Chia seeds are seeds from Salvia hispanica, a mint family desert plant. The tiny seed has a fan following far outstripping its diminutive size. Among other things, one reason behind this is the belief that chia seeds can help those struggling with weight loss to get to their goals. Found in health foods stores as well as supermarkets across the country, including chia seeds in your diet is becoming a fad not just in fitness circles but among regular Americans too. So should you join the chia seed cult? Or are these claims just wishful thinking?
The Goodness Of Chia
Eaten raw – both whole and ground up – in milk, water, smoothies, puddings, or added to baked products, and porridges, chia seeds are an ingredient that adds texture to food. Chia seeds are said to be a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, and antioxidants.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database 1 oz or 2 tablespoons (28 gm) of dry chia seeds have 138 calories. This portion size will give you 9.8 gm of dietary fiber (about a third of your daily requirement), 4.7 gm of protein, about 5 to 6 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids, and about a third of your RDA for phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium. It is also rich in calcium, giving 18 percent of your RDA. Chia seeds also have a good quantity of zinc, potassium, and Vitamins B1, B2, and B3.1
Weight Loss: A Tall Claim?
The mix of nutrients in chia seeds is being celebrated for its ability to keep blood sugar levels steady, improve cardiovascular health, cut food cravings, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as control blood pressure. This makes chia seem like a real superfood for the future.
Specifically, after some studies found high quantities of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and alpha-linoleic acid in the tiny seed, its role in managing diseases like diabetes and hypercholesterolemia began to surface. Hot on the heels of these revelations, in the 2000s came rumors that it could therefore be a great help in weight loss.2
But, as one trial later found, when obese and overweight test subjects consumed 50 grams of chia seeds every day for 12 weeks, there was no significant difference between those who had chia seeds and those who were given a placebo. Researchers looked at body composition, overall mass, blood pressure, lipoprotein levels, inflammation, and oxidative stress both before and after the study. As such its ability to be a magical cure to the world’s weight loss problems soon lost its sheen by the end of the last decade.3
There are mixed reports however. A study in 2015 for instance, observed that when men and women who were overweight or obese were given 35 gm of chia flour everyday, over 12 weeks, they showed improvement on many parameters. Besides causing a body weight reduction, it helped reduce waist circumference intragroup as well. Total cholesterol levels reduced for those who had abnormal values to begin with, but not in others. Blood glucose, triglyceride, and LDL cholesterol did not change.4
Satiety And The Chia Seed
Though tiny, a single seed has the capacity to absorb fluid 9 times its size, developing a gelatinous outer coating that is the familiar chia seed texture you are familiar with. It is important to use it in small quantities and not binge too much due to the calories it contains. It is virtually free of carbs that will sit in your body, as most of its carbohydrate content comes from fiber. This fiber, as well as the protein content make chia seeds give you a sense of satiety or fullness.5
Chia Seed In Combination With Other Foods
While the power of the chia seed on its own, to alter cholesterol levels or regulate blood sugar is still in question, it may be beneficial alongside other nutritious food like oats. One study of people with Metabolic Syndrome used a drink that included chia seeds for its antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. The chia component was designed to help with anti inflammatory action. The researchers concluded that having a diet that included oats, chia seed, nopal, and soy protein brings a reduction in levels of insulin AUC, serum triglyceride, and serum C-Reactive Protein that measures for infection and inflammation (common among obese and overweight).6
While chia seeds may not be able to melt away the extra pounds, there are however, still reasons chia seeds may be a good idea to have in your diet from time to time, albeit without the promise of a miracle. Eat them as part of a healthy balanced diet, fit in regular exercise, and use them as rich source of fiber and omega-3 and you should be able to stay on track with your fitness and weight loss goals.
|↑1||Basic Report: 12006, Seeds, chia seeds, dried, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑2||Egras, Amy M., William R. Hamilton, Thomas L. Lenz, and Michael S. Monaghan. “An evidence-based review of fat modifying supplemental weight loss products.” Journal of obesity 2011 (2010).|
|↑3||Nieman, David C., Erin J. Cayea, Melanie D. Austin, Dru A. Henson, Steven R. McAnulty, and Fuxia Jin. “Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults.” Nutrition Research 29, no. 6 (2009): 414-418.|
|↑4||Toscano, Luciana Tavares, Lydiane Tavares Toscano, Renata Leite Tavares, and Cássia Surama Oliveira. “Chia induces clinically discrete weight loss and improves lipid profile only in altered previous values.” Nutr Hosp 31, no. 3 (2015): 1176-1182.|
|↑5||Muñoz, Loreto A., Angel Cobos, Olga Diaz, and José Miguel Aguilera. “Chia seed (Salvia hispanica): an ancient grain and a new functional food.” Food reviews international 29, no. 4 (2013): 394-408.|
|↑6||Guevara-Cruz, Martha, Armando R. Tovar, Carlos A. Aguilar-Salinas, Isabel Medina-Vera, Lidia Gil-Zenteno, Isaac Hernández-Viveros, Patricia López-Romero et al. “A dietary pattern including nopal, chia seed, soy protein, and oat reduces serum triglycerides and glucose intolerance in patients with metabolic syndrome.” The Journal of nutrition 142, no. 1 (2012): 64-69.|