From 1970s kitsch to contemporary superfood, chia seeds are back and enjoyed by many healthy eaters seeking to vary their sources of fiber, improve their cholesterol levels, and even balance their blood sugar. Learn why these ancient little wonder grains aren’t just for chia pets anymore!
Chia seeds are the edible seeds from a flowering desert plant related to mint, salvia hispanica, which grows in Mexico and was regularly used in Mayan and Aztec cultures. In Mayan, the word “chia” means strength, which is appropriate because these little powerhouses are full of nutrients that have been depended on by warriors for added energy.
Modern day warriors appreciate chia plant seeds for their rich amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium, to name just a few of chia seeds’ benefits.
- Taste profile
- How it’s grown
- Types of chia seeds
- Do you have to grind chia seeds?
- How to buy and store chia seeds
- How to cook with it
- Recipe ideas
- Nutritional profile of chia seeds
- Health benefits of chia seeds
- How to make a chia egg
- Chia Egg Recipe
- What Are Chia Seeds?
- Top 9 Chia Seeds Benefits
- Chia Seed Nutrition Facts
- Chia Seeds vs. Flax Seeds vs. Hemp Seeds
- Where to Find and How to Grow Chia Seeds
- What are the benefits of chia seeds?
- 5 Chia Seed Side Effects That You Probably Were Not Aware Of, Because It’s Possible To Overdo It With This Miracle Food
- What are chia seeds and where do they come from?
- Nutritional benefits of chia seeds
- How much have the health claims of chia seeds been researched?
- Do chia seeds help you lose weight?
- Do chia seeds promote better bone health?
- Do chia seeds reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease?
- Side effects of eating chia seeds
- Does it make a difference if you eat them raw, soaked, cooked or ground to a powder?
- Recipe ideas:
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Because chia seeds taste so mild with only a slightly nutty flavor, they can be added to almost anything, sweet or savory, without any issue. Some people even like to crunch them all by themselves.
How it’s grown
Like many mint plants, salvia hispanica is hearty. It’s grown in Latin America and also Australia, and the seeds are harvested when the plants have finished blooming and the seed pods have swelled.
Types of chia seeds
Dictated by the color of the flower, there are two main types of chia seeds, black and white. The black seeds give bloom to the darker purple flowering variety of the plant, which contains more anthocyanins than the lighter version. Anthocyanins are the darker pigment in plants and vegetables like ruby chard, beets, and blackberries.
Because it’s a good idea to “eat the rainbow” on a daily basis, anthocyanins in the black chia seeds can help you do just that. Basically, though, there’s no significant difference in the nutritional value between the two colors.
Do you have to grind chia seeds?
Unlike flaxseeds that must be ground or at the very least chopped to attain the maximum nutritional benefits flax has to offer, chia seeds can be eaten raw whole or ground.
How to buy and store chia seeds
Today, chia seeds can be found easily in specialty grocery stores, health food stores, and even online. Store them in a container with a tight-fitting lid in a cool, dry place. Compared to flaxseeds, they have a long shelf life due to their high antioxidant profile and can last for months or even up to two years without refrigeration. Ground chia seeds are best stored in a glass container in the refrigerator.
How to cook with it
For anyone seeking ways to increase their daily amount of plant-based food, adding chia seeds to recipes opens the door to multiple delicious opportunities. Ground into flour or left whole, eaten raw or cooked, it’s a mandatory pantry item for anyone who is curious about the benefits of chia seeds and willing to get creative in the kitchen.
For use in baking: When finely ground, chia flour with its high fiber content may be substituted to create gluten-free pancakes, bread, cookies, and more. It’s a great alternative to processed grains.
Thickener: Chia seeds can absorb up to 10 times their own weight in water, so they can be added to soups and dressings to naturally thicken them. And for anyone who is a creative canner, chia’s ability to gel also makes the seeds a fine substitute for pectin in jam.
As an egg substitute: For vegans and individuals with egg allergies, a “chia egg” can be a wonderful stand-in for eggs in your favorite baked good. When combined with liquid, the outer layer of the seed swells and forms a gel. This makes chia seeds especially suited to replacing eggs in recipes for baked goods.
- Sweet treats: Make frozen chia popsicles with puréed fruit, chia seeds, and nut milk, poured into popsicle molds.
- Chia seed pudding: This chia pudding recipe makes a very nice breakfast or dessert. Combine 6 tablespoons of chia seeds with 2 cups of nut milk, a teaspoon of vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of honey. Allow to sit 1-2 hours in the refrigerator (or overnight), then divide into two servings and enjoy with fresh fruit or some cacao nibs.
- Nut butter: Your morning whole grain toast just got a little crunchier, with whole chia seeds sprinkled over a smear of your favorite nut butter.
- Smoothies: A couple of tablespoons can be added to shakes and smoothies to up your daily vitamins naturally.
- Beverages: Soak some chia seeds in lemon or lime juice and add some sparkle to your summer iced tea.
For those on a low carb, Whole30, or Paleo specific diet, chia seeds are highly recommended for their low-carb properties and their high quantities of plant-based essential fatty acids.
Nutritional profile of chia seeds
Eating two tablespoons (about one ounce, at about 28 grams per ounce) of chia seeds a day will provide:
- about 11 grams of fiber
- 4.2 grams of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids
- roughly 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbohydrates — almost all of which is fiber — and 9 grams of fat
- a rich source of manganese, phosphorus, and calcium, which helps regulate blood pressure
Health benefits of chia seeds
Are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid. ALA can reduce inflammation, support brain function, reduce high cholesterol, and prevent heart disease.
Are high in fiber. Because of their high fiber content, chia seeds can assist with improving digestion, regulating blood sugar, and providing valuable pre-biotics for overall gut health.
Are rich in antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals, aging, and cancer. This high antioxidant level also helps them have a stable shelf life.
Can give you the feeling of being full. Because they absorb water, they can keep you hydrated longer. Plus they are an excellent source of zinc, which helps the body produce leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite.
According to a study of type 2 diabetics at the University of Toronto, people who consumed chia seeds (37 grams of chia seeds daily) for 12 weeks experienced decreases in blood pressure, inflammation, and blood sugar that were significant enough to lower their risk for heart disease. Of course, avoid chia seeds if you have a sensitivity to mint or oregano, and consult your doctor if you are taking any medications that come with dietary restrictions.
Among their many health benefits, chia seeds support weight loss only when included as part of a healthy diet and exercise regimen with other whole foods, fruits, and vegetables. While no definitive studies have proven that eating chia seeds helps you lose weight, they can play a positive role in a healthy lifestyle with few if any risk factors.
How to make a chia egg
5 from 4 votes
Chia Egg Recipe
How to make chia eggs as a vegan substitute for eggs in baked goods. Prep Time5 mins Cook Time5 mins Total Time10 mins Course: Condiment Cuisine: American Servings: 1 egg Calories: 58kcal Author: Jessica Gavin
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 3 tablespoons water, (45ml)
- Combine chia seeds with water in a small bowl.
- Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes before using. The consistency should be thick and viscous.
- Use immediately in the recipe. The chia seeds get thicker over time and may be more difficult to combine with other ingredients.
- Recipe makes 1 chia egg.
- The chia egg recipe replaces 1 large egg.
- Chia eggs are a good binder and thickening agent. However, it does not have the same foaming, aerating, and stiffening properties as eggs.
- A good vegan egg replacement in cookies, muffins, pancakes, or other quick bread, or great to make puddings without cornstarch.
Nutrition Facts Chia Egg Recipe Amount Per Serving Calories 58 Calories from Fat 27 % Daily Value* Fat 3g5% Sodium 4mg0% Potassium 48mg1% Carbohydrates 5g2% Fiber 4g16% Protein 1g2% Calcium 76mg8% Iron 0.9mg5% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Chia seeds are frequently featured as the star ingredient in many healthy eating recipes, ranging from baked goods to protein bars to smoothies and beyond. Apart from offering a pop of flavor and texture to your favorite foods, these seeds are also highly nutritious and bring a long list of chia seeds benefits to the table, including increased energy levels, balanced blood sugar and improved heart health.
So why are chia seeds good for you? Keep reading for a complete list of chia seeds benefits and side effects, preparation instructions, and some simple ways to add this tasty seed into your daily diet with some wonderful chia seed recipes.
What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) have become one of the most popular superfoods in the health community. Hailing from a species of flowering plant in the mint family, they are native to areas of Mexico and Guatemala but are commonly cultivated in many areas in North and South America.
These tasty seeds are easy to digest when prepared properly and can be a very versatile ingredient that works well in a variety of recipes. Plus, they offer a long list of important nutrients, including fiber, protein, manganese and calcium, along with plenty of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.
Not only that, but recent research has found that the chia seeds benefits are even greater than scientists initially realized. Chia seeds benefits include promoting healthy skin, reducing signs of aging, supporting the heart and digestive system, building stronger bones, and more.
Top 9 Chia Seeds Benefits
1. Support Healthy Skin
Chia seeds are jam-packed with antioxidants, accounting for the powerful benefits of chia seeds for skin health. Antioxidants are compounds that fight free radical damage and prevent oxidative stress while also promoting tissue repair and protecting against skin damage.
Interestingly enough, researchers from Mexico recently uncovered that they have a total antioxidant concentration nearly two times higher than previously reported. In fact, the antioxidant activity of chia seeds was shown to stop up to 70 percent of free radical activity.
As one of the most high-antioxidant foods on the planet, adding chia seeds to your diet may help fight premature aging and protect the skin cells against free radical damage to optimize the health of your skin.
2. Promote Digestive Health
Chia is loaded with fiber, squeezing nearly 11 grams of fiber into a single ounce. This means that adding just one ounce of chia seeds into your daily diet can supply a whopping 44 percent of your fiber needs for the entire day.
Because of their rich fiber content, chia seeds benefit digestive health by promoting regularity and increasing stool frequency to prevent constipation. The fiber also acts as a prebiotic to provide fuel for the beneficial bacteria in the gut, which plays a central role in many aspects of health and disease.
Plus, the fiber in chia seeds also absorbs a good amount of water and expands in the stomach, helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer. This may explain why clinical studies show that using chia seeds for weight loss could be effective by curbing hunger and suppressing appetite.
3. Improve Heart Health
Thanks to their high content of antioxidants, fiber and heart-healthy fats, chia seeds pack a major punch when it comes to cardiovascular health. In fact, one of the most powerful chia seeds health benefits is their ability to reduce inflammation and decrease several risk factors of heart disease. Inflammation can put extra strain on blood vessels and is thought to contribute to heart disease along with a slew of other chronic conditions.
Chia seeds are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, boasting even more omega-3s per gram than salmon. Omega-3s work to protect the heart by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels and inflammation. Meanwhile, the fiber found in chia seeds can help manage cholesterol levels and keep the arteries clear to minimize the risk of coronary heart disease.
4. Balance Blood Sugar
Rich in both alpha-linolenic acid and fiber, evidence from several studies suggests that chia seeds can help maintain normal blood sugar levels to fight diabetes and insulin resistance. One animal model in the British Journal of Nutrition even found that adding them to a high-sugar diet prevented changes in blood sugar and lipid levels. What’s more, human studies have also found that adding chia seeds to white bread reduces the glycemic response to prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels.
5. Boost Energy and Exercise Performance
Chia seeds are often used by athletes for carb loading, a strategy that helps maximize the storage of glycogen in the muscles and liver to optimize endurance and boost exercise performance. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning concluded that consuming chia seeds enhanced exercise performance for workouts that lasted 90 minutes the same way a sugar-laden sports drink would but without all the unhealthy sugar. In the study, half of the athletes drank 100 percent Gatorade, while the others consumed half Gatorade and half chia seed drink. In the end, the runners’ times were matched, but the half-chia group consumed far less sugar.
Plus, the protein in chia seeds can help build muscle mass and increase strength to help fuel your workouts. Research shows that consuming protein as a post-workout meal can aid in the repair of muscle tissues and can also build new muscle to speed up recovery time between workouts.
6. Build Stronger Bones
One of the biggest chia seed health benefits is the ability to strengthen bone health and preserve bone density while reducing the risk of serious conditions like osteoporosis. This is because chia seeds are loaded with calcium and manganese, two minerals that are incredibly important for maintaining bone health.
With about 99 percent of the calcium in your body stored in your bones, calcium serves an important role in maintaining bone strength and density. Manganese is also involved in bone metabolism, with studies showing that a deficiency in this key nutrient can impair bone resorption and decrease bone formation. Impressively enough, a single ounce of chia seeds contains 18 percent of the calcium you need in a day while also meeting 30 percent of your daily manganese requirements to help build stronger bones.
7. Aid in Weight Loss
Adding chia seeds to your diet is an excellent way to enhance weight loss and help shed stubborn pounds. Chia seeds also rank among the top plant-based protein foods, which is why chia seeds protein is great to consume for those trying to put on lean muscle, burn fat, and manage hunger and appetite.
Studies show that increasing your intake of protein can promote weight loss by curbing cravings and cutting caloric intake. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, showed that increasing protein intake by just 15 percent of daily calories led to significant decreases in energy intake and appetite. Other research shows that following a high-protein diet rich in foods like chia seeds could reduce levels of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for stimulating hunger.
8. Fight Cancer Growth
Chia seeds are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in many plant foods. In 2013, an in-vitro study published in the Journal of Molecular Biochemistry found that ALA helped limit the growth of both breast and cervical cancer cells. Researchers also found that it caused cell death of the cancer cells without harming the normal healthy cells in the body. While more research still needs to be done to find out the deeper implications of ALA on other types of cancer, this is a great discovery for women struggling with these increasingly common types of cancer. This discovery also makes chia seeds potential cancer-fighting foods.
