The tiny black chia seed is a powerful nutrient that has recently gained global popularity for its many health and wellness attributes. The seeds are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, omega-3 fats and protein. Considered a superfood, chia actually is worthy of its title. Here are some of the top benefits of chia seeds:
- Supports healthy skin
- Promotes digestive health
- Thought to improve heart health
- Boosts energy and performance
- Helps build strong bones
- A possible weight loss aid
- Fights the growth of cancer
- Balances blood sugar
- Enhances oral health
- Reduces chronic inflammation
Chia seeds have a rich history dating back to 3500 BC. Originally grown in Mexico and Guatemala, they were offered up to the Aztec gods in religious ceremonies. They were often eaten by Aztec warriors to give them energy and endurance during battle. In fact, in the Mayan language chia actually means ‘strength’. Because of their medicinal and nutritional properties, at one point chia was so valued that it was even used for currency.
Chia seeds are tiny, black seeds that come from the Salvia hispanica plant. Related to mint, they are packed with nutrients and energy boosting power. They also have a high antioxidant component.
Chia are relatively high in fiber, calcium, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. They are also one of the richest plant sources of omega-3s. Chia seeds are considered to be a complete protein because they contain all nine essential amino acids that the body can not make on its own.
Chia seeds are known to help promote healthy digestion, skin and bones. But that’s not all chai can do. They’ve also shown promise in the fight against cancer and improving heart health.
Noted seed science researcher Christina Rahm Cook, phD states that “I really like to discuss chia seeds when I talk about HDL and cholesterol because numerous studies have shown that consumption of chia seeds increased HDL or good cholesterol levels but decreased the total cholesterol levels simultaneously.”
In some cultures, chai seeds were once a dietary staple, but it’s only in the past few years that they have exploded in popularity on a global level. According to industry reports, the market for chai seeds is projected to reach $2 billion by 2022. Now grown all over the world, they are also becoming a subject of increasing research in the scientific community. More studies are uncovering a wide array of heath benefits. In fact, chia seeds are now considered a modern day superfood.
Chia seeds are usually grown organically and are a whole grain food. They are non-GMO and free of gluten. Calorie for calorie, they are one of the best sources of several nutrients.
A 1 ounce, or 28 gram, serving of chia seeds contains:
Fiber: 11 grams
Fat: 9 grams
Protein: 4 grams
Manganese: 30% of the RDI
Magnesium: 30% of the RDI
Phosphorus: 27% of the RDI
Calcium: 18% of the RDI
Zinc: 18% of the RDI
Copper: 18% of the RDI
You may have heard a lot of talk about chai seeds and their effect on weight loss. Here’s the download from a scientific perspective. The protein found in chia seeds is thought to help reduce appetite. One study found that eating chia seeds for breakfast increased the feeling of satiety and reduced food intake, at least in the short term.
The soluble fiber in chia seeds has the ability to absorb large amounts of water and expand in your stomach. This increases the feeling of fullness and slows the absorption of food. However, research show mixed results when it comes to chia seed having a direct effect on weight loss.
In a study of 90 overweight people, 50 grams of chia a day for 12 weeks had no effect on weight loss. In a study with 62 women conducted over a 10 week period, chia had zero impact on body weight, but did increase omega-3 in the blood.
However, a 6-month study was conducted on obese people with type 2 diabetes. When placed on a reduced-calorie diet, participants who ate chia seeds lost much more weight than those on a placebo.
Chia seeds are unlikely to cause weight loss on their own, but many experts in the field believe they are a great addition to a weight loss diet.
By weight, chia seeds are 40% fiber. That’s a lot of fiber! In fact, they are one of the best sources of fiber we can eat. The fiber in chia seeds feeds the good bacteria in our intestine. Keeping gut flora well fed is crucial for good health. So much of how we feel on a daily basis is a result of what’s happening in our gut.
Chia seeds are packed with phosphorus, calcium, zinc and vitamin A — all of which are good at promoting oral health. Calcium is the main building block of your teeth. Vitamin A and phosphorus helps mouths stay healthy and keeps teeth strong. Zinc’s job is to prevent tartar from building up by keeping plaque from mineralizing on your teeth. It also has an anti-bacterial effect that keeps bad breath germs at bay.
Turns out, chia seeds have a very high antioxidant content as reported by the Journal of Chromatography A. They help to repair skin cells as well as preventing further damage. It’s the omega 3 fatty acid content in chia seeds that really helps skin on multiple levels including — maintaining moisture levels, aiding the appearance of wrinkles, preventing dryness and general skin health.
Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, chia seeds have also been used to treat acne. That’s some helpful news for teens, and even adults, who may be looking for alternative treatments.
Let’s take a look at how chia may affect the heart. The high amount of fiber, proteins and omega-3s in chia are all known to help reduce the risk of heart disease. In both animal and human studies, omega-3 fatty acids show beneficial effects on a variety of cardiovascular health measures ——including regulating heart rhythm, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, decreasing inflammation and preventing blood clots.
