are a valuable part of many healthy diets. Unfortunately, chia seeds alone aren't enough to ensure that you get all the right Omega-3s your body needs. Because of this, adding a plant-based Omega-3 supplement like microalgae oil into your diet is also a good idea since it contains both EPA and DHA rather than ALA.

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