Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
Chia seeds are the tiny seeds of the Salvia hispanica L. plant. Not only are chia seeds rich in important nutrients like fiber and magnesium, but chia seed intake has been shown to promote a healthy heart, reduce blood sugar levels, and support digestive health. Here are the health benefits of chia seeds and their nutrition, potential risks, and culinary uses.
May Lower Heart Disease Risk Factors
Chia seeds are an excellent source of nutrients known to promote heart health, including fiber, healthy fats, and magnesium. Studies show that eating chia seeds is an effective way to reduce heart disease risk factors such as high LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber, which can help reduce cholesterol levels. Fiber helps decrease cholesterol absorption in the digestive tract and increases its excretion, thus lowering blood cholesterol levels.
Chia seeds have also been shown to help reduce high blood pressure levels, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Chia seeds are a concentrated source of magnesium, a mineral that’s involved in blood pressure regulation, plus fiber, long-chain polyunsaturated fats, and protein, which have also been linked to blood pressure benefits.
An Excellent Source of Fiber
Chia seeds are packed with fiber. In fact, the fiber content of chia seeds exceeds that of dried fruits, nuts, flaxseeds, and grains.
A 1-ounce serving of chia seeds provides an impressive 9.75 grams of fiber, which covers around 35% of your daily fiber needs. Fiber is essential for the health of the digestive system, as fiber is needed to promote regular and comfortable bowel movements and helps support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Chia fiber helps add bulk to stools, which can help prevent and treat constipation.
The fiber in chia seeds promotes the growth of bacteria that produce byproducts called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs fuel cells that line the colon, called colonocytes, and also help regulate inflammation, and maintain the health of the intestines.
Chia seeds also contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, like omega-3 fats and polyphenols, which help reduce intestinal inflammation. They’re also high in minerals that are commonly low in people with digestive disorders like IBD, such as calcium, selenium, and zinc.
May Help Promote Healthy Blood Sugar
Chia seeds are high in nutrients known to support healthy blood sugar regulation, such as fiber, protein, and magnesium. Studies have linked chia seed consumption to improvements in glycemic control and insulin sensitivity in healthy people and in those with high blood sugar. Additionally, eating chia seeds can help reduce other health issues common in people with type 2 diabetes, such as high blood pressure.
Eating fiber and protein-rich foods, like chia seeds, is an excellent way to support satiety and healthy weight loss. Protein and fiber both help slow digestion, which helps prevent post-meal blood sugar spikes and also increases feelings of fullness after eating. Choosing more filling foods, like chia seeds, may help curb appetite and help you eat fewer calories, which can help support weight loss.
Nutritional Facts of Chia Seeds
Though chia seeds are small in size, they contain a surprising amount of nutrients.
Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a 1-ounce (28 g) serving of chia seeds:5
- Calories: 138
- Protein: 4.86 g
- Fat: 8.7 g
- Carbohydrates: 11.9 g
- Fiber: 9.75 g
- Calcium: 179 milligrams (mg) or 14% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Iron: 2.19 mg or 12% of the DV
- Magnesium: 95 mg or 23% of the DV
- Manganese: .771 mg or 34% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 244 mg or 20% of the DV
- Selenium: 15.6 micrograms (mcg) or 28% of the DV
- Zinc: 1.3 mg or 12% of the DV
Chia seeds are rich in several minerals, but are especially high in magnesium, manganese, and selenium.
Magnesium is a mineral that your body needs for essential functions such as DNA synthesis, muscle contraction, nerve function, blood sugar regulation, and blood pressure maintenance. Unfortunately, many people under consume this important nutrient, which can lead to low magnesium levels. Low or deficient magnesium levels can negatively impact health in a number of ways and lead to health issues like stroke, high blood pressure, and depression.
Selenium is essential for thyroid hormone production and the regulation of inflammation, while manganese is involved in energy metabolism and immune function.1314
Chia seeds also provide fiber, plant-based protein, and healthy fats, making them a nutrient-dense choice.
Risks of Eating Chia Seeds
When eaten in moderation, chia seeds are safe to consume and aren’t associated with adverse side effects. However, because chia seeds are very high in fiber, they may cause digestive symptoms, like gas, diarrhea, and bloating. Another potential risk associated with chia seed consumption is that, when exposed to fluids, chia seeds may pose a choking hazard, especially in people with swallowing issues. Chia seeds swell when exposed to liquids and take on a thick and sticky consistency, which can pose a risk for those with swallowing difficulties as they can become lodged in the esophagus and cause an impaction.
Tips for Consuming Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are highly nutritious and versatile. Here are a few ways to add chia seeds to your diet:
- Combine chia seeds with milk or nut milk and let the concoction thicken to make chia pudding.
- Mix chia seeds into yogurt, oatmeal, and cereal to increase fiber, mineral, and protein content.
- Use chia flour in baked goods like breads and muffins.
- Sprinkle chia seeds over salads and grain bowls for a bit of crunch.
- Add chia seeds to homemade granola, energy balls, and trail mix.
- Make a sugar-free chia seed jam by mixing chia seeds into cooked fruit.
To make a simple, yet filling chia pudding, combine four tablespoons of chia seeds with one cup of milk in a mason jar and stir. After a few minutes, give the mason jar a shake and then let the mixture firm up for about an hour. You can add sweeteners, like honey or maple syrup, to taste and top your chia pudding with nutritious ingredients like fresh fruit, nut butter, and sliced almonds.
Extracted and edited from Health.com
Written By Jillian Kubala, RD. Medically reviewed by Barbie Cervoni, MS, RD, CDCES, CDN