Chia seeds are one of the healthiest and nutritious seeds in the food industry. They have gained popularity for their benefits, making most people fall in love with these seeds. However, some of the running theories about chia seeds benefits and side effects have been brought into question. For example, the effectiveness of taking chia seeds for weight loss.
Do chia seeds promote weight loss? This is one of the running theories on the link between these seeds and weight loss that we will analyze. Additionally, we will also discuss chia seeds’ benefits and side effects, their nutrition, and how you can add them to your diet. Take a look!
What Are Chia Seeds?
They are tiny oval-shaped seeds that have exploded in popularity in the health industry over the last couple of years. Today, you will find them in various cereals, bread, drinks, bars, and pudding. So what are they, and why is there a craze for them?
Chia is a tiny white or black seed obtained from a herbaceous plant known as Salvia hispanica L. (5). It dates back to the Mesoamerican culture, where it was used beside beans, corn, and amaranth (5). It was also used to prepare food and medicine (5).
Today, people have picked up on its value and are incorporating it into their diet plans. But, you might have seen or heard everyone praising these seeds and are wondering if these tiny seeds are worth the attention they are getting. Well, what better way to answer this than to explore the benefits of these seeds.
Benefits Of Chia Seeds
Do not be fooled by their size. These tiny seeds are packed with nutrients and are considered nutritional powerhouses. Due to these nutrients, chia seeds have been associated with numerous possible health benefits. Let us break it down to these seeds’ nutritional benefits to understand better what they bring to the table.
Nutritional Benefits Of Chia Seeds
Regardless of your chia seeds servings, you are bound to obtain numerous nutrients from these seeds. According to the National Nutrient Database of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 1 ounce (28 g) serving of chia seeds has the following nutrients:
- Calories- 138
- Protein- 4.7 g
- Total fat- 8.7 g
- Carbs- 11.9 g
- Fiber – 9.75 g
The calories in chia seeds plus the content of other nutrients will vary depending on your serving size. Of course, the larger the serving, the more the content. The recommended or usual serving size is about 2 tablespoons, which is around 1 ounce or 28 grams. Besides these nutrients, chia seeds are also packed with the following:
We all need fiber in our bodies for various reasons. One of the most significant reasons why we need fiber is to ease bowel movements and reduce constipation. Experts reveal that these oval-shaped seeds have dietary fiber ranging from 34 to 40 g per 100 g (5). A typical serving has almost 10 g of fiber, which can really help you get to your daily goal.
Studies show that taking a high amount of fiber also reduces your risk for coronary heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes (5). In addition, fiber also helps suppress hunger, which is beneficial for dieters as it limits the number of overall calories they consume (5).
Additionally, fiber lowers blood pressure and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels in the body (5). Recent studies show that the seeds may help improve cardiovascular functioning and help regulate the immune system and inflammation (5).
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Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Many people know that you can get your omega-3 fatty acids from fish. However, food experts acknowledge that another excellent source of this nutrient is chia seeds. According to WebMD, an ounce of these seeds provides 5 g of omega-3 fatty acids (11).
These nutrients are fundamental for several roles, including (10):
- Easing inflammation
- Reducing heart attack and stroke risk
- Combating obesity
- Promoting brain health
- Raising HDL” good” cholesterol levels
- Contributing to fetal and infant brain development
Chia seeds are also rich in antioxidants, which are also known as the free-radical scavengers. They protect the cells against damage from free radicals that may result in oxidative stress and increase chronic disease risk (7). Antioxidants also act as enzyme inhibitors, metal-chelating agents, and electron and hydrogen donors (7).
These seeds also provide you with a decent amount of calcium. According to WebMD, you obtain around 17% of your daily calcium needs after consuming one ounce of chia seeds (11). We all know that calcium is vital for the development of strong and healthy bones.
More so, Medical News Today also reveals that calcium is essential for the following roles (1):
- Regulation of muscle contraction
- Maintaining the heart muscle action
- Managing blood pressure in young adults and pregnant women
- Improving cholesterol levels
- Reducing the risk of colorectal adenomas (which is non-cancerous tumor)
- Being a cofactor for many enzymes
We all need iron in our bodies in distinct amounts. The amount of iron you require is determined by your age and sex. Adult males and postmenopausal women require 8 mg, while females aged 19 to 50 require 18 mg of iron daily (6). Pregnant women require 27 mg a day.
