Benefits of Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are the edible seeds of Salvia hispanica, a flowering plant in the mint family native to central and southern Mexico, or of the related Salvia columbariae of the southwestern United States and Mexico. Chia seeds are oval and gray with black and white spots, having a diameter around 2 millimetres.
Chia seeds are the tiny black seeds of the chia plant (Salvia hispanica).
Native to Mexico and Guatemala, they were a staple food for the ancient Aztecs and Mayans. In fact, “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength” (1). Benefits of Chia Seeds
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.
Chia seeds are small, flat, and oval-shaped with a shiny and smooth texture. Their color ranges from white to brown or black (2). Benefits of Chia Seeds
These seeds are highly versatile. They can be soaked and added to porridge, made into pudding, used in baked goods, or simply sprinkled on top of salads or yogurt.
Because of their ability to absorb liquid and form a gel, they can also be used to thicken sauces or as an egg replacement (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
This article provides everything you need to know about chia seeds.
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 (5Trusted Source):
- 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 (6Trusted Source).
The fiber in chia seeds is mainly soluble fiber and mucilage, the substance responsible for the gluey texture of moistened chia seeds (7). Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia fiber may also be fermented in your gut, promoting the formation of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and improving colon health (6Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
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 the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), while about 20% consist of omega-6 fatty acids (9, 10, 11).
In fact, chia seeds are the best known plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids — even better than flaxseed (12, 13Trusted Source).
Some scientists believe that a high intake of omega-3s relative to omega-6s reduces inflammation in your body (14Trusted Source). Benefits of Chia Seeds
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 (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
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 the active forms (EPA and DHA) before your body can use it, and this process is often inefficient (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source). Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds contain 19% protein — a similar amount to other seeds but more than most cereals and grains (1, 10, 22, 23).
High protein intake is associated with increased fullness after meals and reduced food intake (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).
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 (26, 27Trusted Source). Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are packed with fiber and among the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have numerous health benefits. They’re also loaded with quality protein.
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 (28Trusted Source).
- Phosphorus. Usually found in protein-rich foods, phosphorus contributes to bone health and tissue maintenance (29Trusted Source).
- Copper. A mineral often lacking in the modern diet, copper is important for heart health (30Trusted Source).
- Selenium. An important antioxidant, selenium is involved in many processes in your body (31Trusted Source).
- 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 roles in many bodily processes (32Trusted Source).
- Calcium. The most abundant mineral in your body, calcium is essential for bones, muscles, and nerves (33Trusted Source).
The absorption of some minerals, such as iron and zinc, may be reduced because of the phytic acid content of chia seeds. Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are an excellent source of many essential minerals but a poor source of vitamins. They are high in manganese, phosphorus, copper, selenium, iron, magnesium, and calcium.
Other plant compounds
Chia seeds contain a number of beneficial plant compounds, including (9, 11, 34Trusted Source):
- Chlorogenic acid. This antioxidant may lower blood pressure (35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source).
- Caffeic acid. This substance is abundant in many plant foods and may help fight inflammation in your body (37Trusted Source).
- Quercetin. This powerful antioxidant may reduce your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain forms of cancer (38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source).
- Kaempferol. This antioxidant has been associated with a decreased risk of cancer and other chronic diseases (41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source).
Clean, dry chia seeds have an extended shelf life, as their antioxidants protect their fats from damage (1, 43).
Chia seeds contain many powerful antioxidants that may reduce your risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
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Health benefits of chia seeds
Chia seeds have become increasingly popular in recent years because of their high nutritional value and alleged health benefits.
Their main health benefits are listed below.
Increased blood levels of omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important for your body and brain, and chia seeds are an excellent source of the omega-3 ALA.
However, ALA needs to be converted into the active forms, such as EPA, before your body can use it.
Studies in humans and animals have shown that chia seeds may raise blood levels of ALA up to 138% and EPA up to 39% (21Trusted Source, 44Trusted Source, 45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source).
Improved blood sugar control
Having healthy blood sugar levels is crucial for optimal health.
Animal studies demonstrate that chia seeds reduce insulin resistance and improve blood sugar control, which are important risk factors for metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source, 50Trusted Source, 51Trusted Source).
Human studies show that bread made with chia seeds causes a reduced blood sugar response compared with more traditional breads (52Trusted Source, 53Trusted Source). Benefits of Chia Seeds
Lower blood pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for chronic diseases such as heart disease.
Chia seeds and chia flour have both been found to lower blood pressure in people who already have elevated levels (54Trusted Source, 55Trusted Source).
Increased fiber intake
Most people don’t consume enough fiber (56Trusted Source).
High fiber intake is linked to improved gut health and a lower risk of numerous diseases (57Trusted Source, 58Trusted Source). Benefits of Chia Seeds
A single ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds provides 9.75 grams of fiber, which is 25% and 39% of the RDI for men and women, respectively (5Trusted Source).
Due to their extraordinary water-absorbing capacity, chia seeds increase the volume of foods in your digestive tract, leading to increased fullness and decreased food intake.
Chia seeds have numerous benefits, including lower blood pressure, improved blood sugar control, and higher fiber and omega-3 levels.
Adverse effects and individual concerns
Chia seeds are generally considered safe to eat, and few to no adverse effects have been reported from consuming them (59Trusted Source).
However, to avoid possible digestive side effects, drink plenty of water when eating them — especially if they have not been presoaked.
Phytic acid content
Like all seeds, chia seeds contain phytic acid.
Phytic acid is a plant compound that binds with minerals, such as iron and zinc, and inhibits their uptake from foods (60Trusted Source). Benefits of Chia Seeds
Large doses of omega-3 fats, such as those from fish oils, may have blood-thinning effects (61Trusted Source).
If you’re taking blood-thinning medications, consult with your doctor before incorporating large amounts of chia seeds into your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids may affect the activity of your medication (62Trusted Source, 63Trusted Source).
Chia seeds generally do not cause any adverse effects. However, they may have blood-thinning effects in large doses, and they contain a plant compound that can reduce mineral absorption.
The bottom line
Chia seeds are very rich in fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
They have been linked to improvement in risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, as well as benefits for digestion and gut health. Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are very easy to incorporate into a healthy diet.