A large study of more than 63,000 participants in China found that those who consumed the most omega-3 fatty acids from seafood and plant sources had a 17% reduced risk of death by heart disease than those who had the lowest intake.
Test results on how chia seeds effect heart health do, however, seem to vary. Studies in rats tell us that chia seeds can lower triglycerides, insulin resistance, inflammation and possibly reduce belly fat. They my also raise HDL, or good cholesterol. However, one study on humans did not detect any improvement whatsoever in risk factors. Several literature reviews and controlled trials in humans have not shown specific benefits for heat disease risk factors like lipid levels and body weight. Whereas other studies show that chia seeds can greatly reduce blood pressure in patients already experiencing hypertension — a strong risk factor for heart disease.
Many researchers believe that chai seeds to do not act alone to benefit heart health, but may contribute to disease prevention when combined with diet changes and a healthy lifestyle.
The calcium content really shines in chia seeds. Gram for gram it has more calcium than most dairy products. So if you don’t eat dairy, chia seeds can be an excellent alternative calcium source. In fact, it has 18% of the RDI of calcium in a single ounce (28 grams).
Chia seeds also contain 30% of the RDI of magnesium. Magnesium is important for bone formation. It can aid in greater bone density and improved bone crystal formation. It has also been associated with a lower risk of osteoporosis in women after menopause.
One symptom of untreated type 2 diabetes is high fasting blood sugar levels. Consistently high levels have been associated with chronic disease. Even temporary spikes in blood sugar levels after meals can affect the body adversely. Especially when those spikes are very high on a regular basis.
Several animal studies have found that chia seeds are good at helping stabilize blood sugar levels after meals, while also improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control. A few human studies are supporting this as well. One demonstrated that eating bread that contains chia seeds lowers that post-meal rise in blood sugar compared to bread made without it.
Chia seeds have long been talked about for their potential anticancer benefits. They are rich in ALA, or alpha-linolenic acid, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. The Journal of Molecular Biochemistry published an in-vitro study in 2013 that showed ALA helped limited cancer cell growth in both breast and cervical cancer. Additional research published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine supported that very same evidence.
Researchers have also found that fatty acids caused cancer cells to die without harming normal, healthy cells. While more research needs to be done, this is an amazing discovery for what are becoming two increasingly common types of cancer.
In general, omega-3s are beneficial for health. However, some studies have found that an increased intake of ALA may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Meanwhile, other studies have shown found ALA to be protective. Further research is needed to determine more conclusive results.
Many modern day diseases are thought to be caused by inflammation. Chronic inflammation doesn’t necessarily have any visible signs, but it can be measured by inflammatory markers in the blood. Poor diet and lack of exercise can increase your risk of falling prey to inflammation.
Research shows that the omega-3 fatty acids found in chia seeds help to reduce inflammation and the onset of diseases like cancer and heart disease. While omega 3’s help with inflammation, omega-6s promote it. The good news is, chai has just the right balance of the two — 3 omega-3s to 1 omega-6. It’s the perfect ratio to help maintain optimal health.
A study conducted over a 3 month period showed that in 20 people suffering from diabetes, eating 37 grams of chia seeds daily reduced the inflammatory marker hs-CRP by 40%. Those participants who ate wheat bran instead of chai didn’t show a significant benefit.
Chai seeds are also loaded with flavonols as well as some very potent antioxidants. Both help the body product an anti-inflammatory response as well as help protect heart health.
There are only a few side effects associated with chai. The benefits typically outweigh the risks as long as they are consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
However, there are a couple of things to look out for:
Allergies: Chia seeds may cause hives, a rash, vomiting or diarrhea. There may also be cross-reactions between chia seeds and closely related foods — namely oregano, sesame and mustard.
Stomach Discomfort: Due to the high fiber content in chia seeds, some people may experience bloating and discomfort if eaten in excess.
Chia seeds have the ability to absorb up to 27 times their weight in water. In one rare case, a man with a history of swallowing problems developed an esophageal obstruction after eating a tablespoon of dry chia seeds and washing them down with full glass of water. If you have swallowing problems, consider mixing chia into another food, or liquid before consuming.
Chai has been known to aid in lowering high blood pressure. However, if you are taking blood pressure medication, it may enhance its activity. This could lead to hypotension, or low blood pressure. Consult your doctor before taking chai seeds if you are on blood pressure medication.
If you are on blood sugar medication, be cautious when consuming chai seeds. If you were to eat an excessive amount, it may cause blood sugar levels to decrease and require adjustments to your diabetes medication. Consult your doctor if you are taking blood sugar medication.
Chia seeds are very nutritious and usually a healthy addition to most peoples’ diets. However, moderation is key to prevent side effects. To help your body adjust to chai seeds, it is suggested to start with 1 ounce or 28 grams daily and assess how you are doing before slowly increasing your intake.
General Information and Overview
Side Effects, Dosing and Interactions