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Chia Seeds: Health Benefits, Weight Loss, & Preparation

Chia seeds are seeds of the plant Salvia hispanica.  They originate from Central and South America.  These seeds have a rich history as they were used in both Aztec and Mayan culture.  In Mayan, the word for chia means “strength”, and that’s exactly what chia seeds provided to the people of these ancient cultures; these seeds gave them strength in the form of energy to do many rigorous activities such as go on long journeys.  However, the benefits of chia seeds expand beyond their ability to provide energy.

Benefits of Chia Seeds:

1. High in Nutritional Value 

Due to the high amounts of nutrients found in chia seeds, chia seeds have been deemed a superfood, and when you really start to understand the nutritional value that they provide per ounce, it’s not hard to see how chia seeds were able to obtain their “superfood” status.

Once ounce / 28 grams / 2 tablespoons of chia seeds provides:
Fiber 11 grams
Protein 4 grams
Fat 9 grams (By weight 75 percent of the fat content of chia seeds comes from healthy omega-3 & omega-6 fats)
Calcium 177 milligrams (18 percent DV)
Magnesium (30 percent DV)
Phosphorus 265 milligrams (27 percent DV)
Manganese 0.6 milligram  (30 percent DV)
Zinc 1 milligram (7 percent DV)
Calories  137
To see complete nutritional chart click here:

2. Provide Energy

We get energy from the macronutrients that we eat, so it only makes sense that a nutrient-rich food like chia seeds packed with macronutrients would give us energy.  That is why the Aztecs and Mayans would eat chia seeds when they went on long journeys and did many other rigorous activities because of the energy that the chia seeds provided them.  Warriors would even eat chia seeds to make sure they had enough energy during a battle.

Just as chia seeds were used to help perform rigorous activities back then, they can be used to help us perform many rigorous activities today.  Chia seeds are a great workout food to energize you so that you can get the most out of your workout; in fact, there was a study that was conducted to measure chia seed’s impact on physical performance in relation to a sports drink. 

In the end, it was determined that under the conditions of the study chia seeds were a viable alternative to the sports drink at enhancing workout performance, and chia seeds enhanced workout performance without the sugar intake of the sports drink (1).

Now, keep in mind that you don’t have to wait until you do a rigorous activity like working out before you eat chia seeds.  You can eat chia seeds anytime you want more energy.

 

 3. Very Filling

Chia seeds are renowned for their ability to be so filling to eat.  Chia seed’s ability to be so filling to eat has a lot to do with their high fiber content.  Almost 40 percent of the weight of a chia seed comes from its fiber content.

Chia seeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.  Soluble fiber and insoluble fiber are both very filling to consume.  The difference between soluble fiber and insoluble fiber is that soluble fiber has the ability to absorb liquids.  Insoluble fiber does not.

Soluble fiber’s capacity to absorb liquids really elevates chia seed’s ability to be more filling.  You see, when you eat a chia seed the soluble fiber content of the chia seed absorbs liquids in your digestive system.

When the soluble fiber content of the chia seed absorbs liquids it changes into a gel form and expands expanding the overall size of the chia seed.

The absorption of liquids in the digestive system by soluble fiber can cause chia seeds to expand up to 10-12 times their normal weight, causing chia seeds to take up more space in your stomach, making chia seeds even more filling in your stomach.

One other important point to make about soluble fiber is that once soluble fiber absorbs liquids and changes into gel form, it will take the soluble fiber longer to make its way through your digestive system in its gel form keeping you fuller longer.  Therefore, not only do chia seeds fill you up, but the soluble fiber content of the chia seeds keeps you full for longer periods of time.

As you can see, fiber content is one of the main reasons why chia seeds are so filling to eat, but fiber content is not the only reason chia seeds are so filling.  Chia seeds also contain protein, and protein is also very filling to consume.

 

4. Could Possibly Help With Weight Loss

Now, there is a belief that since chia seeds are high in fiber and are great at suppressing appetite, that if you eat them, it automatically lead to weight loss.  However, there have been studies that have contradicted this belief, where participants in the studies experienced no real weight loss after eating chia seeds.

There was a study that was done where overweight participants ate 50 grams of chia seeds a day for 12 weeks, and at the end of the 12-week study, it was found that participants did not experience any change in body mass (2).

Now, to understand why eating a high fiber food like chia see seeds doesn’t ensure weight loss it’s important to understand what really causes weight loss.  Weight loss comes down to burning more calories a day then you take in, and real weight loss is usually achieved not by any single “magic bullet” food alone, but by having a well-rounded diet that moderates your caloric intake and by exercising which will help you burn more calories.

Therefore, if you don’t have a well-rounded diet, you’re not exercising, and you are in-taking more calories on a daily basis then you’re burning, than you’re not going to lose weight just merely because you’re eating chia seeds.

