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Health seekers around the world have been spreading the benefits of chia seeds for the past 10 years. You’ve probably seen these tiny seeds are available on many of our supermarket shelves. Though you may wonder if they’re worth the hype or they’ll just be another new superfood stocked in your pantry and hardly make a difference to your health.
This article takes a look into the evidence of chia seeds’ nutritional value and how they can benefit human health. And importantly, how to use them in the right way.
What are chia seeds?
They’re actually an ancient food, originally native to Central America. They’ve been an everyday addition to Mayan and Aztec cooking and medicines for thousands of years. They’re oval-shaped seeds grown on a plant from the mint family called Salvia Hispanica. Due to rising public demand, they’re now grown in Australia, North America, and South America (1).
They have a gelatinous ability to absorb liquids due to the high amount and type of soluble fiber they contain. They swell in size, which makes them flexible for use in many dishes.
Note: They should always be eaten after soaking or in liquid and not eaten dry for reasons explained below.
Nutritional value of chia seeds
Chia seeds are relatively low in calories, and you get plenty of nutrients in a small amount. Rich in a wide range of critical nutrients. They’re one of the highest plant sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of essential omega-3 fatty acid. Proteins, vitamins, minerals, and dietary soluble fiber (2).
Per ounce nutritional value of chia seeds (28gram)
Each two-tablespoon serving of chia seeds contains (3):
- 138 calories
- 12 grams of fiber
- 4 grams of protein
- 9 grams of fat (5 of which are omega-3s)
- 18% of the RDA of calcium
- 30% of the RDA of phosphorus
- 27% of the RDA of manganese
Smaller amounts of potassium, zinc, and vitamin B3.
Potential health benefits
Evidence on chia seeds’ nutritional profile supports their benefits to help with weight loss by stabilizing blood sugar, promoting proper intestinal function, and helping you feel full (4, 5). Other studies have shown improvements in bone health, antioxidant, anti-inflammation, and improve skin health (6, 7 ).
The health benefits of chia seeds, or any superfood, need to be taken into context with the rest of a healthy diet & lifestyle. Adding one nutrition-boosting food to your diet will help some, but it won’t replace nutrients missing from a balanced healthy diet.
Main health benefits of chia seeds:
- Assist in blood pressure regulation.
- Assist in the improvement of bone health.
- Aid digestive health.
- Assist in increasing insulin sensitivity & reduce the risk of diabetes type 2
- Aid in weight loss by enhancing satiety
Supporting cardiovascular health
Chia seeds contain a high concentration of antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce inflammation in the body (8). Furthermore, the high fiber content of chia seeds might aid in cholesterol reduction and improve heart health. (9)
In one study, consuming chia seeds 35 grams per day for 12 weeks significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in those with pre-hypertension (High blood pressure) or stage 1 hypertension. (10)
Aiding weight loss & improving diabetes
A study including 26 overweight or obese men and women discovered that consuming 35 grams (roughly 3 tbsp) of chia seeds daily for twelve weeks resulted in weight loss (13).
Chia seeds can be an excellent supplement to a diabetic’s diet. They are high in fiber and have a low glycemic index, which indicates they don’t cause blood sugar spikes.
Another research looked into whether chia seeds can promote weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes. The research comprised 77 people who were either overweight or obese (14).
For six months, all subjects maintained a calorie-restricted diet. One group consumed Salba chia on a daily basis, whereas the other had an oat bran-based control meal.
Participants who did not eat chia dropped an average of 0.66 lb (0.3 kg). Chia eaters dropped an average of 4.19 lb (1.9 kg). When compared to the control group, the chia group had a substantial average reduction in waist circumference.
May enhance skin health
Because your skin is the largest organ in your body, it is critical that you take care of it.
Summary of benefits on skin health includes (7):
- Skin protection against sun damage
- Inflammation relief
- Improve skin hydration, thus reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
The best ways to include in your diet
There are different ways to add chia seeds to your diet. Also, you can be creative in including it in smoothies, pudding, and other drinks. These are the most simple yet delicious dishes for you to incorporate chia seeds.
Chia seeds smoothie
Adding a small number of whole chia seeds to your morning smoothie is a simple way to get them into your diet. Simply start with one spoonful of chia seeds in your favorite smoothie recipe to thicken its texture and boost in protein, omega-3, and fiber.
Chia seeds pudding
Making chia seed pudding is another way to incorporate chia seeds into your diet. Simply combine 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1 cup water, almond or coconut milk, and a few drops of liquid stevia or 1 teaspoon of honey. Allow the mixture to thicken for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator. Enjoy with ½ cup of thawed berries or fresh fruit of your choice on top.
What happens if you eat chia seeds every day?
Daily use of chia seeds can provide several health advantages, including better digestion, weight control, skin and heart health. Chia seeds can help lower cravings and appetite. Adjusting the amount you will benefit from is based on each individual, and maintaining good water intake is essential.
Who should not eat chia seeds?
Those who suspect they have a functional digestive disorder called SIBO. SIBO is an acronym for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Different types of fiber affect individuals differently, so check with your clinician. Chia seed allergy sufferers should also avoid eating them. People who have a history of bowel disorders, kidney stones, or gallbladder problems should use caution or specialist advice before adding chia seeds. Finally, pregnant and nursing women should avoid eating chia seeds in large doses (above 2 tbsp/day) since they might interfere with the absorption of supplements or medicines.
How many chia seeds should you eat a day?
Most adults can safely start by consuming around ½ – 1 tablespoon (10-20 grams) of chia seeds daily. You’ll notice in your foods that chia seeds absorb a lot of fluid in the meal. They also absorb a lot of fluid in the body. So being sure to drink enough water daily is crucial, ideally 2L daily. Consuming more than this quantity may result in digestive problems, including diarrhea and bloating.
How should chia seeds be eaten?
Chia seeds can be eaten in a variety of ways with other liquids in a meal. They may be included in smoothies when baking cookies or cakes, cereal, yogurt, and other savory dishes like vegetable patties or meatballs. They can be ground to a fine meal in a blender and used in vegan dishes as an egg replacement. In addition, you may mix chia seeds with water to form chia gel, which can be used to thicken sauces, soups, and batters.
Should you eat chia seeds and flax seeds together?
It really depends on the amount of fiber in your current diet and if you’re adequately hydrated! If you remember that “less is more” with increasing fiber in your diet, then for most of us, it’s okay to consume chia and flax seeds together. Chia and flax seeds are abundant in two different types of dietary fiber and can be beneficial as part of a healthy diet. It is vital to remember, however, that flax seeds should always be ground or soaked before eating, as entire seeds cannot be absorbed by the human body. Constipation and bloating can occur if you consume too much, too quickly, without letting your bowels get used to extra fiber. Also, it’s wise to increase your water intake at the same time.
Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are a superfood packed with a lot of health benefits, from improving blood sugar regulation to heart health and bone health. In addition, chia seeds might help you lose weight.