An ounce of chia seeds provides you with 12% of your daily iron needs if you are a nonpregnant, premenopausal female (11). It provides 27% for males and postmenopausal women. This mineral is vital in our bodies for the proper functioning of hemoglobin, a protein needed for oxygen transportation in the blood (6).
Additionally, iron is also crucial for the following processes (6):
- Maintaining a healthy pregnancy
- Supporting mental and physical performance
- Reducing anemia risk
Dry chia seeds contain 8.8% of phenolic compounds, including caffeic acid, myricetin, kaempferol, quercetin, cinnamic, chlorogenic, and rosmarinic acid (5). All these compounds may be helpful for your body in one way or the other.
For example, caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid act as antioxidants and might help lower blood pressure and reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Similarly, kaempferol contains pharmacological properties like anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumor, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, antimicrobial, and antidiabetic (8).
These properties have been linked with potentially decreased risk of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes (5). They have also been found to have possible protective effects on your heart and liver (5).
Other Vitamins And Minerals
Chia seeds also contain minerals like potassium, magnesium, and vitamins B, A, K, D, E, B1, B2, and niacin (5). The contents of potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium are more significant in these seeds than in other cereals (5).
They have the following benefits (5):
- Magnesium. This mineral regulates muscle and nerve functioning, making bone, DNA, and protein, and stabilizing blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
- Phosphorus. Phosphorus has several vital roles in the body. Its primary function is involved in the formation of bones and teeth. It is also involved in the body’s utilization of fats and carbohydrates and protein formation, which is necessary for the growth, repair, and maintenance of cells and tissues.
- Potassium. Potassium helps regulate muscle contractions, nerve functioning, and fluid balance. It also offsets the adverse effects of sodium on your blood pressure, helps keep your heartbeat regular, and moves nutrients into your cells.
All these add to the health advantages of consuming chia seeds. However, remember that there is a recommended dietary allowance for each of these nutrients. So, talk to your doctor and nutritionist to validate that you are taking enough of these nutrients.
Fast Glimpse Of Chia Seeds Nutrition Facts
Based on what we have discussed above, we can summarize the nutrition facts of chia seeds in several statements, which include:
- Chia seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, calcium, and iron.
- They also contain magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, selenium, folate, and choline.
- An ounce has 138 calories.
- These seeds are nutritional powerhouses that provide nutrients which may be associated with a reduced risk of several adverse health conditions.
Do Chia Seeds Promote Weight Loss?
A lot has been said about chia seeds and their effects on weight loss. So, you will find many assertions on chia seeds’ benefits for weight loss on the internet. The theory is that the high fiber content in these seeds helps suppress hunger and increase satiety, thereby reducing overeating (5).
Similarly, the argument is that the protein content in these seeds keeps you fuller for longer, preventing overeating (5). In light of this, many people have added chia seeds to their weight loss diet plans. However, there are very few human studies that support this running theory. Let us evaluate two studies with differing views on chia seeds’ influence on weight loss. Take a look:
Study 1 (Chia Seeds Promote Weight Loss)
A 2014 study was conducted among randomly picked obese and overweight adults to determine the effect of chia seeds on body composition, lipid profile, and blood glucose. Dietary fiber in these seeds has been linked to weight loss and enhancing lipid profiles and blood glucose levels (2).
So, the study wanted to evaluate to what effect fiber in chia affects these three components. After chia consumption for 12 weeks, the researchers discovered that the participants had reported reducing their body weight and waist circumference (2).
Although the chia group lost significant weight, it was not substantially different from the control group. So, the study inferences acknowledged that chia promoted “significant but discrete” reduction in weight and waist circumference (9). It also enhanced lipid profiles, but only in those who had abnormal values to begin with (2).
Study 2 (Chia Seeds Do Not Promote Weight Loss)
A 2009 study was conducted to assess the effectiveness of chia seeds on weight loss. The hypothesis was based on the running theory that these seeds’ high fiber and alpha-linolenic (ALA) contents would promote a small but significant decrease in body weight (3).
So, the researchers gave their participants, who were overweight and obese adults between 20 and 70 years, chia seeds for 12 weeks (3). They took body mass and composition measures, blood pressure, inflammation, oxidative stress, and lipoproteins (3).
The study findings revealed that the participants had not reported any change in body mass or composition or other disease risk factor measures (3). So, the researchers concluded that chia seed consumption does not affect weight loss.
Based on this insight, you may be confused about where these seeds lie on the weight loss map. As mentioned earlier, there lacks concrete evidence to support the theory that chia seeds promote weight loss.
