14 Evidence Based Benefits of Chia Seeds

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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The ancient grain chia seeds are known to impart many health benefits. They are thought to help enhance skin, aid in weight loss, provide heart and cholesterol-lowering benefits, and optimize the digestive system. Chia seeds also pack a lot of energy and healthy nutrients into a small amount, making them a great energy boost to athletes around the world.

What are Chia Seeds?

Chia seeds come from the flowering plant of chia, which is native to Mexico and Guatemala. The scientific names of the plant are Salvia hispanica and Salvia columbariae, which translates to ‘golden chia’. Both of these belong to the mint family (Lamiaceae) and look similar to sesame seeds in shape and size.

The chia plant is thought to have been cultivated by the Aztecs, Mayans, Incans, and other tribes for a very long time. Originally, the word ‘chia’ meant ‘strength’ in the Mayan language and was a staple food for this culture. Historians consider it both an important plant and source for Native Americans. With the fall of the Aztecs and the general decline of the native population in the North American region, the use of chia seeds also declined.

By the end of the 19th century into the beginning of the 20th century, wheat and corn had replaced chia seeds as the crop of choice. This change in staple food can be attributed to travelers from Europe colonizing the New World and bringing forth their food grains like wheat, rice, corn, and potatoes.

Chia seeds were seemingly forgotten for a long time until recently. The beginning of the 21st century saw a revival of chia seeds as more and more people started learning about their benefits.

Nutrition Facts

Seeds, chia seeds, dried
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]5.8
Energy [kcal]486
Protein [g]16.54
Total lipid (fat) [g]30.74
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]42.12
Fiber, total dietary [g]34.4
Calcium, Ca [mg]631
Iron, Fe [mg]7.72
Magnesium, Mg [mg]335
Phosphorus, P [mg]860
Potassium, K [mg]407
Sodium, Na [mg]16
Zinc, Zn [mg]4.58
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]1.6
Thiamin [mg]0.62
Riboflavin [mg]0.17
Niacin [mg]8.83
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, IU [IU]54
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.5
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]3.33
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]2.31
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]23.67
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0.14
Cholesterol [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Chia Seeds Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, chia seeds contain no cholesterol, are a good source of energy, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber. They also contain calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, and magnesium. Chia seeds are rich in vitamins C, E, and A, and B-vitamins, such as thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.

Chia seeds are a good source of antioxidants as well. The antioxidants present in chia seeds include flavonol glycosides, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, kaempferol, quercetin, myricetin, and linolenic acid. These antioxidants help to curb the levels of free radicals in the body. A study published in the Journal of American Oil Chemists Societysuggests that chia seeds also contain very high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, which have many health benefits.

Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

Chia seeds have a high nutritional content, and therefore may be a boon to many health conditions as part of a healthy diet. Some of these benefits are mentioned below.

A Heart-Healthy Food

An animal study led by Ricardo Ayerza and Wayne Coates from the University of Arizona, suggests that the consumption of chia seeds increase HDL levels and triglyceride levels simultaneously or good cholesterol levels but decreased the total cholesterol levels simultaneously. Chia seeds are considered as a heart-healthy food, as they are one of the rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the vegetarian world.

Omega-3 fatty acids are the good fats (HDL cholesterol) that protect the heart and prevent the onset of heart diseases by reducing the levels of omega-6 fatty acids (LDL cholesterol) and maintaining a stress-free cardiovascular system.

Skin Care

According to the Journal of Chromatography A, chia seeds have a high antioxidant capacity. These antioxidants can assist in the repair of skin cells, and prevent further damage. The omega 3 fatty acids help in maintaining moisture levels in the skin, prevent dryness, delaying aging and the appearance of wrinkles. Chia seeds, because of their anti-inflammatory properties, are also used to treat acne.

Boost Digestive Health

In the book ‘The Magic of Chia’, internationally known editor and columnist, James Scheer claims that the high dietary fiber content in chia seeds is beneficial for regulating bowel movements. This helps overall gastrointestinal health. Also, after consumption, these seeds create a gel-like substance in the stomach which acts as a prebiotic and supports the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Chia seeds make you feel full for longer, thereby reducing your urge to overeat.

