nutrition

Chia Seeds: The Health Uses and Benefits

Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS

6 min read

Chia seeds are nutrient dense and have several health benefits which will be discussed.

The Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

Those same seeds that are responsible for growing fun plants are actually highly nutritious and one of the most potent superfoods on the planet. As a functional food, chia seeds can be used in a variety of healthy meals and snacks. The addition of chia seeds will boost the nutritional content in the foods that you make and enjoy. Although they are very tiny, chia seeds house a surprising amount of benefits! Your body will be saying cha-ching all the way to the bank.

Previously an essential crop in Mexico and Guatemala, chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica and are actually part of the mint family. They were cultivated for food thousands of years ago and were highly regarded in Mayan and Aztec cultures. Chia seeds were even offered to the gods in religious ceremonies!

Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and can be eaten whole or ground. Because of their mild flavor, they pair well with both sweet and savory foods, and they add texture, increasing crunch and texture rather than flavor. Chia seeds are an essential ingredient in chia fresca, a hydrating beverage in which the seeds are mixed into fresh lemon or lime juice with a sweetener. This drink is extremely popular in Mexico and Central America.

What are the health benefits of chia seeds?

Chia seeds contain high amounts of [two omega-3 fatty acids] (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4926888/#:~:text=Chia%20seed%20with%20appreciable%20amounts,fatty%20acids%20(Ali%20et%20al.): linoleic and alpha-linolenic (ALA) fatty acids. In fact, around sixty percent of the oil in chia seeds is from these two beneficial fatty acids. Research suggests that the nutrients in chia seeds have the ability to promote cardiovascular health, antioxidant support, and more. [This study] (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814616317939) reported high levels of vitamin E found in chia seeds along with carotenoids which also have antioxidant properties.

How nutritious are chia seeds?

Besides the nutritional benefits from omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds contain other essential nutrients in a small, [two-tablespoon serving] (https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170554/nutrients):

  • Fiber to promote digestive health
  • Protein to build and repair tissue
  • Fat for energy and cell growth
  • Calcium for bone health
  • Manganese for bone and blood support
  • Magnesium to support nerve health, bone health and other functions
  • Phosphorus to support bones
  • They also contain some zinc, niacin, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin B2.

With such a large nutritional punch in such a small serving, chia seeds make it easy to get the daily vitamins and minerals that are so important to maintaining your best health.

Do chia seeds help manage weight?

Chia seeds made a big comeback as a superfood because of their association with weight management. It isn’t a straight “yes” or “no” answer. Let’s break it down:

Chia seeds contain fiber, which assists with healthy digestion. [Fiber] (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26514720/) supports the digestive system by increasing fecal bulk, increasing stool frequency, and reducing intestinal transit time. Additionally, dietary fiber is a key player for the gut microbiota. Increasing dietary fiber intake can have an immediate and direct impact on the gut microbiome. Most Americans do not consume enough fiber, which is a substance that can help support weight management goals. Fiber also keeps you full longer, helping to avoid the temptation to overeat.

Dietary fiber consumption is believed to contribute to weight management. This may be in part due to fiber’s ability to increase feelings of satiety. [Scientists] (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5621364/) studied the effects of chia seed on 24 healthy subjects using a randomized, cross-over design study and found that participants reported significantly lower scores for hunger, prospective food consumption, amounts of food that could be consumed, desire for sugary foods, and higher scores for satiety on study days with 7 grams and 14 grams of chia seed when compared to the control group.

Just eating chia seeds will not make you lose weight, but they can help you improve your body composition in conjunction with a healthy nutrient dense diet and exercise program.

Chia seeds and antioxidant properties

Antioxidants are essential to fighting free radicals in the body. These compounds fight chain reactions in cells that occur from everyday exposures and metabolic processes in the body. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with beneficial antioxidants, but you can also receive antioxidant support from chia seeds. Chia seeds are also rich in [polyphenols] (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11101-017-9511-7) called myricetin, quercetin, kaempferol, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid. These are antioxidant compounds that can protect the body from free radicals and oxidative stress.

Chia seeds as an omega-3 source

Chia seeds are rich in linoleic and alpha-linolenic (ALA) fatty acids. Both of these nutrients are essential fatty acids that are necessary to support good health and cannot be produced by the human body. Because they must be acquired through diet, chia seeds are an easy way to get your servings of omega-3 fatty acids. You don’t have to eat a lot, either: one to two tablespoons per day (try it in a smoothie, baked goods, or chia seed pudding) is all that you have to consume.

Chia seeds and heart health

Many of the nutrients in chia seeds support heart health. Chia seeds have both essential fatty acids and fiber which are essential for cardiovascular health. An animal study done by researchers at the University of Arizona suggests that consuming chia seeds retain cholesterol levels already within normal limits. In 2004, the FDA announced qualified health claims for omega-3 fatty acids, noting supportive but not conclusive research showing that consuming EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The presence of omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds can help promote heart health.

Chia seeds and skin health

The skin is the largest organ in the body and as such it reveals many clues about our internal health. Healthy and radiant skin is just one indication as to the story unfolding inside the body. Healthy skin relies on the body taking in enough hydration and essential nutrients. The oil found inside chia seeds has abundant skin health potential. This [study] (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00726-020-02879-4) found that peptides isolated from chia seeds inhibited enzymes associated with skin aging called elastase and hyaluronidase. In the future with additional research, chia seeds may contribute to the improvement of skin health by offering protection against aging-related enzymes. Another [study] (https://synapse.koreamed.org/articles/1045198) investigated the potential benefits of topical chia seed oil and the initial results seem promising for skin health. Overall, there are many properties including peptides and antioxidants present in chia seeds that can help nourish skin both inside and out.

What’s the best way to eat chia seeds?

Some of the best vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids include algae oil, hemp seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds. From this list, flax seeds pack a punch when it comes to alpha linoleic acid content. When combined, chia and flax seeds are a nutritional powerhouse for the body. Similar to chia seeds, [flax seeds] (https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169414/nutrients) are an excellent source of fiber, lignans, protein, and the essential nutrient potassium. Flax seeds can also promote cardiovascular health. Together, this is an unbeatable mix!

Care/of Chia-Flax makes it easy to get the benefits of both seeds in one convenient place. Our cold-milled, organic chia seeds and organic flax seeds deliver the best of both worlds: omega-fatty acids and high-fiber. This power duo also contributes to digestive health, a key player in healthy bowel movements. This nutrient-dense, seed-based powder can be sprinkled into yogurt, into smoothies, or even a glass of juice. We take the guesswork out of flax and chia benefits and make it easy to get essential fatty acids and fiber into your diet to support your overall well-being.

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