Chia seeds (from the plant Salvia hispanica) have been endorsed by many as a superfood. And rightly so – Chia seeds have one of the highest omega-3 fatty acid content of any food and is one of the most powerful whole food antioxidants we know.
When chia seeds are added to water, they expand to form a gel. There are claims that when this occurs in your stomach, you will feel more full and be able to lose weight.
Omega-3 has a number of health benefits. Such benefits include:
- Stabilisation of atherosclerotic plaques, preventing strokes and heart attack
- Reduction of inflammation
- Reduction of clotting, preventing deep vein thromboses
Omega-3 is a very powerful anti-inflammatory. All disease processes have an inflammatory component- take a look at this list. That means eating omega-3 could possibly help with cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, and even depression!
Research has shown that eating chia can lower blood pressure and decreased inflammatory markers in diabetic patients which is very promising!
I can’t lie and say that all research has shown promising results though, with this study showing no difference in those same parameters when obese patients took chia seeds for 12 weeks.
I talked about how anti-oxidants mop up free radicals (and are generally pretty amazing) in my post about Co-enzyme Q10.
The anti-oxidants in chia seeds may stop free radicals propagating damage and leading to mutations, cancer, and ageing.
There are no studies that show definitive results of chia seed intake lowering such diseases – these are very expensive to run and require follow-up over decades. Despite this, the health benefits of antioxidants are better characterised and chia seeds are hypothesised to have the same health benefits.
I think everyone was hoping that chia seed intake would help with weight loss. A study using mice and another using chickens found that there was a significant reduction in fat or weight when the animal was given chia seed.
Trials done in humans have not been as promising.
This study tested a group of 76 overweight patients and split them into an experimental group (who received 50 grams of chia seed daily), and a control group that received a placebo.
At the end of 12 weeks, they found no differences in total body mass or body composition between the two groups.
Note that this study wasn’t perfect. The authors say that many participants in the experimental group knew they were taking chia seed, and many people in placebo group knew they were on the placebo. The best kind of research has their subjects blind to what group they have been placed in- but it is hard to produce a fake chia seed to trick humans.
Conclusions on Chia Seeds
The jury is still out on whether they can help you lose weight, so don’t take them if that’s your only aim.
But they are packed with omega-3 and anti-oxidants, as well as fibre, protein, and calcium.
I think that with more research, we will find more definitive results showing the health benefits of chia seeds. I encourage you to add them to your diet! I add a tablespoon to my breakfast every morning.
Two extra caveats:
- Don’t let anyone make you pay more for black or white chia seeds. I have read that black chia seeds have a slightly higher anti-oxidant content but any difference between the two is negligible
- If you are headed in for surgery anytime (even dental extractions) then you should stop eating chia and other high omega-3 containing foods (such as fish oil) two weeks before your surgery. This is because omega-3 reduces clotting and so it may take longer for the bleeding to stop in surgery.
Let me know if you have any cool recipes that include chia seeds!