Chia seeds are the tiny black seeds of the annual herbaceous plant, Salvia hispanica L. People started using chia seeds thousands of years ago. Evidence shows that chia seeds are high in nutritive value. Chia seeds are rich in dietary fibre, proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, etc. Also, there are some studies available to show the health benefits of chia seeds. Many believe that chia seeds can help in losing weight. Chia seeds come from the chia plant ( Salvia hispanica L). This plant has been used for its medicinal values for thousands of years.
Nutrient composition of chia seeds
The following are the nutrients and energy values present in 100g of chia seeds (Source: USDA food composition table).
- Energy (kcal) – 486.0
- Protein (g)- 16.5
- Total lipid (g)- 30.7
- Ash(g)- 4.8
- Carbohydrate(g)- 42.1
- Dietary fiber(g)- 34.4
- Calcium (mg)- 631.0
- Iron (g)- 7.7
- Magnesium (g)- 335.0
- Phosphorus (g)- 860.0
- Potassium (g)- 407.0
- Sodium (g)- 16.0
- Zinc (g)- 4.6
- Copper (g)- 0.9
- Manganese (g)- 2.7
- Vitamin C (g)- 1.6
According to the above list, chia seeds mostly have carbohydrates (42g), next is lipids (30 g) third is protein.
Although chia seeds have more carbs, most of these carbs are fibres, because Chia seeds contain approximately 30–34 g dietary fibre. Most of these fibres are insoluble (85–93%). At the same time, there are some soluble fibres, also (7–15%).
If we compare chia seeds with dried fruits, cereals, and nuts, chia seeds have more fibre.
Fat is the most interesting thing about chia seeds. These seeds are very rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Mainly about 60% of fat is from fatty acid, α-linolenic acid (ALA). Suppose we compare chia seeds with flaxseed. Chia seeds have more omega-3.
Chia seeds are also rich in plant proteins. Also, it is important to note that chia seeds are gluten-free. So this is a good option for celiac patients.
There are a high amount of minerals, such as phosphorous, calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
Studies have also found that chia seeds contain vitamins, mainly vitamin B1 (0.6 mg/100 g), vitamin B2 (0.2 mg/100 g), and niacin (8.8 mg/100 g).
Therapeutic effects of chia seeds
Researchers have done some clinical studies to investigate the health benefits of chia seeds.
Can chia seeds help you lose weight?
A research study done in 2017, involving 77 overweight or obese patients with type 2 diabetes, showed that chia seeds promote weight loss while maintaining good glycemic control in these diabetic patients. Also, chia seeds can promote satiety due to the high content of dietary fibre.
So, if we eat chia seeds, we will feel full for a long time. However, there is still not enough research evidence to prove that chia seeds help reduce blood pressure.
However, if you are obese or overweight, you can definitely include chia seeds in your diet because it is rich in dietary fibre, promoting satiety.
Blood pressure-lowering effect of chia seeds
These studies show that chia seeds can reduce diastolic blood pressure but not systolic blood pressure. Another finding is grounded chia seeds shows this effect better than the whole seed.
Blood glucose lowering effects of chia seeds
Some studies have found that it can lower blood glucose level when a high dose of chia seeds are given.
Antioxidant activity of chia seeds
Several studies are showing the antioxidant activity of chia seeds.
However, the evidence available of chia seeds is not enough to support any health claims about chia seeds (according to a meta-analysis). This is because of the low-quality clinical trial evidence that is available. Also, most of the currently available studies are done using animals. Hence remember that the current evidence base is not enough to confirm any clinically significant health beneficial effect of chia seeds. Researchers suggest that future studies should focus on giving a high dose of chia seeds and studying for a long period.
However, chia seeds are a good addition to your diet, because chia seeds are high in nutritive value and are loaded with fibre and good fats and proteins. Following are some recipes that you can follow to include chia seeds in your diet. Also, it is essential to build strong research evidence basis to chia seeds health benefits.
Recipes using chia seeds
Add chia seeds to your smoothies and soups.
You can add chia seeds to your smoothies or soups. This will make your drink thicker and will give an appealing consistency.
First, take ¼ cup of chia seeds and add 1 cup of water to it.
Then, wait for 15 – 20 min until the texture becomes a soft gelatin texture.
You can add these soft gelatin-like chia seeds to your soup or smoothies.
For this pudding, you can add milk instead of water. Add 1 cup of milk to ¼ cup of chia seeds. You can use a diary or non-dairy milk here. Add any nuts, dried fruits, or chopped fresh fruits as you desire
Keep in the refrigerator for 15 – 20 min and serve!
Add chia seeds to your baked goodies.
If you are baking at home add chia seeds to your bread, cookies, cakes to boost the nutritional value as long as the recipe has moisture you can add chia seeds to it.
You can sprinkle chia seeds on your salad dressing, sauce, breakfast cereals (hot or cold)
When eating chia seeds, please do not eat them in dry form. One case reported about a patient who ate chia seed dry followed by a glass of water had his oesophagus blocked because the seeds were expanded in the oesophagus. This happens because chia seeds expand quickly, absorbing water.
It is always advised to eat chia seeds after soaking or after the seeds have absorbed water and swelling. You can eat chia seeds with moist food such as yoghurt or oatmeal. Also, people with dysphagia (a condition that causes difficulty in swallowing) or other digestive issues should eat chia seeds with care.
In conclusion, chia seeds have been known for thousands of years. However, many claims about chia seeds’ therapeutic effects such as lowering blood pressure, blood glucose control, and weight loss, a strong research evidence base should be developed in the future. But since these tiny black chia seeds are packed with nutrients and high in nutritive value, you can always add them to your diet to get more fibre, proteins, and healthy fats.
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- Siew Li Teoh, Nai Ming Lai, Possatorn Vanichkulpitak, Vladimir Vuksan, Hoang Ho, Nathorn Chaiyakunapruk, Clinical evidence on dietary supplementation with chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.): a systematic review and meta-analysis, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 76, Issue 4, April 2018, Pages 219–242, https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nux071