You’ll have to make some lifestyle changes beyond eating chia see seeds to help yourself lose weight.  You’ll have to create a well-rounded diet for yourself so that you can moderate your caloric intake, and it wouldn’t hurt to start exercising so that you can burn more calories a day.

Now, once you’ve established a weight loss conducive lifestyle through dieting and exercising, eating chia seeds in moderation can possibly assist you in your weight loss efforts.

Here is an example of how chia seeds can assist your dieting efforts: 

As previously mentioned, chia seeds are high in fiber and are filling to eat.  So let’s say you add chia seeds to a weight loss friendly food like a salad or yogurt to make it more filling, and as a result of feeling fuller you eat less for the rest of the day and ultimately take in fewer calories that day, it can be said chia seeds are helping with weight loss.

Here is an example of how chia seeds can be used to help your exercise efforts:

Chia seeds are a great source of energy.  So let’s say you eat chia seeds to give yourself more energy to work out, and as a result of eating the chia seeds, you do feel more energized and are able to work out harder and burn more calories, it can be said that chia seeds are helping you to lose weight.

Now, if you do choose to use chia seeds for weight loss it’s important to understand its a balancing act because even though chia seeds can minimize your calorie intake through appetite suppression and can help you burn more calories through exercise, chia seeds themselves are high in calories. Therefore, if you’re eating chia seeds in high quantities it wouldn’t take long before they’re costing you more calories then they’re so supposed to be saving you.  So, if you do choose to use chia seeds for weight loss, it’s important to do so in moderation on occasions where it is useful to do so occasions where you’re trying to suppress your appetite or need an energy boost for exercise. Eating chia seeds should not be your main tactic for losing weight but something you do in moderation.  Again, your main tactic for losing weight should be to establish a well-rounded diet that moderates your calorie intake and exercising which will help you burn more calories a day.

 

5. Could Help with Diabetes 

Not enough studies have been done on the subject matter yet to say definitively that chia seed consumption has a beneficial effect on diabetes.  However, it seems very sensible that chia seed intake could have a positive effect given chia seeds are high in fiber, and fiber has been shown to reduce blood sugar spikes (3).

Furthermore, although more studies need to be done before it can be said firmly that chia seeds can have a positive impact on diabetes, many of the studies that have been conducted so far measuring chia seed’s ability to improve diabetic related conditions have been very encouraging.  Such as one study that showed participants had lower blood sugar spikes when they ate chia seeds with white bread compared to when they ate white bread alone (4).  Several other studies conducted on rodents showed a positive correlation between chia seed consumption and better insulin sensitivity in rats (5)(6).

To summarize, even though more studies need to done on the subject matter, it seems very likely that eating chia seeds could have an positive effect of diabetes given the fact that chia seeds are high in fiber and that many of the studies conducted to measure chia seed’s ability to improve diabetic related conditions have been very positive.

 

6. Rich in Antioxidants 

Free radical damage is an unfamiliar term to some.  However, it’s important to know what free radical damage is because many health-related issues including cancers that people face today are often in part caused by free radical damage that has occurred over a period of time.

It’s also important to know what antioxidants are as antioxidants help fight off free radical damage.  Thus, if you want to lower your risk of having various health-related issues, it’s a great idea to start eating foods that are rich in antioxidants.

When it comes to rich antioxidant foods, chia seeds are one of the best choices; in fact, there is a study that shows that chia seeds have higher levels of antioxidants than previously thought (7).  There are even suggestions that ounce per ounce chia seeds have more antioxidants than blueberries which is one of the highest antioxidant foods known.

 

7. Mitigates Damage Caused by Sun Exposure

It’s important to understand that we humans do many facial expressions and facial movements throughout the day which cause our skin to fold and crease.  What stops fine lines from appearing is the elastin content in our skin.  The elastin content in our skin helps our skin bounce back after we do a facial expression or facial movement so that fine lines and wrinkles don’t appear.

The problem is that sun exposure over time can break down the elastin content in our skin.  As the elastin content in your skin gets broken down and deteriorates, your skin becomes less effective at bouncing back after facial expressions and facial movements and wrinkles and lines can begin to appear.  Now, this process doesn’t happen overnight, but over time, sun exposure can lead to premature signs of aging.

A great way to mitigate the sun’s negative effect on the skin is to eat certain plant-based foods like chia seeds.  The reason why various plant-based foods like chia seeds are so good at protecting your skin is that whether pants are on a farm or out in the wild, they are out in the sun all day, which is why these plants have to generate antioxidants to protect themselves from the constant sun exposure.

