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Introduction

When you think of so-called “superfoods,” chia seeds will probably immediately pop to mind. Chia seeds have become a popular addition to various healthy foods over the past years – and has been cleverly dubbed a “superfood” – a type of food that is very nutritionally-dense and is said to have incredible health properties.

Despite the term being coined for marketing purposes, chia seeds are incredibly healthy.

So, how good are chia seeds for our health – according to science? Are they something we should incorporate more of into our diets?

Read on to find out everything you need to know about chia seeds!

1. Chia Seeds Are Packed With Nutrients

Chia seeds may be small, but they are packed with an impressive amount of nutrients. They’re a rich source of zinc, calcium, fiber, iron, and Omega-3 fatty acids, which all contribute to healthy functioning of our body. Nutritionally, one ounce (28 grams or about two tablespoons) of chia seeds contains [1]:

  • Protein: 4 grams;
  • Fiber: 11 grams;
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDI (recommended daily intake);
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDI;
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDI;
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDI;
  • Fat: 9 grams (5g are omega-3s).

Considering this comes from just two tablespoons of chia seeds, this is an incredible amount of nutrients – and a low amount of calories (only 137).

In addition to that, chia seeds don’t contain sugar.

2. They Are Incredibly Rich in Fiber

As you may know, fiber is an essential nutrient for the healthy functioning of the body. Not only does it help normalize our bowel movements, lowers cholesterol, and helps control blood sugar levels – but it may also help us achieve healthier weight [2]. Since it a substance our bodies can’t digest, it makes us feel fuller for longer.

As mentioned, 28 grams of chia seeds contain at least 12 grams of carbs – of which 11 grams is fiber. This makes chia seeds a low-carb diet friendly food which is incredibly high in fiber.

Chia seeds can also absorb up to 10-12 times their weight in water, meaning they become gel-like and expand in your stomach [3]. This slows the absorption of food, increases fullness, and helps you consume fewer calories overall.

3. Chia Seeds Have Powerful Antioxidant Properties

Antioxidants are essential substances in our body since they combat oxidative stress which contributes to various conditions and diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, hypertension, and diabetes [4]. Chia seeds are a rich source of antioxidants [5] which help fight the production of free radicals, helping our bodies stay healthy [6].

4. They Contain High Amounts of Protein

Chia seeds contain high-quality protein, which is an essential nutrient for our bodies. Protein plays many important roles in our body, such as supporting muscle growth and development, as well as being responsible for tissue repair.

According to the National Academy of Medicine, we should be consuming just over 7 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight [7].

Chia seeds are a great source of protein. By weight, they’re at least 14% protein which is really high compared to most plant foods. And, there is a good balance of essential amino acids in chia seeds, helping your body make use of their protein content [8].

5. Consuming Chia Seeds Could Help You Lose Weight

Chia seeds could also be beneficial for those looking to lose weight, thanks to their high content of protein and fiber. Chia seeds contain soluble fiber which expands in your stomach after absorbing large amounts of water – as a result keeping you fuller for longer and slowing the absorption of food [9]. Protein is another nutrient which has been shown to reduce appetite and overall food intake.

A recent study aiming to examine the influence of chia seed consumption on short-term satiety found that consuming chia seeds for breakfast reduced food intake in the short-term, and increased satiety [10].

Another study which involved obese participants with type 2 diabetes found that chia seeds did have an impact in weight loss. The study was a double-blind, randomized and controlled trial, and involved 77 overweight or obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Both groups followed a calorie-restricted diet for 6 months – but the group that consumed chia seeds lost more weight than participants in the other group [11].

However, many other studies into chia seed effectiveness on body weight haven’t shown any promising results [12, 13].

What we could conclude is that chia seeds on their own probably won’t make you lose weight. However, when you incorporate them into a weight-loss diet, they may definitely promote weight loss.

6. They Are High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a fantastic nutrient which has a number of powerful health benefits. Research has shown that the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids include fighting depression and anxiety [14], improving your eye health [15], promoting brain health in early pregnancy [16] – and many others.

Well, the good news is that chia seeds are a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids – and are actually very high in this nutrient!

