Chia seeds are probably more famous for the legendary “chia pets” that many of us can reluctantly remember from the old TV ads. Chia pets use the chia seeds from the plant Salvia hispanica. Chia seeds were a staple in the ancient Aztec and Maya diets and have been renowned for their health benefits for centuries.
The antioxidants, minerals, fibre, and omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds seem to promote heart health, strong bones, and improve blood sugar management (1).
Chia seeds are versatile and can be used in many recipes. I like to have them in my daily smoothie.
Here are 6 health benefits of chia seeds, all backed by legit science…
Chia seeds are tiny black or white seeds from the plant Salvia hispanica L and believed to be native to Central America (1).
Historically, Aztec and Mayan civilisations used the seeds in their diets, as well as for medicinal purposes, religious rituals and cosmetics. Today chia seeds are consumed all over the world. (2).
Ancient civilisations understood chia seeds to be highly nutritious which has now been confirmed by modern science. 28 grams or 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contains (3):
- calories: 138
- protein: 4.7 grams
- fat: 8.7 grams
- alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): 5 grams
- carbs: 11.9 grams
- fiber: 9.8 grams
- calcium: 14% of the Daily Value (DV)
- iron: 12% of the DV
- magnesium: 23% of the DV
- phosphorus: 20% of the DV
- zinc: 12% of the DV
- vitamin B1 (thiamine): 15% of the DV
- vitamin B3 (niacin): 16% of the DV
This nutritional profile is particularly impressive considering that it’s for just a small serving.
2. High In Antioxidants
Chia seeds are also an excellent source of antioxidants (1, 4).
Antioxidants not only protect the sensitive fats in chia seeds from going rancid but also benefit human health by neutralising reactive molecules known as free radicals, which can damage cell compounds if they build up in your body (1).
Free radical damage contributes to ageing and is linked to diseases like cancer (5, 6).
The specific antioxidants in chia seeds include chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, myricetin, quercetin and kaempferol. These may all have protective effects on your heart and liver, as well as anticancer properties (1).
Chlorogenic acid may help lower blood pressure, while caffeic acid has anti-inflammatory effects (7, 8).
3. Helps With Losing Fat
The fibre and protein in chia seeds may benefit those trying to lose weight.
28 grams (or 1 ounce) of chia seeds has close to 10 grams of dietary fibre. That means they’re an impressive 35% fibre by weight (3, 9, 10).
Studies suggest that eating fibre may play a role in preventing overweight and obesity (11).
Furthermore, the protein in chia seeds could help reduce appetite and desire for additional food intake.
One study in 24 participants found that eating 7 grams or 14 grams of chia seeds mixed with yogurt for breakfast increased feelings of fullness and reduced food intake in the short term compared with eating chia-free yogurt (12).
Even so, studies examining the effectiveness of chia seeds for weight loss have observed mixed results. In an older study from 2009 involving 90 people with overweight, consuming 50 grams of chia seed supplements per day for 12 weeks did not affect body weight or health markers like blood pressure and inflammation markers (13).
In contrast, a 6-month study involving 77 people with overweight or obesity and type 2 diabetes eating a reduced-calorie diet found that those who took chia seeds daily experienced significantly greater weight loss than those who received a placebo (14).
Though adding chia seeds to your diet is unlikely to cause weight loss on its own, it may be a useful addition to a balanced, nutritious diet if you’re trying to lose weight.
4. Lowers Risk Of Heart Disease (Probably)
Considering chia seeds are high in fibre and Omega-3s, adding them to your diet may reduce your risk of heart disease.
Soluble fibre, especially the type primarily found in chia seeds, can help lower total and LDL (not good) cholesterol in your blood. In turn, this can reduce your risk of heart disease (15).
Consuming ALA, the omega-3 fatty acid in chia seeds, has also been thought to decreased heart disease risk (16).
It needs to be said that studies specifically examining the connection between chia seeds and heart health have had inconclusive results. Some rat studies have shown that chia seeds can lower certain heart disease risk factors, including high triglyceride and oxidative stress levels (17, 18).
A few human studies found that chia seed supplements significantly reduced blood pressure in people with hypertension, or high blood pressure, which is a strong risk factor for heart disease (19, 20).
Overall, chia seeds most probably benefit heart health, but, more research is needed.
5. Builds Strong Bones
Chia seeds are high in several nutrients that are important for bone health, including:
Several studies suggest that getting enough of these nutrients is important for maintaining good bone mineral density, an indicator of bone strength (21, 22).
In addition, ALA in chia seeds may play a role in bone health. Observational studies have found that consuming this nutrient could also be associated with increased bone mineral density (23).
Considering this, it’s possible that regularly eating chia seeds could help keep your bones develop increased strength especially in conjunction with weight training.
One study found that rats who received chia seeds daily for over a year had increased bone mineral content compared with a control group. The authors concluded that ALA may have contributed to this benefit (24).
However, besides animal studies, a limited number of studies have explored this topic, specifically. Ultimately, more human research is needed.
6. May Help blood sugar levels
Consuming chia seeds may help with blood sugar regulation. This is probably due to their fibre content and other beneficial compounds.
People with diabetes generally experience high blood sugar levels. Consistently high fasting blood sugar levels are associated with an increased risk of several complications, including heart disease (25).
Promisingly, animal studies have found that chia seeds may improve insulin sensitivity. This may help stabilise blood sugar levels after meals (26, 1).
Research in humans is sparse, but some studies have shown promising results.
In particular, older research from 2010 and 2013 suggests that eating bread containing chia seeds helps lower post-meal rises in blood sugar among healthy adults, compared with eating bread without chia seeds (27, 28).
Nevertheless, more research is needed to learn more about the connection between these nutritious seeds and blood sugar regulation.
Chia seeds are not only rich in minerals, omega-3 fat, antioxidants, and fibre but also easy to add to your diet.
Studies suggest that they have various health benefits, ranging from weight loss to a reduced risk of heart disease. However, more research involving humans is needed before any firm conclusions can be made.
If you want to reap the possible benefits of chia seeds, consider adding them to your diet!