Chia Seeds: Weight Loss and Other Health Benefits

by Marixie Ann Obsioma
Published on October 28, 2020 and last updated for accuracy on November 2, 2020

Chia seeds may seem like a modern fad, but their use actually goes back hundreds of years. Many Native American tribes, such as the Chumash, Maidu, and Costanoan, ate chia seeds as a significant part of their diet, and the seed was grown alongside corn in some places in Mexico, according to the USDA (1). 

But back then, chia seeds weren’t staples in breakfast bowls and smoothies. Some people mixed them with flour to make tortillas, while others combined them with water and cooked them to make porridge or soup. The seeds even had medicinal uses, and were used to treat a range of ailments, from fever to inflammation. 

Over time, this ancient seed grew in popularity, though not first as a popular superfood. Indeed, as the New York Times reports, chia seeds first resurfaced in our homes as a novelty item, in the form of Chia Pets, which were widely popular a few decades ago.

Since then, chia has experienced another little renaissance, and now finds its way into our puddings, smoothies, breads, and much more.

What Are the Nutrition Facts of Chia Seeds?

Why are chia seeds so popular now? A key reason may be their reputation as nutritional powerhouses: One tablespoon of chia seeds contains about 69 calories, as well as, roughly:

  • 2 grams of protein
  • 5 grams of fat (1 g saturated, 7 g polyunsaturated, 1 g monounsaturated, and 0 g trans)
  • 6 grams of carbohydrates
  • 5 grams of fiber

Chia seeds also contain a number of vitamins and minerals. One tablespoon offers: 

  • 2 mg of phosphorus (about 11 percent of an adult’s recommended daily value, or DV)
  • 7 mg of calcium (8 percent of DV)
  • 8 mg of potassium (1 percent of DV)
  • 2 mg of phosphorus (11 percent of DV)
  • 5 IU of vitamin A
  • 2 mg of vitamin C (1 percent of DV)
  • 1 mg of vitamin E (1 percent of DV)

As reported by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, chia seeds come from Salvia hispanica, a desert plant that is part of the mint family (2). 

How Can Chia Seeds Help You Lose Weight? 

Chia seeds are great for weight loss. They are rich in antioxidants, protein, healthy fats, and dietary fiber that help flush out toxins, build lean muscle mass, reduce inflammation, and keep you full for a long duration. Let’s take a closer look at how these small seeds can help you tackle a huge problem. Scroll down.

1. Rich in Dietary Fiber

Chia seeds are rich in dietary fiber, which benefits digestive health by promoting regularity and increasing stool frequency to prevent constipation. Moreover, the fiber in chia seeds also absorbs a good amount of water, which keeps you full for longer and suppresses hunger.

Fiber-rich foods can keep your body from absorbing a few calories from the foods you eat. The nutrient binds with the fat and sugar molecules in the food and obstructs their absorption. This reduces the number of calories you consume.

2. Loaded With PUFA

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are categorized as healthy fats. Chia seeds are loaded with alpha linoleic acid (ALA), an omega-3-fatty acid. Omega 3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory effects, as well as brain- enhancing and heart health-protecting properties.

3. High in Protein

Many health experts believe that chia seeds can aid weight loss.

Its soluble fiber absorbs large amounts of water and expands in your stomach, which should increase fullness and slow the absorption of food (3).

Several studies have examined the soluble fiber glucomannan, which works in a similar way, showing that it can lead to weight loss (4, 5).

Also, the protein in chia seeds could help reduce appetite and food intake.

In fact, one study found that eating chia seeds for breakfast increased satiety and reduced food intake in the short-term (6).

However, studies examining the effectiveness of chia seeds for weight loss have provided rather disappointing results.

In a study in 90 overweight people, 50 grams of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks had no effect on body weight or health markers (7).

In another 10-week study in 62 women, chia seeds had no effect on body weight but did increase the amount of omega-3 fat in the blood (8).

In contrast, a 6-month study in obese people with type 2 diabetes on a reduced-calorie diet found that eating chia seeds daily caused significantly greater weight loss than a placebo (9).

Though adding chia seeds to your diet is unlikely to cause weight loss on its own, many experts believe they can be a useful addition to a weight loss diet.

A weight loss diet is about more than just single foods. The entire diet counts, as well as other lifestyle behaviors like sleep and exercise.

When combined with a real-food based diet and a healthy lifestyle, chia seeds may definitely help promote weight loss.

4. Increase Energy Levels

A sedentary lifestyle is one of the reasons for weight gain. Chia seeds provide energy and make you more active. In fact, when you start building lean muscle, the number of mitochondria, which are the cell organelles that produce energy in the form of ATP, increases. This, in turn, not only increases your energy levels but also accelerates your metabolic rate.

5. Loaded With Antioxidants

Antioxidants help flush out toxins and lower stress and inflammation in the body. They act by scavenging the harmful free oxygen radicals, which may also lead to DNA mutation, leading to harmful or non functioning protein synthesis. Chia seeds are loaded with various antioxidants – quercetin, caffeic acid, kaempferol, and chlorogenic acid. Hence, consuming these seeds will reduce the toxins in your body, help you lose weight, and reduce the risk of fatal diseases (10). 

6. Increase the Production of Leptin

Leptin is a hunger-inhibiting hormone that is produced by the fat cells or adipose tissue. Scientists have found that the more protein you consume, the more the production of leptin will be (11). Chia seeds are a good source of protein, as mentioned above, and also help kick leptin into action. This, in turn, helps suppress appetite, prevents overeating, and maintains a healthy body composition.