When you eat these plants or the seeds of these plants, you also consume the antioxidants, and you get to enjoy all the sun protecting benefits that the antioxidants provide.  Therefore, if you want to keep your skin and face looking youthful for longer, it’s a great idea to start incorporating certain plant-based foods like chia seeds into your diet.

 

8. Good Source of Protein

Protein is important to us all. As human beings, we are all made up of protein, and we constantly need fresh protein intake to replenish muscles and tissues throughout our bodies.  Protein is also a great source of energy and it serves many other functions within the human body.  It is said that the average women needs about 46 grams of protein a day, and the average man needs about 56 grams of protein a day. In every 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, there are 4 grams of protein, and chia seeds are one of the better plant sources of protein.

You see, often proteins from plants are viewed as not as good as protein from animals because the protein from many plant types don’t have all 9 essential amino acids that your body needs like the protein from many animal types have.  However, this not the case for chia seeds.  Chia seeds are one of the few plant sources that do possess all 9 essential amino acids that your body needs.

Now, although chia seeds do have all 9 amino acids they are a little deficient in at least one of 9 essential amino acids, an amino acid called lysine. But the fact that chia seeds are a bit deficient in lysine is not a big deal, because they’re probably plenty of other foods currently in your diet that are high in lysine as many foods contain lysine.  Animal-based foods that are high in lysine include fish, poultry, red meat, eggs, milk, and (yogurt & cheese which is made from milk).  Plant-based foods that are high in lysine include soybeans and quinoa.

 

9. Could Potentially Improve Cardiovascular Health

Research is sparse but the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid, has been shown to improve heart health, and there is more than enough research that shows that fiber intake can improve heart health (8)(9)(10)(11).

Considering the positive impact that omega-3’s and fiber each have been shown to have on the heart, you would think that a food like chia seeds (that contains both fiber and omega-3’s) would definitely boost heart health. However, surprisingly many studies have shown otherwise.

Of the studies that have been conducted so far to measure chia seed’s ability to improve heart health, the results have been rather inconsistent and unclear.

Some studies do seem to show some positive association with chia seed intake and improvements in heart-related conditions, such as a study where 20 participants with type 2 diabetes were given chia seed supplementation for 2 weeks and noticed improvements in their blood pressure (12).  Good blood pressure is an important tenant of good heart health.

However, other studies found no consistent impact that chia seed consumption had on improving heart conditions.  For example, there was an experiment conducted by Cynthia de Souza Ferreira and other colleagues to see if chia seed consumption could lower the risk of various heart-related issues.  At the end of the experiment, they were not able to identify any consistent positive impact that chia seed consumption had on heart health (13).

Due to the fact chia seeds have both omega-3’s & fiber and some studies show a positive link between chia seed consumption and improved heart-related conditions, it can be said that chia seeds could potentially improve cardiovascular health.  However, looking at all of the studies combined and their overall inconsistent findings, at this point it can not be stated with absolute certainty that eating chia seeds will definitely improve cardiovascular health.

 

10. Good For The Bones

Chia seeds are a great food for the bones.  They possess several minerals that are fundamental to bone health.  Not only do chia seeds posses these minerals but they possess them in substantial amounts.  Some of the minerals that chia seeds posses that are important to bone health include calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

• Calcium intake is essential to keeping bones in good condition.  When consumed calcium primarily ends up getting stored in bones helping to keep bones strong, healthy, and at their optimal density.  Chia seeds are a great source of calcium.  In 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, there are 177 milligrams of calcium which is 18 percent of the recommended daily intake.

• Phosphorus consumption helps to solidify our bones.  Phosphorus combines with calcium in the bones to create a hard material that reinforces the bones and keeps them strong.  In 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, there are 265 milligrams of phosphorus which is 27 percent of the recommended daily intake.

• Magnesium helps with the absorption of calcium.  Two tablespoons of chia seeds provide 30 percent of the recommended daily value of magnesium.

Other contents of chia seeds that are important to bone health include zinc, manganese, boron, and vitamin A.  Thus, if you want stronger bones that are less inclined to fracture or break than chia seeds are a great food to incorporate into your diet.

 

11. Great For The Teeth 

Considering that chia seeds are great for the bones, it should come as no surprise that chia seeds are great for the teeth too as bones and teeth are made up of many of the same contents.  The components of chia seeds that are beneficial to the teeth include calcium, zinc, and phosphorus. Calcium and phosphorous help keep teeth strong, and zinc helps fight tartar build-up.

 

12. Rich In Omega-3s

One reason chia seeds are so special is that they are one of the richest plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The primary type of omega-3 fatty acid found in chia seeds is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).  Some of the notable benefits of ALA is that ALA is a great source of energy, and although research is sparse, various studies have found a positive correlation between ALA intake and improved cardiovascular health.

