Chia seeds are among the healthiest foods on the planet.
They’re loaded with nutrients that can have important benefits for your body and brain.
Here are 11 health benefits of chia seeds, supported by science.
1. Chia Seeds Deliver a Massive Amount of Nutrients With Very Few Calories
Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the plant Salvia hispanica, which is related to the mint.
Chia seeds were an important food for the Aztecs and Mayans back in the day.
They prized them for their ability to provide sustainable energy. In fact, “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.”
Despite their ancient history as a dietary staple, chia seeds became recognized as a modern-day superfood only recently.
In the past few years, they have exploded in popularity and are now consumed by health conscious people all over the world.
Don’t be fooled by the size — these tiny seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch.
A one-ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains (1):
- Fiber: 11 grams.
- Protein: 4 grams.
- Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are omega-3s).
- Calcium: 18% of the RDI.
- Manganese: 30% of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDI.
- Phosphorus: 27% of the RDI.
- They also contain a decent amount of zinc,
vitamin B3 (niacin), potassium, vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B2.
This is particularly impressive considering that this is just a single ounce, equalling 28 grams or about two tablespoons. This small amount supplies only 137 calories and one gram of digestible carbohydrate.
Interestingly, if you subtract the fiber — most of which doesn’t end up as usable calories for your body — chia seeds only contain 101 calories per ounce (28 grams).
This makes them one of the world’s best sources of several important nutrients, calorie for calorie.
To top things off, chia seeds are a whole-grain food, usually grown organically. Plus, they’re non-GMO and naturally free of gluten.
Summary Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are one
of the most nutritious foods on the planet. They’re loaded with fiber, protein,
omega-3 fatty acids and various micronutrients.
2. Chia Seeds Are Loaded With Antioxidants
These antioxidants protect the sensitive fats in the seeds from going rancid (4).
Summary Chia seeds are high in antioxidants that help
protect the delicate fats in the seeds. They also have various benefits for
3. Almost All the Carbs in Them Are Fiber
One ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds has 12 grams of carbs. However, 11 of those grams are fiber, which your body doesn’t digest.
Fiber neither raises blood sugar nor requires insulin to be disposed of. Though it belongs to the carbohydrate family, its health effects are drastically different from those of digestible carbs like starch and sugar.
The digestible carb content is only one gram per ounce (28 grams), which is very low. This makes chia a low-carb friendly food.
Because of its high soluble fiber content, chia seeds can absorb up to 10–12 times their weight in water, becoming gel-like and expanding in your stomach (8).
Theoretically, this should increase fullness, slow absorption of your food and help you automatically eat fewer calories.
Fiber also feeds the friendly bacteria in your intestine, which is important — keeping your gut flora well fed is absolutely crucial for health (9).
Chia seeds are 40% fiber by weight, making them one of the best sources of fiber in the world.
Summary Almost all of the carbohydrates in chia seeds
are fiber. This gives them the ability to absorb 10–12 times their weight in
water. Fiber also has various beneficial effects on health.
4. Chia Seeds Are High in Quality Protein
Chia seeds contain a decent amount of protein.
By weight, they’re about 14% protein, which is very high compared to most plants.
Protein has various health benefits and is by far the most weight loss friendly dietary nutrient.
Chia seeds really are an excellent protein source — especially for people who eat little or no animal products.
Summary Chia seeds are high in quality protein, much
higher than most plant foods. Protein is the most weight loss friendly
macronutrient and can drastically reduce appetite and cravings.
5. The High Fiber and Protein Content in Chia Seeds May Help You Lose Weight
Many health experts believe that chia seeds can aid weight loss.
Its soluble fiber absorbs large amounts of water and expands in your stomach, which should increase fullness and slow the absorption of food (14).
Also, the protein in chia seeds could help reduce appetite and food intake.
In fact, one study found that eating chia seeds for breakfast increased satiety and reduced food intake in the short-term (17).
However, studies examining the effectiveness of chia seeds for weight loss have provided rather disappointing results.
In a study in 90 overweight people, 50 grams of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks had no effect on body weight or health markers (18).
In another 10-week study in 62 women, chia seeds had no effect on body weight but did increase the amount of omega-3 fat in the blood (19).
In contrast, a 6-month study in obese people with type 2 diabetes on a reduced-calorie diet found that eating chia seeds daily caused significantly greater weight loss than a placebo (20).
Though adding chia seeds to your diet is unlikely to cause weight loss on its own, many experts believe they can be a useful addition to a weight loss diet.
A weight loss diet is about more than just single foods. The entire diet counts, as well as other lifestyle behaviors like sleep and exercise.