Here’s one question that gets asked a lot: which is better, black or white chia seeds?
The answer: there is not a whole lot of difference between the two, according to chia researcher and professor emeritus at the University of Arizona, Wayne Coates.
In fact, the University of Arizona did a study to try to answer that very question. The researchers examined two types of chia: Tzotzol, which has black seeds, and Iztac, which has white seeds.
Let’s break it down to compare the two colors of chia seeds:
1. Nutrition and benefits of black vs. white chia seeds
Black chia seeds and white ones have nearly identical nutritional profiles and composition, according to Coates.
In fact, the University of Arizona study found that the two types of chia seeds have pretty much the same water, oil, protein, and fiber content.
The study also showed the two types of chia have similar fatty acid content — including palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, linolenic and omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. (The researchers did find that when chia seeds vary in fatty acid content, it’s likely due to the environment where they’re grown, rather than the color of the seeds.)
Also, the black and white seeds have virtually the same amounts of antioxidants, the study found. The two seeds had similar levels of the flavonols compounds myricetin, quercetin, caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid.
These antioxidants, which occur naturally in some plants foods, have been linked to various possible health benefits, which are still being studied. For example, some studies have connected myricetin with lower rates of some types of cancer (see: sources below).
The study also discovered that both seeds contain SDG, a lignan compound, which is a phenolic compound. And phenolic compounds have been studied and shown to promote health benefits and cancer prevention, according to the study.
2. Taste of black vs. white chia seeds
They also taste pretty much the same. That’s according to Chiatrition, an Australian brand of chia seeds. I’ve also tried both types and have noticed no difference in flavor or texture between the two.
3. The appearance of black vs. white seeds
You might prefer the look of black chia seeds or white ones based on your personal preference. From my experience, white chia seeds tend to blend in more and be less visible in light-colored foods. So, for example, if you’re making vanilla or coconut or banana chia pudding, you might prefer a light colored seed so it stands out less, or you might like the look of the contrast provided by a dark colored seed. If you have picky kids, light colored seeds might look less “weird” in foods.
So, in the case of chia seeds, you can throw out the rule that says the more colorful a food is, the more nutritious it is. Black chia seeds do not have any real benefits over white ones.
“Seed composition of two chia (Salvia hispanica L.) genotypes which differ in seed color” — R. Azeyra, 2103, Emirates Journal of Food and Agriculture
“Flavonoid intake and risk of pancreatic cancer in male smokers” — Gerd Bobe et. al., 2007, Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention