Chia seed consumption may offer health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and improving digestive health. However, certain individuals may experience side effects if they eat large quantities of chia seeds, including those with diabetes, high blood pressure, and allergies. Chia seeds contain large amounts of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, plenty of high-quality protein, and several essential minerals and antioxidants. They may improve digestive health, blood levels of heart-healthy omega-3s, and risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
Health Benefits of Chia seeds
Chia seeds supply beneficial nutrients that can help fill in the gaps for vegetarians and vegans who avoid seafood and omnivores who want a healthy boost of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Here are some of the ways chia seeds may improve your health.
Aids Diabetes Management
The high fiber and omega-3 fatty acid content of chia seeds is a winning combination for long-term diabetes care. In patients with type 2 diabetes, consuming 15 grams per 1000 calories of chia seeds for 12 weeks has been shown to reduce C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) by 40% and clotting effects by 20%. When 24 grams of chia seeds were added to bread, the sugar levels were managed better than when 7 grams were added.
Promotes Heart Health
Human studies on chia seeds have shown them to effectively lower triglyceride and blood pressure levels in healthy subjects. Although the sample size was small, 12 volunteers were given 50 grams of chia seeds for one month. As a result, diastolic blood pressure went down about 5 points and triglycerides were reduced by 20 points. An independent risk factor for heart disease, visceral fat level, also appears to improve with increased intake of chia seeds.
Supports Immune System Function
Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3s, which provide well-established benefits for the immune system, including various types of T-cells and B-cells. Omega-3s support the function of macrophages in innate immunity. By increasing the phagocytic activity of macrophages, omega-3s help the body dispose of damaged cells and pathogens.
Omega-3s also become embedded in the cell walls of neutrophils (white blood cells) making them more flexible and faster at migrating to areas where they’re needed. If you’re not getting enough omega-3s in your diet (and most people don’t), eating more chia seeds can help strengthen your immune system.
Chia seeds provide 50% of the average dietary fiber requirement in just a 1/4 cup serving. Fiber offers a host of health benefits, especially when it comes to digestive health. Two forms of fiber are found in chia seeds, the type that mixes with water (soluble fiber) and roughage, or insoluble fiber.
This combination means that chia seeds help soften stool and also add bulk, making it easier and faster to pass. Just be sure to increase your intake of fiber slowly and drink plenty of water as your body adjusts to this positive change.
Reduces Risk of Cancer
Chia seeds contain a beneficial flavonol, kaempferol. Food sources of kaempferol demonstrate anticancer potential through their ability to affect several cellular mechanisms including apoptosis and signaling. For instance, kaempferol blocks the action of bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in plastics and processed foods.
Kaempferol is proactive against several forms of cancer, including breast cancer, liver cancer, brain cancer, colon cancer, and more. As a whole food, chia seeds offer several additional cancer-fighting compounds, like quercetin and dietary fiber. With few negative side effects and lots of potential benefits, chia seeds help supply your body with free radical protection.
Chia Seeds to Prevent Adrenal Fatigue
Apart from certain varieties of fish, Chia seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. This component is essential to the body as it enables many bodily functions. Studies also show that the consumption of Chia seeds enhances workout performance. Therefore, it is a great substitute for energy drinks.
Chia seeds cull out an excess of sugar in the diet. It boosts the body’s metabolism, which produces more energy in the body and consequently reduces and prevents fatigue.
Chia Seeds Improves Gastrointestinal Health
There are many ways in which Chia seeds can benefit your digestive health. Its high fiber content present in chia seeds regulates bowel movement and its ability to absorb high amounts of water makes you feel full for a longer period of time, thus minimizing the risk of overeating.
Chia Seeds Benefits for Weight Loss
The high amount of dietary fiber in chia seeds along with its carbohydrate and fat content, and lack of cholesterol, all combine to make Chia seeds a great food product that effectively reduces and controls weight. It is also one of the best plant-based sources of protein.
Studies show that adding a serving of Chia seeds to your diet can help burn belly fat. It does so by reducing the visceral adipose tissue, a belly fat tissue that lowers the metabolism of the body.