9. Enhance Oral Health
Because chia seeds are packed with calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A and zinc, it’s no wonder that promoting oral health makes the list as a top benefit of chia seeds. Calcium is the building block of your teeth that is necessary for maintaining oral health. Meanwhile, zinc prevents tartar by keeping plaque from mineralizing onto your teeth and has an antibacterial effect that keeps bad breath germs away. Vitamin A and phosphorus are also important for strong teeth and a healthy mouth, both of which are plentiful in chia seeds.
Related: 6 Benefits of Chia Seed During Pregnancy
Chia Seed Nutrition Facts
Take a look at the chia seeds nutrition facts, and it’s easy to tell why they’re so good for you. Each serving contains a small amount of chia seeds calories but is rich in protein, fiber, manganese, phosphorus and calcium. Plus, chia seeds also contain omega-3 fatty acids and other important micronutrients and antioxidants that are important to health as well. This explains why there are so many chia seeds benefits.
One ounce (about 28 grams) of chia seeds contains approximately:
- 137 calories
- 12.3 grams carbohydrates
- 4.4 grams protein
- 8.6 grams fat
- 10.6 grams dietary fiber
- 0.6 milligram manganese (30 percent DV)
- 265 milligrams phosphorus (27 percent DV)
- 177 milligrams calcium (18 percent DV)
- 1 milligram zinc (7 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram copper (3 percent DV)
- 44.8 milligrams potassium (1 percent DV)
In addition to the nutrients listed above, chia seeds also contain several essential fatty acids; vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E and vitamin D; and minerals, such as iron, iodine, magnesium, niacin and thiamine.
Chia Seeds Benefits in Ayurveda and Traditional Medicine
Given the powerful nutritional value of chia seeds and the long list of health benefits of chia seeds, it should come as no surprise that they have been used for their potent healing properties in many branches of traditional medicine.
According to Ayurveda, chia seeds can help nourish the blood and promote regularity, thanks to their ability to absorb water in the gastrointestinal tract, forming a gel-like substance. Chia seeds can also reduce inflammation, promote kidney health and support proper hydration.
Chia seeds were also originally grown in Central and South America and were used as a natural remedy to enhance endurance and provide strength to warriors. In fact, these ancient civilizations believed that chia seeds possessed supernatural powers and attributed much of their stamina to the super seed.
Chia Seeds vs. Flax Seeds vs. Hemp Seeds
Chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds are the three most popular varieties of seeds for their crunchy texture, mild flavor and the wealth of chia seeds benefits that they can provide. All three are rich in fiber and protein and make valuable additions to a vegan or vegetarian diet for their medicinal properties and extensive nutrient profile.
Ounce for ounce, chia seeds contain the highest amount of fiber and are especially rich in soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol levels, reduce appetite and promote regularity. They are also easy to digest, and unlike other types of seeds, they can be consumed either whole or ground. Plus, they boast a good amount of several other micronutrients, including calcium, manganese and phosphorus.
Flax seeds pack in the most omega-3 fatty acids per serving, which is important for reducing inflammation and preventing chronic disease. Flax seeds are also high in lignans, which are plant compounds that acts as an antioxidant and have been linked to protection against cancer and heart disease. Unlike chia seeds, however, flax seeds need to be ground up before consumption in order to maximize the potential health benefits.
Compared to chia seeds and flax seeds, hemp seeds pack in the highest amount of plant-based protein per serving. They’re also rich in magnesium, zinc and iron, three minerals that are essential to many aspects of health. However, they also contain a much higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient which most of us get too much in our diets already. Experts typically recommend keeping this ratio as low as possible to relieve inflammation and prevent chronic disease.
Where to Find and How to Grow Chia Seeds
Wondering where to buy chia seeds? They can be found in the health food section of most grocery stores or ordered in bulk quantities online. There are various different types of chia seeds available, including black chia seeds, white chia seeds, milled seeds and pre-hydrated chia. Chia seed oil is also available and can be applied topically to supply your skin with a good amount of hydrating essential fatty acids.
Regardless of what type of chia you decide to buy, opt for organic chia seeds whenever possible and buy from a reputable retailer to ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
You can also try growing chia at home in either an indoor or outdoor garden. Sprinkle the seeds over soil, and be sure to provide enough space for your plant as they tend to grow tall, with some reaching up to six feet. Water seeds daily, and start harvesting once most of the petals have fallen off the flowers of the chia plant. Then pick the flower heads and place them in paper bags to allow them to dry. Once dried, the seeds should separate from the plant rather easily and can then be collected and used in your favorite dishes — everything from simple cereals to low-carb bread recipes to the classic chia seed pudding.
Many people wonder: Where do chia seeds come from? Although today they can be found around the world, they were originally grown in Mexico, where the seeds were highly valued for their medicinal properties and nutritional value. In fact, they were even used as currency at one point.
The chia seed is nutrient-dense and packs a punch of energy-boosting power. Aztec warriors ate chia seeds to give them energy and endurance, claiming that just one spoonful of chia could sustain them for 24 hours. Chia means “strength” in the Mayan language, and chia seeds were known as “runners’ food” because runners and warriors would use them as fuel while running long distances or during battle.
Today, the chia seeds nutrition profile has become the subject of increasing research in the scientific community, with more and more studies uncovering a wide array of potential chia seeds benefits and cementing its status as a potent superfood.
Precautions and Possible Chia Seeds Side Effects
There are very few side effects associated with chia seeds, and the chia seeds benefits typically outweigh any risks when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
There has been some conflicting research about the effect of chia seeds on prostate cancer, however. A study done on the effects of ALA on prostate cancer showed that this fatty acid could increase the risk of prostate cancer, but the study was later shown to have some bias. In fact, according to another study in 2010, ALA did not increase prostate cancer risk and actually decreased the risk in participants. Clearly, the jury is still out here.
Occasionally, some people may experience stomach discomfort when consuming chia seeds, especially in large amounts, due to the high fiber content. As with any food, eat in moderation and always drink plenty of water. If you have any concerns or experience any persistent side effects, consider decreasing your intake and be sure to discuss with your doctor.
- The chia seed is a type of seed that comes from a flowering species in the mint family of plants and is native to Mexico and Guatemala.
- The chia nutrition profile boasts a good amount of protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and important minerals like manganese, calcium and phosphorus — thus explaining why chia seeds benefits are so plentiful.
- So what are chia seeds good for? Chia seeds benefits include increased weight loss, better blood sugar levels, improved heart health, enhanced regularity, increased weight loss and more.
- From chia seed pudding to protein bars and baked goods, there are plenty of chia seeds recipe options that you can try to fit this nutrient-rich seed into your diet and get chia seeds benefits.
- Soak, grind or enjoy whole for a nutritious and delicious way to boost the benefits of your diet and take advantage of the multitude of chia seeds benefits.
Read Next: How to Eat Chia Seeds: Whole, Ground, Soaked or Raw?
If the word chia brings up a mental image of a clay creature sprouting hair, you are not mistaken. But the seeds responsible for sprouting fuzz on Chia Pets are also an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Who knew?