Helps Manage Blood Sugar in Diabetes

The carbohydrates present in chia seeds are released slowly in comparison to conventional foods and are, therefore, ideal for type 2 diabetics. The carbohydrates present in chia help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide a steady flow of energy, as per a study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology in 2016. A slower release of sugars into the bloodstream can aid in the optimum absorption of these sugars by cells in the body.

Prevent Osteoporosis

The amount of calcium found in chia seeds is considered to be higher than what is found in skimmed milk. These seeds also contain boron, which helps to metabolize calcium, which is needed for improved bodily functions and for bone health. Adequate amounts of these nutrients help to prevent osteoporosis, joint weakness, and improve general body flexibility

Dental Health

Having a portion of chia seeds daily is recommended for a variety of reasons, and dental is just one. Chia seeds, being rich in calcium, phosphorus, and zinc, are an amazing dietary addition for helping to preserve the teeth. While daily brushing and flossing, they can keep the teeth healthy, eliminate bad breath, and help in overall oral care.

Provides Energy for Athletes

Chia seeds taken in a drink can prove to be a great energy drink that boosts energy without contributing to any unhealthy sugar levels. They have been found to have benefits in those performance activities greater than 90 minutes in duration, according to one study.

Weight Control

The nutrients in chia seeds may play a significant role in keeping a person’s weight under control in the long run – however, the reviews are mixed. The high fiber and healthy omega-3s may play a part in this, but further research is still needed.

Manage Hypertension

A few studies have shown that the regular consumption of chia seeds has a similar impact as regular medications for high blood pressure. It may also attenuate emerging and major cardiovascular risk factors in people with controlled type 2 diabetes. More studies are needed to confirm this benefit, however initial results are positive.

Reduce the Implications of Arthritis

Chia seeds have high levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which can be easily converted into omega-3 fatty acids, and acts as an ideal inflammation controller. These fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the joints and arteries.

Anticancer Properties

Chia seeds have been studied for their beneficial fatty acids, and have been implicating in helping provide anticancer benefits. According to Dr. Donatella D’Eliseo and Dr. Francesca Velotti’s research report published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, the omega 3 acids in chia seeds have great potential in inhibiting the cancer cell growth in cervical and breast cancers. More research is needed to determine how this food can be incorporated into future cancer therapies.

Eye Care

Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids when compared to other sources salmon or flax seeds. They play a key role in lessening the symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome (DES) and may reduce inflammation in the eyes. Therefore, the regular consumption of these seeds can help keep vision healthy.

Aid in Prenatal Health

Chia seeds can aid in the baby’s brain development, replenish lost nutrients, and increase the energy levels. Chia is an ideal food for pregnant women in tandem or as a substitution for fish given its high omega-3 content. As we know, fish is a great source of omega 3, however, pregnant women are cautioned about consuming too much given the high mercury levels in some fish. So, chia seeds are a safe option for most mothers-to-be! Also, as mentioned, these seeds help keep the blood sugar levels under control and may help mitigate gestational diabetes.

How to eat Chia Seeds?

  • Chia seeds can be soaked in a glass of water and consumed the next morning with breakfast.
  • Water-soaked chia seeds can be added to cakes or cookies to eliminate the use of butter. Eating sprouted chia seeds can be very beneficial.
  • They can be added to various drinks, juices, protein shakes, and milkshakes as a healthy component.
  • Chia seeds can also be sprinkled on various foods during breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • They can be added to eggs to make a healthy omelet or to salads as a dressing.
  • Add a handful of chia seeds to milk and boil the mixture for some time to have a healthy porridge.
  • Chia seeds can be ground up and the powder can be added to flour, milk, and yogurts.
  • Chia seeds can be added to stews as they act as a thickening agent.

Side Effects of Chia Seeds

  • Allergies: Chia seeds may cause rashes, hives, vomiting, and diarrhea for those who are allergic.
  • Digestive Issues: If eaten in excess, chia seeds cause stomach issues in some people. This effect is because of the high fiber content in the seeds.
  • Cancer: There are controversial studies regarding chia seeds’ effect on cancer, which say that the seeds increase the risk of prostate cancer. However, there is no clear evidence to support or refute this argument. Consult your doctor before consuming the seeds.
  • Blood Pressure: Chia seeds are known to treat hypertension as they act as blood thinners. So people taking medications for high blood pressure should advise a medical professional so that the medication can be dosed appropriately based upon chia seed consumption and avoid the risk of hypotension.
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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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