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Chia Seeds: A Healthy Source of Protein?

Protein in Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are rich in protein, a macronutrient that has several important functions in the body. However, chia seeds are not a complete protein as they do not contain enough of the essential amino acids threonine, lysine and leucine. The good news is that with some smart food combining techniques, you can create healthy chia-containing meals that are full of high-quality protein. Read on to learn more about the protein content of chia seeds – and how to make sure your chia-containing meals provide all essential amino acids.

Why You Need Protein

Protein is an important macronutrient that your body uses to build, maintain and repair muscles, skin, hair and nails. It is also needed for the formation of many hormones, enzymes and antibodies. Protein is made up of a large number of smaller units, called amino acids, which are linked to one another in long chains. Amino acids are categorized as non-essential amino acids, which can be made by the human body, and essential amino acids, which cannot be made by the body so you must get them from your diet. A food that contains all essential amino acids in adequate amounts is called a source of complete protein.

Protein Content of Chia Seeds

If you've looked at our Chia Seeds: Nutrition Facts chart, you already know that chia seeds are a good source of protein, with 100 grams of chia seeds providing 16 grams of protein. With such a high protein content, chia seeds beat famous plant-based protein heavyweights like buckwheat, lentils and walnuts [1]. As protein plays an important role in keeping your hair strong and healthy, it is no surprise that many people believe that chia seeds are beneficial for hair growth.

However, chia seeds are not a complete protein, as they do not contain the essential amino acids threonine, lysine and leucine in sufficient amounts [2]. The good news is that you can use chia seeds to create a complete protein by combining them with foods that are rich in threonine, lysine and leucine. Foods pairings that make up a complete protein include chia seeds and spirulina powder, chia seeds and soybeans, and chia seeds and lima beans [1].

How to Add This Healthy Source of Protein to Your Diet

To sum up, chia seeds are a good-for-you food packed with protein, and there are tons of different ways to use chia seeds. So, go ahead and buy a bag of chia seeds – there really is no excuse not to incorporate this healthy source of protein into your diet! You can add chia seeds to salads or bread dough for a nice crunch, or you can use soaked chia seeds as a thickener in soups and stews. Or, if you like homemade smoothies, make yourself a healthy, protein-packed chia smoothie.

But, before you do any of that, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects of chia seeds. For example, a high intake of chia seeds may cause constipation and bloating in some people; though, it is worth noting that chia seeds may also help relieve constipation in some cases. To avoid gastrointestinal problems, add chia seeds to your diet gradually, and make sure you drink enough water because chia seeds suck up moisture like a sponge!


1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (Release 28). United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
2. C. Weber et al (1991). The nutritional and chemical evaluation of chia seeds. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 26(2).