For women, the RDI of omega-3s is 1.1 grams (1,100 mg) a day, so if you’re looking for a new source that’s vegan, gluten-free, and easy to consume, you’ll want to pick up some of these seeds immediately. One ounce of chia seeds (about two tablespoons) contains 137 calories, one gram of saturated fat, 11 grams of fiber, four grams of protein, 177 milligrams of calcium, and 4.9 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. Aside from offering omegas, when chia seeds come in contact with water, they bulk up just like flaxseeds do. So when you eat them, they make you feel full. This means not only will they prevent you from overeating, but they’ll also improve your digestion.
A 16-ounce bag of chia seeds costs around $14 and will last a long time. They have a mild flavor and don’t require much prep, so with a little creativity, chia seeds can easily be incorporated into your diet.
- Drink and debloat: Celebrity trainer Valerie Waters recommends all her clients drink this debloating chia seed drink to start their day. By boosting levels of fiber and aiding in elimination, you’ll be feeling free of bloat thanks to chia.
- Blend into breakfast: High in vitamin C and boasting more than 10 grams of fiber, this refreshing antioxidant smoothie bulks up breakfast with some chia power.
- Dress up your salad: Chia seeds and poppy seeds are similar in stature, so amp up the fiber and protein in this lemon salad dressing with chia seeds; the flavors are a riff on classic poppy-seed dressing.
- Bake them into muffins: Versatile chia seeds are easy to toss into a classic baking recipe like these gluten-free blueberry muffins that are low in calories but full of tasty flavor.
- Enjoy a sweet treat: Chia seeds and coconut milk marry for a Paleo-friendly pudding that works great for breakfast but feels like an indulgence. Mix together the ingredients the night before, pop it in the fridge, and look forward to it tomorrow. It’s that easy.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Lizzie Fuhr
What are the benefits of chia seeds?
Plant-based foods have long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality.
They have been shown to support a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight.
Chia and the power of fiber
The United States (U.S.) dietary guidelines for 2015 to 2020 suggest that men under the age of 50 years should consume 30.8 grams (g) of fiber per day and women under the age of 50 years should consume 25.2 g per day.
For adults over 50 years of age, the recommendation for men is 28 g per day, and for women, it is 22.4 g per day. Most people consume less than half of that recommendation.
The easiest way to increase fiber intake is to eat more plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and unprocessed grains. Just one ounce of chia seeds provides 10 grams of fiber, almost half the daily recommendation for a woman over 50 years.
Foods that are high in fiber help people to feel full for longer, and they are usually lower in calories. Increased fiber intake and a high fiber diet have been shown to help with weight loss.
Chia seeds contain nearly 5 grams of fiber per tablesoon, and their high levels of omega-3-fatty acids and alpha-linoleic acid may be useful for weight loss. The seed can also be consumed as a gel when mixed with water. This causes it to digest more slowly in the body, potentially preventing hunger for a longer period.
However, evidence is scant. A review, published in the Journal of Obesity, concludes that “there is limited data to suggest the use of chia seeds for weight loss.”
Another study, published in Nutrition Research, concludes that, in overweight adults, chia seeds have “no influence on body mass or composition, or various disease risk factor measures.”
High-fiber diets have been shown to decrease the prevalence in flare-ups of diverticulitis by absorbing water in the colon and making bowel movements easier to pass.
Eating a healthful, fiber-filled diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables can reduce pressure and inflammation in the colon.
The exact causes of diverticular disease are not known, but the condition has repeatedly been associated with a low fiber diet.
Cardiovascular disease and cholesterol
Increased fiber intake has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
A review of 67 separate controlled trials found that even a modest 10-gram per day increase in fiber intake reduced LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, as well as total cholesterol.
Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation. In this way, it may decrease the risk of inflammation-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
While there aren’t many studies on the effect of chia on blood glucose and insulin resistance, a 2017 study suggests that chia seeds may have the ability to convert glucose into a slow-release carbohydrate. This could have a positive effect on people with type 2 diabetes.
High-fiber diets are associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes, and eating high-fiber meals helps to keep blood sugar stable.
Based on a review of findings from several large studies, The National Institute of Medicine found that diets with 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories were associated with significant reductions in the risk of both coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Digestion and detox
A diet with adequate fiber prevents constipation and promotes regularity for a healthy digestive tract. Regular bowel movements are crucial for the daily excretion of toxins through the bile and stool.
Omega-3s to fight heart disease
Research suggests that omega-3s can decrease the risk for thrombosis and arrhythmias, disorders that can lead to heart attack, stroke, and sudden cardiac death.
Omega-3s may also decrease LDL, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce atherosclerotic plaque, improve endothelial function, and slightly lower blood pressure.
The richest sources of plant-based omega-3s are chia seeds, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, hempseeds, hempseed oil, and walnuts.
5 Chia Seed Side Effects That You Probably Were Not Aware Of, Because It’s Possible To Overdo It With This Miracle Food
It’s probably safe to assume that at least one of your friends is obsessed with chia seeds (and that friend might actually be you). With everyone talking about how amazing they can be for you, it’s easy to get swept away and not realize the side effects chia seeds may have.
I had a roommate who absolutely loved chia seeds so much that she’d incorporate it into each and every meal, from her smoothie and yogurts to her lunch and dinner. While I wanted to join in, I was hesitant, as I’ve always been the type to speculate the latest health crazes. Although chia seeds’ benefits may not be the newest discovery, I wanted to find out and learn more about the potential side effects these mystery seeds might have. As it turns out, chia seeds can sometimes be dangerous to your health.
I mean, we could all definitely use a little more fiber in our lives, at least I know I can, but what may be surprising is that eating chia seeds can actually cause a couple of side effects that you didn’t know could happen.
Yes, eating chia seeds could cause a multiple array of health issues including stomach and blood problems. I know, I know it’s pretty devastating.
But hey, I’m not asking you to stop eating chia seeds forever, but it’s probably safe to be aware of these side effects before heavily relying on chia seeds in your diet.
Try: Nutiva Organic Black Chia Seeds, $8, Amazon
Here are 5 potential side effects chia seeds may have on you.
1. Gastrointestinal Issues
According to Heal With Food, they explain chia seed side effects, “rang from constipation and hard stools to diarrhea, bloating and excessive intestinal gas.” These gastro issues may affect your body, but thankfully there’s a way to eat chia seeds that might be able to help you avoid any stomach pain.
2. Low Blood Pressure/Bleeding
Because of chia seeds’ high source of Omega-3 fatty acids, they can actually cause your blood to thin out. It could also cause your blood pressure to lower drastically if you already deal with that health issue. If you already have low blood pressure or if you are already taking prescribed blood thinners, make sure to proceed with caution and ask your doctor if your chia seed intake is OK.
3. Affect in Blood Sugar
While chia seeds may help regulate your glucose level, they may also overstimulate medications that control your blood sugar. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, make sure to ask for professional advice when eating chia seeds.
Getting allergies from chia seeds may be uncommon, but some, “symptoms of chia seed allergy may include rashes, hives and watery eyes.” Food allergies like, “trouble breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling of the tongue” may also occur.