However, it’s worth pointing out that the omega-3 fatty acid in chia seeds is mostly ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which needs to be converted into the active forms before your body can use it. Since human bodies are unable to turn it into the active types of omega-3 acids, ALA is considered to be inferior to animal sources of omega-3s found in animal sources (like fish oil) [17]. That means that, even though chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, they are considered to be a lower-quality source of this nutrient.

7. Chia Seeds May Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

Another proven benefit of chia seeds is the ability to reduce your risk of heart disease – due to the high contents of fiber, protein, and omega-3’s. Several studies have examined the benefits of chia seeds in promoting heart health – however, more research with humans is needed to draw any conclusions.

A study conducted with people with type 2 diabetes showed that chia seeds may reduce blood pressure. The study, which was a controlled trial of long-term supplementation with chia seeds – showed an improvement in blood pressure – a major cardiovascular risk factor [18].

Studies conducted with rats have shown that chia seeds may lower several risk factors, such as the levels of triglycerides, inflammation, belly fat, and insulin resistance. On top of that, the studies showed that chia seeds may help raise the “good” cholesterol (HDL) [19].

That said, a study conducted with humans actually didn’t show any improvements in the risk factors mentioned above [20].

While some research does show chia seeds may benefit your heart, the effects are inconclusive. That said, incorporating chia seeds in a heart-healthy diet may be a good idea.

8. Chia Seeds May Also Decrease Your Blood Sugar Levels

Several animal studies found that chia seeds may improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity, helping your body maintain stable blood sugar levels after meals [21]. This is hugely beneficial for our health since high blood sugar levels have been linked to heart disease [22].

This doesn’t only apply to consistently high blood sugar levels – spikes in blood sugar levels (often caused by sugar or carbohydrates) after meals have also been associated with various health risks too [23]. While it is entirely normal for the blood sugar to rise a little after eating, experiencing recurrent spikes is unhealthy. Over time, you may even struggle to lower your blood sugar effectively – which may lead to type 2 diabetes. Plus, blood sugar spikes may also cause blood vessels to harden and narrow – which poses a heart attack or stroke risk [24].

There are a few studies that support this. Several human studies have shown that eating bread which contains chia seeds effectively reduces the post-meal rise in blood sugar compared to bread that doesn’t contain chia seeds [25, 26].

This means that incorporating chia seeds into your diet could help lower the rise in blood sugar after a meal which may normally cause a spike – possibly an important health benefit to those suffering from type 2 diabetes.

9. They Could Help Treat Chronic Inflammation

While inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or infection – chronic inflammation may contribute to a range of health problems, from an increased risk of heart disease to cancer [27].

The worrying thing is that chronic inflammation doesn’t have any visible warning signs – and can only be measured by inflammation markers in the blood. These markers are influenced by various lifestyle habits – from lack of exercise and poor diet to unhealthy habits like smoking.

Luckily, there are some simple ways you can help your body fight inflammation – and eating chia seeds is one of them! A study involving 20 people with diabetes showed that consuming just 37 grams of chia seeds daily lowered one inflammation marker by 40 percent! However, those who were given bran didn’t experience such benefit [28].

Conclusion

Chia seeds are incredibly healthy – and a fantastic food choice for those looking to eat a well-balanced diet.

They have a range of health benefits, from reducing your risk of heart disease and acting as a powerful antioxidant, to treating chronic inflammation which is known to be the underlying cause for many other health issues (including cancer).

Nutritionally-dense with vitamins and minerals like fiber, protein, calcium, and magnesium, as well as high in omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds deserve the “superfood” title.

The high contents of fiber and protein make chia seeds a fantastic food to consume if you’re trying to lose weight. Fiber keeps you fuller for longer and helps prevent overeating, while protein helps build muscle mass and helps reduce overall food intake. Therefore, adding chia seeds into a weight loss diet could be beneficial.

Luckily, because of their versatility, incorporating chia seeds into your everyday diet couldn’t be easier. You can add them to smoothies, stir-fries, water, porridge, or desserts – and reap the wealth of scientifically-proven health benefits!

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This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.