An original post? Chia as a fat replacement!

Hey all –

I’m now in my second semester of the MS of Nutrition program. The first was a lot of basic stuff that didn’t lend itself to sharing. Biochem (painful and not really nutrition oriented), biostats, community nutrition and food service management – not really thrilling stuff.

This semester though I have Advanced Nutrition, Advanced Food Sciences and a Research class. The first two look really promising to finally start learning.. well what I wanted to go to school for.

For advanced food science we have to write a proposal substituting something into a recipe to make it healthier. From there we’ll analyze it with a bunch of tools and do taste tests. Here’s my rough draft. I think it’s an interesting idea! My project may not get done in our lab, but I think I’ll give it a go at home. Thought I’d share!

1. Introduction and Overall Goal

            Obesity, and associated conditions, affect 97 million Americans and are the second leading cause of preventable deaths. Associated conditions include high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and other health problems.1  Foods high in fat are also high in calories, as fat has a high energy density. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans concluded that diets low in energy density aid in weight loss and weight maintenance.2  

Besides completely changing diet, one way to reduce calorie and fat consumption is to produce foods lower in fat.  This has varying levels of success, as fat adds to sensory enjoyment, such as mouth feel, moisture and texture. Fat also traps air and aids in structure.3  For a fat replacer to be acceptable, it must maintain functional and sensory characteristics.4

Chia seeds have been successfully substituted as a fat and egg replacer in cake and Chia flour has been used to increase the nutrient profile of bread. 4, 5 The purpose of this project is to extend that research to brownies, as they have a different texture and color than the previous baked goods tested.  Chia would be used to substitute fat at 35%, 45%., and 55%  Previously 25% was shown to show no significant difference for color, taste, texture and overall acceptability, while above 50% showed a decrease in volume. 4 This project would seek to find the level that is most acceptable to consumers while increasing the nutritional benefits derived from chia.

2. Background

Salvia hispanica L, more commonly known as Chia seeds, are native to Southern Mexico and Guatemala.  They contain a high amount of oil at 25-38%, sixty percent of which is alpha-linolenic fatty acid.  This is the highest known percentage from a plant-based source. They are also a good sources of protein, dietary fiber and phenolic antioxidant compounds.6   Evidence shows that diets high in fiber and alpha-linolenic fatty acids aid in diseases associated with obesity.7,8

Previous substitution in cake has shown that including chia seeds in place of fat lowered calories from fat, as well as also reduced saturated fat and improved the fatty acid profile.  Functional properties of the cake were not statistically different from the control cake at below a 50% substitution. Above 50%, cake began to lose volume and became more dense.  Sensory results indicated that at high levels of substitution, from 50%-75%, panelists rated the sensory evaluation as “neither like nor dislike.”  In our project, we would seek to find the level of chia where individuals polled still overall liked the product and functional properties were maintained from the control.


1. National Institute of Health Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults . Circulation 1998.

2. Pérez-Escamilla R, Obbagy J, Altman J, Essery E, McGrane M, Wong Y, Spahn J, Williams C. Dietary energy density and body weight in adults and children: a systematic review. J Acad Nutr Diet 2012; 112(5):671-84. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.01.020

3. . Hahn,N. Replacing Fat With Food Technology: A brief review of new fat replacement ingredients. J.Am.Diet.Assoc 1997;97:15-16.

4. Borneo R, Aguirre A, Leon A. Chia (Salvia hispanica L) Gel Can Be Used as Egg or Oil Replacer in Cake Formulations. J Acad Nutr Diet 2010; 110(6):946-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2010.03.011

5. Iglesias-Puig E, Haros M. Evaluation of performance of dough and bread incorporating chia (Salvia hispanica L.). Eur Food Res Technol 2013;237:865–874.doi 10.1007/s00217-013-2067-x

 6. Cyléia S, Costa B, Celestino H, Fernandes P, Schuelter J, Oliveira O, Evelázio N, , Vergílio J. Antioxidant capacity and chemical composition in seeds rich in omega-3: chia, flax, and perilla Food Sct Technol 2013; 33(3):541-548.

 7. Ailhaud G, Massiera F ,Weill P, Legrand P, Alessandri J, Guesnet P. Temporal changes in dietary fats: Role of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in excessive adipose tissue development and relationship to obesity. Progress in Lipid Research 2006; 45(3):2013-236. DOI: 10.1016/j.plipres.2006.01.003

8. Slavin, J. Dietary fiber and body weight. Nutrition 2005;32(3):411-418. DOI: 10.1016/j.nut.2004.08.018


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