Black Chia vs. White Chia
While chia is growing in popularity, many consumers still have questions about this ancient superfood. Available in both black and white, which color seeds should you buy? Does one color have any substantial benefits over the other?
Chia seeds are naturally grown as a mix of both black and white seeds. The black chia seeds, defined by a veined or swirled coloring, make up the majority of chia seeds grown today. White chia seeds are found in much lower percentages and are slightly larger than their black counterparts. In order to increase the percentage of white seeds harvested, farmers have separated the seeds before planting as white seeds result in plants bearing more white seeds. Farmers use color separation to produce monochromatic seeds for planting, but they could also use that same machine after harvest. Research has shown that historically white and black chia seeds were grown as separate crops, but overtime the white chia production diminished and became mixed with the more commonly produced black chia seeds.
Nutritional differences do exist between black and white chia, yet they are so marginal that most consider them entirely equal. Black chia seeds have slightly higher protein content which allows for slightly higher crop yields. The earliest farmers of chia seeds may have preferred black seeds for this reason explaining the decline in white chia production. White chia seeds are slightly higher in ALA Omega-3 fatty acid content. These differences are so marginal that it can vary depending on the growing location and are often times undetectable. Most people make their decision purely on aesthetics, black chia is often preferred when used as a seed or oil, while white chia makes for a more aesthetically pleasing flour or meal.
While shopping for chia seeds, be sure to look for brown or tan looking seeds. These seeds are in fact nutritionally inferior to their black and white counterparts as they are immature seeds or not even chia at all (usually some form of weed seed). The picture above shows two commercial white chia brands, and you can easily spot the number of immature seeds on the right. While they are not harmful to consume, they will not provide the full benefits desired. Consumers can comfortably buy black chia, white chia, or mixed chia knowing the nutritional benefits will be the same, just keep an eye out for the less beneficial brown seeds!