However, it does not mean ruling them out yet from your weight loss diet plan. Although chia seeds do not promote weight loss on their own, you can add them to a healthy, balanced weight loss diet and shed some pounds. For example, you can sprinkle them on some yogurt for a nutritious snack instead of chips, or add them to your oatmeal in the morning.
They are excellent additions to a healthy balanced weight loss diet plan. Be sure to talk to your doctor and nutritionist if you are trying to lose weight and consider adding chia seeds to your diet.
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How To Add Chia Seeds To Your Diet?
Before people knew of the possible health benefits of chia seeds, little did they know how to consume these seeds. Most people only knew of one method: adding a spoonful of these seeds to a glass of water and drinking it.
It is an excellent way of stimulating the digestive system. However, as more and more people embraced them, new recipes emerged. These seeds are straightforward to incorporate into your diet because you do not have to grind or cook them.
Here are some easy ways you can chow down these nutritional powerhouses:
You can have these seeds any time of your day by adding them to your smoothie (11). However, remember that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of smoothies to prepare. It all comes down to your goals and preferences.
Again, remember that you do not have to grind the chia seeds to extract their nutrients. You can simply add them in their raw form and reap their benefits. Some chia seeds smoothies to consider are a blueberry chia seed smoothie, green pear apple, chia seed smoothie, or apple oats.
These nutritional powerhouses blend perfectly with other salad dressing ingredients. So, do not be afraid to use it alongside lemon juice, olive oil, honey, or vinegar.
You can also use ground chia to make baked goods like cakes, for example, a lemon chia seed cake. Alternatively, you can grind whole chia seeds in a coffee grinder if you do not have them in ground form.
You can also sprinkle a spoonful of these seeds on your yogurt, rice dishes, or sauces. They thicken sauces and are therefore used as thickening agents.
You can also reap the benefits of these seeds by making them into a pudding. It is advisable not to have a dry chia seed pudding but instead add some liquid to it. Despite their long list of benefits, they may lead to a constricted esophagus, which is why you need to add some liquid to the pudding.
Luckily, they absorb liquids quickly, and you do not have to wait long. Some ideal ingredients to consider for your chia pudding are strawberries, almond milk, honey, maple syrup, coconut milk, and nut butter.
Side Effects Of Chia Seeds
Unfortunately, some people may experience certain side effects after consuming chia seeds. It could be because of taking large quantities or a reaction to the seeds in general.
The side effects include:
Chia seeds belong to the mint family together with the mustard, mint, and sesame seeds. Consuming them may lead to cross-sensitization among individuals with mustard or sesame allergies (9). Therefore, it would be best to talk to your doctor and get assessed for such allergies before adding these nutritional powerhouses to your diet plan.
Chia seeds may lower blood sugar levels because of their high fiber content, which causes carbohydrates to be absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream. This sounds like a good thing for people with diabetes, and it is. Those on blood sugar-lowering medications, however, need to be careful that the combination doesn’t lower their blood sugar too much, causing a hypoglycemic event.If you are diabetic and especially if you are on insulin or other medications, speak to your doctor before adding chia seeds or making any other major dietary changes, as it may require a dosage adjustment or some extra monitoring for a time (9).
Chia seeds have a tough exterior that the body finds difficult to break down, release, and digest (9). Although the same applies to most seeds, chia seeds appear to be tougher. It is for this reason that you should avoid eating dry chia seeds.
Instead, you are advised to soak them or have them in water to ease digestion (9). Alternatively, you can consume them in ground form and still reap the full nutritional benefits of these seeds.
The Bottom Line
Chia seeds are tiny black or white seeds loaded with nutrients. They are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, calcium, and iron. Chia seeds’ potential benefits range from reduced risk of diseases, inflammation, constipation to improved digestion.
You can add these seeds to your diet in your salads, pudding, smoothies, or toppings. However, it would be best to talk to your doctor and nutritionist before making these dietary changes, especially if you are on any medications that can affect your blood sugar.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Benefits and sources of calcium (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Chia induces clinically discrete weight loss and improves lipid profile only in altered previous values (2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults (2009, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Chia seeds (2020, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Chia Seeds (Salvia Hispanica L.): An Overview—Phytochemical Profile, Isolation Methods, and Application (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Everything you need to know about iron (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- How can antioxidants benefit our health? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Kaempferol: A Key Emphasis to Its Anticancer Potential (2019, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Side effects of chia seeds: What are they? (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What to know about omega-3 fatty acids (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Why Are Chia Seeds Good for Me? (2021, webmd.com)