5. Potential Effects On Pregnant Women
Although how chia seeds affect pregnant woman is not totally known, “most health authorities advise pregnant and breast-feeding women to stay on the safe side and avoid the use of chia seeds until more research has been done.” While it may be uncertain whether chia seeds do affect pregnant women, it’s probably better to skip on the seeds for nine months.
Again, I’m not trying to persuade you from eating chia seeds as there are an unending amount of positive benefits, but should you choose to add chia seeds in great amounts to your diet, educate yourself about the potential benefits and be sure to consult a doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
What are chia seeds and where do they come from?
Chia seeds are the tiny black seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant, a member of the mint family which comes from Central and South America. Legend has it that the ancient Aztecs and Mayans used chia seeds as a source of energy.
Nutritional benefits of chia seeds
For such a small seed, chia seeds contain some important nutrients.
Chia seeds are rich in fibre – which helps with satiety, the feeling of fullness. A 25g portion of chia seeds contains approximately 9g of fibre. The daily recommended amount of fibre is 30g, so including a 25g portion of chia seeds each day could be a useful contribution. Fibre is important for a healthy digestive system and many of us do not reach the recommended target.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory effects, as well as enhancing brain and potentially heart health. Chia seeds contain omega-3 in the plant form: alpha linolenic acid (ALA) making them a valuable source for vegans and vegetarians.
Chia seeds are relatively high in protein – so are a useful source of plant protein and provide a range of amino acids, particularly for vegetarian and vegan diets.
The combination of fat, protein and fibre means the seeds are digested relatively slowly, providing long, slow release of energy to keep blood-sugar levels stable.
Seeds are rich in minerals such as calcium and magnesium and trace elements such as manganese, which helps make enzymes.
How much have the health claims of chia seeds been researched?
Little published research concerning chia exists, and most information available is based on animal studies, not human.
Do chia seeds help you lose weight?
There is no significant evidence to back up the claim that eating chia seeds will lead to weight loss. The fibre content of chia seeds, and their ability to hold onto water, might contribute to satiety and consequently eating less. However if you are looking for weight loss, specifically eating chia seeds is not likely to have a significant effect.
Do chia seeds promote better bone health?
The benefits of chia seeds is attributed to the calcium content and other trace minerals known for their role in bone health. A 25g portion of chia contains 157mg of calcium, which is a significant source of calcium, more than that in 100ml of milk.
Do chia seeds reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease?
Chia seeds do contain fibre, protein and unsaturated fats – all of which are known to support a healthy heart and stable blood-sugar levels. Some research has suggested that chia seeds may be beneficial for overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes. However there is no conclusive evidence to suggest chia seeds can directly reduce the risk of heart disease or diabetes. As part of a balanced diet, chia seeds may contribute to overall health. Other lifestyle factors such as regular exercise are more likely to have an effect.
Read more about how diet and lifestyle can affect heart disease and diabetes.
Side effects of eating chia seeds
There are very few reported side effects of eating chia seeds – on the whole they are well-tolerated. As they are small seeds, consuming too many in one sitting may cause constipation, so it is important to drink adequate water.
Does it make a difference if you eat them raw, soaked, cooked or ground to a powder?
Chia seeds have a neutral taste compared to the bolder flavours of pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds. A popular way of eating them is to soak them in water or milk and put them in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or overnight). The seeds absorb the liquid to form a gel, which resembles tapioca in texture and is commonly known as a ‘chia pudding’. To add flavour, you can try soaking the seeds in flavoured milk, fruit juice, or by adding spices such as cinnamon, ginger or a little honey.
Whole, soaked chia seeds can also be used as a thickening agent for soups and stews, and ground seeds can be used as an egg substitute in baking. To replace one large egg, try using 1 tbsp of ground chia seeds and 3 tbsp of water. Ground chia seeds can be bought or you can make your own in a coffee grinder. When ground they can be used as a replacement for flour in baking breads or cakes. Remember that recipes may yield very different results when substitutions are made, so you may need to experiment to find out what works best.
Dry-roasting and toasting chia seeds brings out and develops the flavour and texture. Toasted seeds add crunch to salads or on top of breakfast cereals. Make sure the oven or hob is at a low temperature and toss the seeds in the pan or baking tray, making sure not to burn them, as this degrades the oils and alters the flavour.
Overall, chia seeds are versatile; they can be eaten raw or mixed into baking.
Coconut quinoa & chia porridge
Vanilla-almond chia breakfast bowl
Apricot & seed protein bar
Raspberry ripple chia pudding
Raw strawberry jam
More healthy guides…
Health benefits of green tea
Health benefits of coconut milk
Health benefits of lemon water
Health benefits of ginger
Health benefits of nuts
This article was updated on 8 August 2018 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
Jo Lewin works as a Community Nutritionist and private consultant. She is a Registered Nutritionist (Public Health) registered with the UKVRN. Visit her website at www.nutrijo.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @nutri_jo.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
The F word gets throw around a lot in the wellness world. (That would be fiber. Why, what were you thinking?) A run-down of some of what it does for you: helps boost gut health, lowers inflammation, supports heart health, and even speeds up metabolism.
Fruits and veggies are great primary ways to get your fill, but one easy way to up your intake: Pour on the seeds (chia and flax seeds, that is).
Besides being a great source of fiber, chia and flax are nutritional powerhouses in their own right. So what exactly is the difference between chia and flax? For starters, chia looks like small seeds (yes, exactly like the ones you used to grow your chia pet) and have a distinct mild yet earthy taste. Flax seeds are most often found ground (although you can buy ground chia too if you don’t want the seed texture) and have more of a nutty flavor.
Photo: Stocksy/Babette Lupaneszku
The whole chia pudding trend has made chia a lot more popular the last five years, but they’ve actually been around for a long time—since 3500 BC in fact, when they were considered food of the gods. Like chia, flax goes back to ancient times and has been used forever in food and for medicinal uses. When it comes to their nutrient breakdown, they have some similarities and differences. Here’s the 411 on what you need to know about the nutrition in flax versus chia seeds:
Chia seeds (2 tablespoons)
- 140 calories
- 11 grams of fiber
- 7 grams of unsaturated fat
- 18% of the recommended daily value for calcium
- Trace minerals including zinc, copper, magnesium, and potassium
- Omega 3s
- 4.4 grams of protein (chia seeds are considered a complete protein since they contain all 9 essential amino acids)
Photo: Stocksy/Magida El=Kassis
Flax seeds (2 tablespoons)
- 78 calories
- 4.2 grams fiber
- 6.3 grams fat
- Minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and folate
- 2.76 grams protein
Since chia seeds have such a high amount of good-for-you omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, minerals, and are a complete protein source, they’re considered a superfood by many experts. In fact, they’re er, super, good for your heart.
Flax seeds have their own set of good-for-you benefits too: they can help with managing blood pressure, cholesterol, and even play a role in cancer prevention. The antioxidant benefits in flax seeds come mainly from nutrients called phenolic compounds.
Flax seeds can also help rid your body of estrogen. Too much estrogen is linked to not-so-fun menstrual and PMS symptoms according to Alisa Vitti. (To take your seed and menstrual cycle connection knowledge to the next level check out this guide to seed cycling to help balance your hormones.)
How to eat and prepare chia seeds and flax seeds
You’ll most likely find recipes that call for ground flax seeds since the ground form is easier to digest than the whole seed. But chia seeds, on the other hand, are actually easier to digest in their whole form than flax seeds. Below you’ll find helpful tips and recipes for incorporating these superfood seeds into your diet (and check out this recipe that uses a chia and flax combo for a Paleo “oatmeal”).
How to eat and prepare chia seed
- Add to oatmeal, cereal, smoothies, or top yogurt or salads with a sprinkle of chia seeds
- Bake into baked goods like zucchini bread, muffins, and desserts
- Make a “chia gel” that you can use in smoothies or as a vegan egg replacement in recipes
- Make chia pudding for a healthy breakfast, dessert, or snack
How to eat and prepare flax seed
- Mix in oatmeal, cereal, smoothies, and yogurt
- Bake into muffins, bread, and pancakes
- Blend into smoothies
- Make a flax “egg” replacement and use as a vegan egg substitute in recipes
Photo: Be Well by Kelly
Recipes with chia seeds
1. Matcha Chia Pudding
This recipe for chia pudding puts an energy-boosting twist on the classic breakfast with matcha green tea powder. To make it, you mix the chia seeds with nut milk and the matcha powder, and let sit for several hours or overnight. When it’s ready you can add a sweetener like maple syrup, and add toppings like cashews, shredded coconut, or fruit.
2. Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookie Dough Protein Bites
These chocolate chip cookie dough bites may look (and sound) like a dessert, but they make a great snack or breakfast on the go thanks to all the protein from the chia seeds, cashews, and protein powder. Add ’em to your weekly meal prep lineup and you’ll always have a tasty, healthy snack or dessert on-hand.
3. Seeded Lemon-Blueberry Banana Bread
It seems like we’re constantly trying to figure out what to do with those over-ripe bananas (should I freeze them for “nice” cream? Smoothies?). One yummy decision would be to whip up this healthy loaf, which could make a great breakfast, or anytime snack.
4. Healthy Pear Ginger Smoothie
Switch up your smoothie game with this pear ginger recipe that includes chia seeds for added-nutrient boost.
Recipes with flax seeds
1. Norma Kamali’s “Cleanse” Bread
If you want to reset but don’t want to give up avocado toast, this “cleanse” bread is a great gluten-free bread substitute. Norma Kamali‘s recipe is full of good-for-you nuts and seeds, and a healthy dose of flax to help you get in some extra fiber and omega 3s. Kamali even says she makes multiple loaves at a time and freezes them for later.
2. One Bowl Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Banana Bread
Pro tip: Adding zucchini to your bread recipe makes it extra moist. And when you add flax and chocolate chips, it’s as sweet as it is nutrient-dense.
3. Raw Flax seed Crackers
The nutty, crunchy flavor of flax seeds makes them the perfect addition to a salty, savory snack. Pair these with your favorite hummus, dip, or avocado slices for a savory snack filled with super-satisfying fiber.
4. Keto Flaxseed Cinnamon Bun Muffins
Keto and cinnamon buns aren’t usually used in the same sentence, but thanks to Leanne Vogel from the Healthful Pursuit, keto cinnamon buns are a reality—at least in a muffin form. These muffins are made without any gluten or grains, making them a perfect treat for when the cinnamon bun craving strikes, or if you’re looking to serve up a healthier take on the brunch classic.
Whether you decide to try flax or chia seed (or both) these small seeds pack a powerful nutrition punch. There’s an entire world out there beyond chia pudding, so this is the perfect excuse to break out the fall baking ingredients and get to work. Flax pumpkin spice muffins, anyone?
Originally posted October 3, 2018. Updated June 26, 2019.
For more fiber-rich goodness, Antoni from Queer Eye wants you to try this fiber-rich grain. And these chia pudding recipes are (almost) too pretty to eat.
Super Seed: The Case For Chia!
OK, so the Mayans struck out about the end of the world. Don’t look too surprised—or disappointed, for that matter. If we’re going to judge civilizations by how often their religious predictions match up to actual events, then we’re all about as doomed as, well, the Mayans.
The Mayans struck it rich, however, with chia seed. If the end of the world isn’t their enduring legacy, this super seed might be. Depending on whom you ask, the name of this trendy but visually puzzling (is it food? a supplement? bug poop?) aliment comes from either the Mayan word chiabaan, for “strengthening,” or the Aztec word chian, for “oily.”
In either case, chia was a staple crop among both ancient civilizations. The Aztecs reportedly prized it even more highly than the Mayans, using chia as medicine, offering it to the gods during rituals, and demanding it as annual tribute from conquered tribes. One refrain you’ll see repeated often by chia advocates is that the Aztecs considered it “more valuable than gold.”
Does chia have anything to offer you, the health-conscious eater or athlete? Should you let it elbow its way next to flax, hemp, and the rest of the crowded roster of superfoods that TV hosts scream at you to eat? Is it just another Mesoamerican end-of-the-world trend that we won’t be talking about three years from now?
Don’t count on it. After centuries of obscurity—excepting its starring role in late-night Chia Pet commercials—chia has been the subject of a handful of promising recent nutritional studies. The consensus is that this seed stands as one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence, on both the macro and micro level. It’s time you get to know chia.
The Nutritional Profile
Like most so-called superfoods, chia has been the victim of over-marketing and over-promising. Don’t put too much stock in the “more omega-3s than salmon,” “30 percent more antioxidants than blueberries,” or “more potassium than a banana” shtick that populates Websites and seed bags, because it’s usually based on unrealistic serving sizes and selective definitions.
That being said, chia’s nutritional profile is undeniably broad and impressive. A standard 2 tbsp (24 g) serving of chia seeds contains:
- Calories: 117
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 7.4 grams
- Fiber: 8.3 grams
It contains all eight essential amino acids and a host of trace minerals and micronutrients. To put it in easy comparative terms, each 2 tbsp serving of chia offers:
- Five times the omega-3 content of a 1/4-cup serving of walnuts
- Twice the iron and magnesium of a cup of spinach
- As much calcium as a half-cup of milk
- As much potassium as a third of a banana
- More than twice the fiber of a cup of oatmeal
Chia is also a potent antioxidant source on par with blueberries and other blue-red fruits. It has impressive levels of quercetin, kaempferol, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid, four powerful antioxidants that provide a slew of health benefits. An additional benefit of this high level of antioxidants is that chia seeds can last years without spoiling, despite lacking the hard—and indigestible—outer shell of other edible seeds like flax.
One other nice thing about chia seeds: They’re almost always organic, and naturally so. The high oil content of its leaves acts as a highly effective insect repellant, making harsh chemical insecticides unnecessary and organic seeds easy to find. Chia can also be harvested easily by hand and meets most definitions of “sustainable.”
About Those Fats …
It may come as a shock that chia so dominates walnuts, the supposed king of non-animal-product essential fatty acids. In fact, chia has the highest level of omega-3s of any known plant product, with oil making up between 25-40 percent of the mass of a seed. Let’s put this in context.
A common knock against chia is that its essential fatty acid content is largely comprised of the short-chain fat alpha-Linoleic acid (ALA), which the human body inefficiently converts to more biologically active long-chain fats (This is a critique that could be levied against all plant-based omega-3 sources, by the way). Long-chain omega-3s such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are the type derived from oily fish and fish-based supplements, and from whence most of the well-publicized health benefits of omega-3s are derived.
However, a recent study conducted at Appalachian State University punched a hole in this criticism, when researchers found that after seven weeks of taking 25 grams of milled chia daily, female test subjects showed significantly higher levels of plasma EPA, not just ALA. This result echoed previous studies done with hens, rats, and rabbits. The subjects’ DHA levels were unchanged, leaving this crucial fatty acid in the domain of the fish, but a promising new avenue of research for chia was opened.
Many modern athletes were introduced to chia by author Christopher McDougall, in his best-seller Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. While hiking up a steep canyon trail with members of the Tarahumara Indian tribe, McDougall is given a cup of chia mixed with water and lime, the Tarahumara’s long-favored running fuel.
On first glance, McDougall describes the concoction as “gooey slime that looked like rice pudding without the rice, lots of black-flecked bubbles I was pretty sure were frog eggs in mid-hatch.” A little more research, though, led him to concoct a more favorable comparison: “In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone.”
A handful of studies in recent years broadened the appeal the tiny seed has for athletes. Among the most promising was a 2011 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, which found that a 50-50 caloric mix of Gatorade and chia offered the same performance benefits as pure Gatorade. Of course, the chia blend had lower sugar, ample omega-3 and fiber content, and a far healthier nutritional profile.
Chia is also packed with trace minerals and phytonutrients that possess established athletic benefits, and a few with benefits that are just starting to be understood. They are rich in phosphorous, manganese, calcium, and potassium, all of which support healthy muscle function. One of the handful of antioxidants common in chia seeds, quercetin, is a flavonoid with known anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. According to a 2010 study published in the International Journal of Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, quercetin also “has important implications for enhancement of athletic and military performance,” after it was shown to increase both VO2 max and endurance capacity in human subjects.
The “gooey slime” portion of the chia seed contains one of its best-known athletic benefits. The seed’s outer husk is hydrophilic, meaning it draws in fluid. When mixed in water, chia seeds can absorb 10 times their weight in fluid, making them an excellent addition to an intra-workout mix, or a great way to pre-hydrate and prolong hydration during intense training. This is the logic that drives a growing number of pro athletes to mix chia seeds into their nutritional shakes.
Yes, But What Do I Do With It?
The majority of chia recipes populating the Internet can be summed up like this: Take one otherwise normal smoothie/pancake/cookie/salad dressing/muffin/yogurt parfait recipe. Toss in a scoop or two of chia seeds, which supposedly make it healthier somehow.
If this is the modern equivalent of enriched flour, we could do a lot worse. Vegan bakers have been known to use chia gel mixtures as an egg substitute and binding agent in baking; its hydrophilic surface makes it an excellent thickener. A study published in 2010 in the Journal of American Dietetic Association found that chia gel (chia mixed with water) could replace as much as 25 percent of oil or eggs in cake recipes without significantly affecting the color, taste, or texture, while also “yielding a more nutritious product.” They’re less labor-intensive and easier to digest than flax, less intrusive flavor-wise than hemp, and neither of those seeds could so easily stand in for eggs in a pinch.
However, chia’s appeal is so integrally tied to nutrition that it’s understandable to want to take it more directly and predictably than via cookies. For this reason, I advocate embracing chia for the food-based vitamin it is, and drinking it down. Its incredible fiber content alone makes it worth consuming daily—there’s no fiber supplement anywhere that beats its overall nutritional profile.
To start, just dump a scoop in whatever you drink during the day. You’ll get used to the texture.
Here’s the most basic recipe:
Chia Fresca Americano:
- 1-2 tbsp of chia
- 8-16 oz. of tasty fluid
Directions: Mix it all up, making sure to shake the chia a couple of times over the next 10 minutes. A shaker bottle makes this far easier, because the seeds are extremely prone to clumping.
The ratio of chia to fluid is definitely a matter of taste. For instance, I find the commercial chia drinks by Mamma Chia and GT’s Kombucha to be overly sweet and slimy, but they’re delicious (not to mention longer-lasting) when watered down by about a third.
For fluid options, try some watered-down juice, branched-chain amino acids, or whatever else you’re going to drink anyway over the course of the day. My daily chia fresca at 11 a.m. makes for an easy bridge between breakfast and lunch, keeping me from feeling hungry or mentally cloudy until the morning tasks are out of the way. It doesn’t provide a boost like caffeine, but I’ve never found a food or drink that equally helps me to maintain a consistent level of energy and productivity over the course of an entire day.
You can put chia in otherwise unflavored water, but honestly, I don’t recommend it. Chia is relatively tasteless, but every once in a while you’ll encounter a seed that tastes bitter and rancid, even among the top brands. This will likely improve as the industry evolves, but for now, a bit of flavor goes a long way.
- The Promising Future of Chia, a Malaysian study outlining the current research on chia seeds, their uses, and health benefits.
- AZChia, the Website of Dr. Wayne Coates, an agricultural engineer whose research helped revive interest in the chia seed.
- Two different guides on how to use chia as an egg substitute, one with milled seeds, the other with whole seeds.
The Dirty Deets
Chia seeds are members of the mint family. Ancient seeds once cultivated by the Aztecs, they grow most readily in Mexico and the U.S. Southwest.
An ounce of chia seeds (about 2 tablespoons) contains 138 calories, 10 grams of fiber, 9 grams of fat and 5 grams of protein, as well as 17 percent of your daily calcium needs, 12 percent of your iron and 23 percent of your magnesium. As for flavor, there isn’t much, so you won’t really notice ‘em in your food, except for the little bit of crunch and bump they add to the texture. Yep, we eat these guys for health, not flavor.
- Eating chia seeds is perhaps the easiest way to get omega-3 fatty acids, which are super important to brain health. A single one-ounce serving contains 5 grams of omega-3’s — and you don’t have to grind chia seeds (like you would flaxseeds) or cook ‘em (like you would salmon).
- Get your chia seeds a little wet, and you’ll see them turn into a kind of gel. This is the soluble fiber going to work. Soluble fiber bulks up stool, feeds friendly bacteria in the gut and helps slow digestion to make you feel satisfied. It also helps manage blood sugar. A serving of chia seeds provides a third of your daily fiber. (Um, caution here: An ounce of chia seeds will do you. More than that may bring revenge on your bowels.)
- Back off, osteoporosis! Chia seeds are friends to those with bone issues, thanks to their high calcium, phosphorus and manganese content.
7 Good Reasons To Start Eating Chia Seeds
- Help weight loss. Chia seeds are popular for weight loss. They reduce food cravings by preventing some of the food that you eat from getting absorbed into your system. This blockage of calorie absorption makes them a great diet helper.
- Feel fuller faster: They can also help your diet by making you feel full. This is because they absorb 10 times their weight in water, forming a bulky gel.
- Hydration for athletes: They are also great for athletes because the “chia gel” can hydrate the body.
- Reduce your blood pressure: There’s evidence to suggest they can reduce blood pressure.
- Omega-3: They are the richest plant source of Omega-3 (the vital fats that protect against inflammation—such as arthritis—and heart disease). In fact, they contain more Omega-3 than salmon!
- Benefits for diabetes: Because chia seeds slow down how fast our bodies convert carbohydrates into simple sugars, studies indicate they can control blood sugar. This leads scientists to believe chia seeds may have great benefits for diabetics.
- They are easier to digest than flax seeds, and don’t need to be ground up.
Why You Should Get Your Chia Seeds From Us
- Price: Our prices are much lower than some other suppliers. That’s because we’re one of America’s biggest suppliers of chia seeds. Also, we deal directly with the farmers, so there’s no “middleman”.
- They are great quality. If you don’t believe us, buy some of our chia seeds and some from elsewhere, and do yourself a blindfolded test—like the Pepsi Challenge but with more Omega-3.
- Our customers love them. See their almost deliriously happy comments below.
- No added weirdness: Our chia seeds were “raised well”; they are raw, non-GMO, non-irradiated, and produced without pesticides. Yippee!
- We guarantee to be in stock and will ship out the same business day.
What the Experts Say About Chia Seeds
Dr. Oz from the Oprah show says,”They just may be one of the healthiest things around.”
Nutrition expert Dr. Weil said, “A healthful and interesting addition to my diet. My prediction? You will begin to see chia being added to more and more commercial products, such as prepared baby foods, nutrition bars, and baked goods.”
Our Registered Dietitian’s Top Pick
Our Registered Dietitian and Health Nut chooses chia seeds as a top pick because of their overall nutrition package including: healthy fats, fiber, and minerals. In fact, just one tablespoon of chia seeds provides nearly 20 percent of your daily fiber goals. Plus, chia seeds are rich in essential fatty acids, which are a type of fat that the body needs to function that must come from food. Try stirring in a tablespoon of chia seeds into tea, juice or milk for a nutrient boost! Or thanks to their water absorbing properties, chia seeds are great for making pudding.
Chia seeds make an incredibly healthy—and often unnoticeable—addition to many foods.
Here are some great ways to enjoy chia seeds:
- They can be eaten raw. (They have a nice “nutty” flavor.)
- They can be soaked in fruit juice (in Mexico, they call this “chia fresca”).
- They’re perfect in porridges and puddings.
- They make an ideal addition to baked goods including breads, cakes and biscuits.
How Many Chia Seeds Should You Eat? We recommend two daily doses of about 20 g each (1.5 ounces total).
Delicious chia recipes:
- Chia Water
- Chia Smoothie
- Chia Rice Salad
- Chia Vegetable Stir Fry
- Chia Seed Fruit Drink
- Chocolate Truffles with Chia Seeds (Gluten Free)
- Apricot Truffles with Chia Seeds (Gluten Free)
- Chia Cereal
- Chia Pudding with Maca
- Chia Fresca
Got a recipe you think we’d like? Submit it here!
Chia seeds have come a long way from their as-seen-on-TV Chia Pet days. Recently, they’re being touted as a superfood, full of antioxidants, protein and fibre. Fans claim chia seeds reduce fat absorption, help prevent heart disease, make you sleep better—and point out that the Aztecs revered chia, believing it offered strength and stamina. But are these health claims myth or reality? We checked the science.
Are chia seeds packed with nutrients and omega-3s?
Yes. A serving of chia seeds (two tablespoons) has close to four grams of protein and 136 mg of calcium—close to 20 percent of the daily calcium needs for women under 50. It also boasts seven grams of filling fibre. And it’s high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3.
But: “Unfortunately, the more potent kinds of omega-3s are DHA and EPA, which are the kind we would find in fish,” says Tristaca Curley, a registered dietitian in Kelowna, B.C. “Our bodies can convert ALA to DHA, but we’re not very efficient at doing that, so only a small amount is converted.”
Do chia seeds prevent fat absorption?
Not really. While the fibre in the seeds does latch on to fat in the GI tract, “that’s happening at a microscopic level,” says Curley. “It doesn’t mean that if you have a dose of fibre, you’re suddenly not going to absorb as much fat from your meal or lose weight.”
Are chia seeds full of antioxidants?
Absolutely—the seeds have plenty of vitamin C, beta carotene, selenium and manganese. Those are all antioxidants that help your body defend itself against cell damage, resulting from natural aging processes and environmental pollutants.
But: The science around antioxidants isn’t as clear as you might think. While there’s strong evidence that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke, researchers are not sure exactly what specific components are responsible for that. The same foods that are high in antioxidants are also high in fibre, vitamins and minerals, and low in calories—all of which could also be responsible for that positive effect.
Do chia seeds prevent diabetes and heart disease?
It’s not proven. There have only been a handful of studies on chia seeds’ impact on people’s health, with mixed results—one 12-week study on overweight adults gave people two tablespoons of chia seeds a day, and found no difference in blood pressure or weight loss. Another on overweight women had a similar effect. There are two positive studies on chia seeds and heart disease and diabetes that are often cited, but neither point to long-term health benefits of chia on its own. One study looked at chia in combination with protein and soy, and the other only looked at results two hours after eating the seeds. Meanwhile, a review of the current research on chia seeds and heart health found seven relevant studies — and no statistically significant results.
But: “We know that fibre slows down how quickly your blood sugar rises after eating,” says Curley, adding that the high protein, vitamin and mineral content also carries potential health benefits. “If you look at the nutritional components individually, it makes sense that chia seeds would lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease.”
Do chia seeds help you sleep better?
Not likely. Two tablespoons of chia seeds have only 0.094 g of the sleep-inducing chemical tryptophan—way less than the three grams found in a turkey breast. Plus, we now know that high-in-tryptophan foods like turkey, on their own, aren’t the reason we get tired after a big meal. It’s more likely the carbs and glasses of wine.
Are chia seeds a superfood?
Sure, considering there’s no set definition of a superfood. That said, chia seeds are an unprocessed whole food, full of vitamins and minerals.
But: The term superfood is a pet peeve of many dietitians, partly because of the health-halo effect, which makes people underestimate the number of calories in foods they think are healthy. “I don’t like the term superfood because it gives people the idea that if you change nothing else but add two tablespoons of chia seeds to your diet, it’s going to undo everything,” says Curley. “As soon as we find a food that has health benefits, people are like, ‘Let’s make that into a cupcake!’ Chia seeds are great, but how you prepare them matters. Just like potatoes are a great whole food, but fried into French fries? Not so much.”
Originally published May 2016; Updated September 2018.