One of the reasons why Chia seeds are known as a superfood is because they can absorb water up to 10 times their own weight. This characteristic improves the nutrient absorption of electrolytes and keeps the body hydrated for a longer period of time. Additionally, it slows digestion, thus keeping you full for a longer period of time.
Chia Seeds Boosts Dental Health
The most obvious reason why Chia seeds are great for your teeth is that it is rich in calcium. However, phosphorus and vitamin A, which are predominant in Chia seeds, also play a huge role in strengthening teeth. Together they keep the mouth healthy.
Additionally, the Chia seed is also rich in zinc, which prevents plaque from accumulating around your teeth. This, in turn, prevents tartar and has an antibacterial effect that keeps bad breath and germs at bay.
Chia Seeds Good for Hypertension
Chia seeds have been known to control blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the biggest causes of hypertension. In fact, studies have found that including Chia seeds in your diet regularly has the same impact on your body as regular consumption of hypertension medication.
Chia Seeds Good for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in abundance in Chia seeds, act as an anti-inflammatory agent. The specific element that contributes to this benefit is known as alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which controls the inflammation of the arteries and joints. Studies estimate that as little as 4 gms of Chia seeds a day is enough to control and prevent arthritis.
Chia Seeds for Constipation During Pregnancy
Chia seeds, with all their goodness, are a great dietary additive for pregnant women. Pregnancy can cause many issues such as vitamin and mineral deficiency, fatigue, and high blood sugar.
As Chia seeds are high on many essential vitamins and minerals, a small serving each day can help prevent and combat deficiencies in calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, among others. It also provides a sustained boost of energy, as it slows down the process of converting carbohydrates and sugars.
Moreover, the consumption of Chia seeds creates a gelatin-like substance inside the stomach which slows down digestion. This ensures that blood sugar levels are more stable, and do not fluctuate.
If this wasn’t enough, Chia seeds, rich as they are in omega-3 fatty acids, enable cerebral growth in the fetus. While fish is also a great source of omega-3, the mercury content in fish could have a negative impact on the fetus, which is why Chia seeds are a great substitute.
Chia Seeds Nutrition
Chia seeds contain 138 calories per ounce (28 grams). By weight, they are 6% water, 46% carbohydrates (of which 83% is fiber), 34% fat, and 19% protein.
The nutrients in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of chia seeds are:
- Calories: 486
- Water: 6%
- Protein: 16.5 grams
- Carbs: 42.1 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Fiber: 34.4 grams
- Fat: 30.7 grams
- Saturated: 3.33 grams
- Monounsaturated: 2.31 grams
- Polyunsaturated: 23.67 grams
- Omega-3: 17.83 grams
- Omega-6: 5.84 grams
- Trans: 0.14 grams
Notably, chia seeds are also free of gluten.
Carbs and fiber
More than 80% of the carb content of chia seeds is in the form of fiber. A single ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds boasts 11 grams of fiber, which is a significant portion of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for women and men — 25 and 38 grams per day, respectively.
The fiber in chia seeds is mainly soluble fiber and mucilage, the substance responsible for the gluey texture of moistened chia seeds. Chia fiber may also be fermented in your gut, promoting the formation of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and improving colon health.
One of the unique characteristics of chia seeds is their high content of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. About 75% of the fats in chia seeds consist of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), while about 20% consist of omega-6 fatty acids.
In fact, chia seeds are the best-known plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids — even better than flaxseed. Some scientists believe that a high intake of omega-3s relative to omega-6s reduces inflammation in your body. Because they’re a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds promote a lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.
A low ratio is associated with a lower risk of various chronic conditions — such as heart disease, cancer, and inflammatory diseases — and a lower risk of premature death.
However, gram for gram, the omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds are not nearly as potent as those found in fish or fish oil (EPA and DHA). The ALA found in chia needs to be converted into active forms (EPA and DHA) before your body can use it, and this process is often inefficient.
