How to Reap the Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
Health claims about the benefits of chia seeds continue to fuel their popularity. Are these claims true?
You don't have to rely on rumors for reliable chia information. Here's a look at what the clinical research says, as well as some ideas on how to incorporate chia seeds into your daily diet.
1 Are Chia Seeds Healthy?
The ancient Aztecs harvested chia seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant and it was their primary source of food for centuries. Chia seeds are nutritious and offer:
- High fiber content, which is known to promote longevity
- Omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart function and reducing age-accelerating inflammation
- Antioxidants, including plant nutrients, like quercetin and caffeic acid
2 Chia Seeds and Weight Loss
Marketed as a miracle weight-loss food to help, does chia really help you lose weight?
A study published in Nutrition Research found eating about 6 tbsp of chia seeds daily for 12 weeks did not result in weight loss for 76 overweight or obese men and women. The results show while the participants seemed to lose a little weight at the start of the study, they quickly adapted to the increased soluble fiber, with no significant long-term effect on weight loss.
Chia seeds do absorb about 10 times their weight in water, however, making them the kind of water-rich food that can make you feel full and satisfied longer.
Ultra-distance runners of Mexico's Tarahumara native tribe commonly ate only chia seeds in water as sustenance during their treks. So can chia seeds keep you energetic, whether you're running a marathon, or just running errands?
A small study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests chia seeds in liquid provide the same energy benefit before exercise as sports drinks, with much less sugar.
A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that after 10 weeks of eating whole chia seeds, ground (milled) seeds, or a placebo, only the participants who consumed ground chia seeds had higher levels of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid(DHA).
Previous research by the same team of scientists also found grinding chia seeds allows your body to reap greater benefit from them. The findings are similar to that in past studies on whole vs ground flaxseed.
Spinning chia seeds for a few seconds in a coffee grinder or high-speed blender will grind them for use in smoothies or on salads. Take care not to grind them too long, or you'll end up with a gluey mess, thanks to the seeds' high oil content.
To get the coffee smell out of your grinder, run a handful of rice through it first.
There is a very little nutritional difference between the black chia seeds and white chia seeds. Avoid any brown seeds you find in the mix. These are usually weed seeds from a different species of plant or immature chia seeds.
Like flax, hemp and other heart-healthy seeds, you can incorporate chia seeds into your daily diet, for example:
- Sprinkle on your morning hot or cold cereal
- Put 1-2 tbsp in a fruit or vegetable smoothie
- Mix with water, lemon or lime juice and some sweetener as Chia Fresca
- Mixed in with flour or whole grains in baking and casseroles
Because chia seeds have very little taste, you can mix them into other dishes without affecting the flavor.
Coates, Wayne. Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood. Sterling Publishing. 2012.
Illian TG, et al. "Omega-3 Chia Seed Loading as a Means of Carbohydrate Loading." J Strength Cond Res. 2011.
Morris, Emily and Morris, Carole MySeeds Chia Test Kitchen: The Chia Seed Cookbook. Skyhorse Publishing. 2013.
Nieman, et al. "Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults." Nutr Res. 2009.
Rolls, Barbara and Hermann, Mindy. The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. HarperCollins. 2012. Interview with Barbara Rolls conducted April 30, 2013.
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