ALA also has the ability to be converted into 2 other types of omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).  Once ALA is converted into EPA and DHA it takes on a whole new host of benefits. Some of the benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are improved mental health, improved fetal brain development, improved heart health, improved eye health.  The problem is that only a small percentage of ALA is able to be converted to DHA and EPA (less than 10 percent).  Therefore, if you want the benefits associated with DHA and EPA its best to go directly to a DHA and EPA food source, instead of sources like chia seeds where the primary omega-3 is ALA and only a small percentage gets converted into DHA and EPA.  Direct and abundant food sources of DHA and EPA include fatty fish like salmon and certain shellfish.

 

13. High in Fiber Content 

Chia seeds are a powerhouse of fiber.

It’s stated that the average man under 50 should get about 30 to 38 grams of fiber a day, and the average women under 50 should get about 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day.

In just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds there are 11 grams of fiber, so whether you’re a man or women, eating just a couple tablespoons of chia seeds will put you well within reach of meeting your recommended daily fiber intake.

 

14. Good For Digestion & Digestive Health

Due to chia seed’s high fiber content, chia seeds are great for digestion and overall digestive health.  Here are some of the ways that chia seeds, with their high fiber content, can benefit digestive health:

• High fiber foods like chia seeds can help keep you regular because fiber will add bulk to your stools which allows stools to pass through your system much easier until they are excreted out.  It’s important to stay regular and not keep stools in your system too long because not only is it uncomfortable but it can lead to all sorts of conditions like hemorrhoids and diverticulitis.

• High fiber foods like chia seeds are also great for gut health because fiber feeds certain types of beneficial bacteria in our guts.  Now the idea of bacteria in the gut may sound disgusting to some, but researchers are starting to uncover the profound impact that beneficial gut bacteria has on digestion and overall health.

 

15. Contains A Wide Variety of Beneficial Content

Often, chia seed’s fiber and omega-3 content get the most attention, but there are other contents found in chia seeds that are important as well.  It’s important to know what these other contents are and their benefits so that we can truly understand the benefits of chia seeds.  Some of the other important contents of chia seeds include iron, zinc, and vitamin b1.

• Iron is a vital mineral that helps move oxygen throughout the body through the blood.  Feeling fatigued for no reason can often be attributed to a lack of iron.

• Zinc is an important mineral that serves many functions throughout the human body. Some of the notable functions of zinc is that it enhances immunity and wound healing.

• Vitamin B1(Thiamine) is very important throughout the human body. Vitamin B1 plays a vital role in helping to ensure that the brain, nervous system, heart, and muscles are healthy and are functioning properly.  Vitamin B1 also helps convert foods that we eat into energy.

 

16. Makes a Great Addition To Many Meals

Chia seeds make a great addition to many meals.  They can be sprinkled into or on-top of foods.  Due to their lack of taste and flavor when you add chia seeds to a meal, the chia seeds will not alter the taste or flavor of the meal.  However, because of the high nutritional value and fiber content of chia seeds, adding chia seeds to a meal will increase the nutritional value of the meal and will make the meal more filling to eat.  For example, sprinkling chia seeds into yogurt or a salad, will increase the nutritional value of the yogurt or salad and will make that yogurt or salad more filling to eat.

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Health Advisory:

 

1. Take your time eating chia seeds.  Remember that chia seeds can expand up to 12 times their weight when they come in contact with liquids.  There was an incident where a man took in too many chia seeds at once, and the chia seeds expanded in his throat, and he had trouble swallowing them and had to seek medical attention.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that this individual did have a prior history of swallowing problems. Nevertheless, you should take your time when you’re eating chia seeds, and if you have a prior history of swallowing problems, instead of eating chia seeds dry you may want to consider soaking chia seeds in water first allowing them to expand to there full size before eating them.

2. The primary type of omega-3 fatty acid found in chia seeds is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).  There are suggestions that there could be a possible link between ALA and prostate cancer.

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 Preparation:

 

There are no limits with how you can eat chia seeds.  Chia seeds can be eaten raw and commonly are.  They can also be soaked, baked, and cooked.  Chia seeds can be eaten by themselves or they can be added to other foods.  They can be added to other foods by sprinkling the chia seeds into or on top of the other foods.

As mentioned before because chia seeds are rich in nutrients when you add chia seeds to other foods it will boost the nutritional value of the overall meal, and because chia seeds are high in fiber when you add chia seeds to other foods, it will make the overall meal more filling.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that even though there are a variety of ways to eat the chia seeds, the best way to eat chia seeds to get the most nutritional value out of them is to soak (put them in water) them before eating them.  You see, chia seeds contain a substance called phytic acid which can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the chia seeds.  Soaking chia seeds will wash away the phytic acid, thereby stopping the phytic acid from interfering with nutrient absorption.

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