Chia seeds contain 19% protein — a similar amount to other seeds but more than most cereals and grains. High protein intake is associated with increased fullness after meals and reduced food intake.
Notably, these seeds offer all nine essential amino acids and are thus a high-quality plant-based protein. However, they are not recommended as the sole protein source for children.
Vitamins and Minerals
Chia seeds provide high amounts of many minerals but are a poor source of vitamins.
The most abundant minerals are:
Manganese: Whole grains and seeds are rich in manganese, which is essential for metabolism, growth, and development.
Phosphorus: Usually found in protein-rich foods, phosphorus contributes to bone health and tissue maintenance.
Copper: A mineral often lacking in the modern diet, copper is important for heart health.
Selenium: An important antioxidant, selenium is involved in many processes in your body.
Iron: As a component of hemoglobin in red blood cells, iron is involved in the transport of oxygen throughout your body. It may be poorly absorbed from chia seeds due to their phytic acid content.
Magnesium: Often lacking in the Western diet, magnesium plays important role in many bodily processes.
Calcium: The most abundant mineral in your body, calcium is essential for bones, muscles, and nerves.
The absorption of some minerals, such as iron and zinc, may be reduced because of the phytic acid content of chia seeds.
Side Effects of Chia Seeds
Can Cause Indigestion
As we know that chia seeds are filled with dietary fiber, the heavy intake of chia seeds will cause high fiber intake. Since fiber is quite hard to digest and may eventually slow down the digestive system, a higher intake of such dietary fibers would ultimately lead to weight gain, which would completely undo the weight loss factor of chia seeds. This might further cause constipation and diarrhea.
Can Increase the Risk Of Choking
As the chia seeds are consumed in their natural solid state, it is important to note that you should eat only a handful in one go, as they might get stuck in your throat, thus increasing the risk of choking. However, in order to make chia seeds travel easily through the throat, they are commonly consumed alongside other liquids such as fruit juices or soaked in water. Chia seeds have the property of forming a jelly-like film above their surface due to which it becomes soft and quite easy to consume.
Since the recent rise in the demand for chia seeds, several incidents have been reported in which individuals have claimed to be allergic to chia seeds. Though such incidents are not as common as those in the case of nuts and milk, still it is a point to be considered. So, if you are to this superfood, it is advised that you consult a physician before including chia seeds in your diet.
Must not be Consumed with Other Medication
The high fiber content in chia seeds is responsible for slowing down our digestive system, which results in the lowering of our insulin resistivity and also lowers the blood glucose level. Thus, it is advised to not consume chia seeds while on your diabetes medication, as it can lower your blood glucose level beyond its normal point.
Chia Seeds may show a Blood Thinning Effect
Some of the benefits associated with the consumption of chia seeds arise due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids. But heavy consumption of this omega-3s can have blood-thinning effects, thus reducing the rate of blood clotting.
Though the side effects of heavy consumption of chia seeds might sound extreme, if consumed responsibly, none of these side effects would occur in the first place.
Why is chia so good for you?
Despite their small size, chia seeds are full of important nutrients. They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, and they provide fiber, iron, and calcium . Omega-3 fatty acids help raise HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that protects against heart attack and stroke.
Can chia seeds reduce belly fat?
From boosting digestive health, metabolic rate, high iron, Omega-3 content and good fats, chia seeds make for an excellent addition to your diet. Most of all, the tiny white and black seeds are great for you to lose weight and reduce belly fat.
What happens if you eat chia seeds everyday?
Chia seeds have 10 grams of fiber per ounce, making them one of the more high-fiber foods you can find. Fiber not only digests more slowly than many other foods and keeps you full longer, but it also helps you maintain normal bowel movements and reduce constipation.
How much weight can you lose with chia seeds?
Two tablespoons of chia seeds have almost 10 grams of fiber. That's around 40 percent of the recommended daily intake. Diets high in fiber have been linked to weight loss. According to 2015 research , eating 30 grams of fiber daily may help you lose as much weight as if you followed a more complicated diet.