Other Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

Nutrient-Packed with Very Few Calories

Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the plant Salvia hispanica, which is related to the mint.

Chia seeds were an important food for the Aztecs and Mayans back in the day.

They prized them for their ability to provide sustainable energy. In fact, “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.”

Despite their ancient history as a dietary staple, chia seeds became recognized as a modern-day superfood only recently.

In the past few years, they have exploded in popularity and are now consumed by health conscious people all over the world.

Don’t be fooled by the size! These tiny seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch.

A one-ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains (12):

  • Fiber: 11 grams.
  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are omega-3s)
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDI

They also contain a decent amount of zinc, vitamin B3 (niacin), potassium, vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B2.

This is particularly impressive considering that this is just a single ounce, equalling 28 grams or about two tablespoons. This small amount supplies only 137 calories and one gram of digestible carbohydrate.

Interestingly, if you subtract the fiber, most of which doesn’t end up as usable calories for your body, chia seeds only contain 101 calories per ounce.

This makes them one of the world’s best sources of several important nutrients, calorie for calorie.

To top things off, chia seeds are a whole-grain food, usually grown organically. Plus, they’re non-GMO and naturally free of gluten.

Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

Given that chia seeds are high in fiber, protein and omega-3s, they may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Their benefits have been examined in several studies, but the results have been inconclusive.

Rat studies have shown that chia seeds can lower certain risk factors, including triglycerides, inflammation, insulin resistance and belly fat. They may also raise the “good“ cholesterol (13, 14).

However, one human study did not detect any improvements in risk factors (15).

A few studies show that chia seeds significantly reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension, which is a strong risk factor for heart disease (16, 17).

Overall, it’s possible that chia seeds may benefit heart health, but they probably won’t have a major effect unless accompanied by other beneficial lifestyle and dietary changes.

Rich in Bone Nutrients

Chia seeds are high in several nutrients that are important for bone health.

This includes calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and protein.

The calcium content is particularly impressive — 18% of the RDI in a single ounce.

Gram for gram, this is higher than most dairy products. As a result, chia seeds may be considered an excellent source of calcium for people who don’t eat dairy.

However, chia seeds also contain phytic acid, which reduces calcium absorption to some extent.

Decrease Blood Sugar Levels

High fasting blood sugar levels are a typical symptom of untreated type 2 diabetes.

Consistently high fasting blood sugar levels are associated with an increased risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease (18).

But temporary spikes in blood sugar levels after meals may also have adverse health effects when they’re excessively high on a regular basis (19).

Animal studies have found that chia seeds may improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, stabilizing blood sugar levels after meals (20, 21).

A few human studies support this by showing that eating bread that contains chia seeds lowers the post-meal rise in blood sugar compared to bread that doesn’t include any chia (22, 23).

Control Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is your body’s normal response to infection or injury. Red and swollen skin is a typical example.

Although inflammation helps your body heal and fight off bacteria, viruses and other infectious agents, it can sometimes cause harm.

This mainly applies to chronic inflammation, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.

Chronic inflammation often doesn’t have any visible signs, but can be assessed by measuring inflammatory markers in your blood.

Various unhealthy lifestyle habits increase your risk of chronic inflammation, including smoking, lack of exercise or a poor diet.

On the other hand, certain healthy foods may reduce the blood levels of inflammatory markers.

One 3-month study in 20 people with diabetes showed that eating 37 grams of chia seeds daily reduced the inflammatory marker hs-CRP by 40%. In contrast, those who got wheat bran didn’t experience a significant benefit. 

Other studies on chia seeds have failed to detect any significant effects on inflammatory markers (24).

Easy to Prepare Chia Seeds Recipes for Weight Loss 

Staying in shape is a universal desire and we try anything and everything to get that perfectly sculpted physique and this is the reason why the fitness industry has turned out to be a billion dollar business. But have you ever thought of losing weight without putting in any efforts! Well, this might sound surprising, but eating the right combination of foods can actually help you lose weight effortlessly.

Chia seeds work miraculously in giving your body the much needed nutrition and helps in managing weight in a healthy way. However, how you add these to your daily diet is equally important and for that you need to choose the right amalgamation of foods. Here are some interesting and easy recipes to make your weight loss journey more delightful!

1. Chia Pudding 

One of the most popular and easy recipes that will make you ditch sugar loaded desserts is a chia pudding. The best thing about this recipe is that you can add ingredients as per your palate preference. To make it in a simple way just follow us through this quick and easy recipe.

Take a glass jar, add 4 tablespoon chia seeds and add in 1 cup low-fat milk, add some dates jaggery or honey, along with a teaspoon vanilla extract, mix the blend and refrigerate the mixture. Next morning chop some berries, cherries and fresh fruits and add them to the chia pudding, drizzle some honey and you are good to go.

2. Chia and Mixed Fruit Smoothies 

Chia smoothie is yet another popular delight among weight watchers, which can be made in so many interesting ways, but adding fresh fruits and vegetables is the best way to amp up the health quotient of your drink.

To make this quick and easy drink, you need 1 cup low fat milk, 3 tablespoon chia seeds, 1 cup mixed fruits chopped, 2 tablespoon Greek yoghurt. Add all these ingredients into the blender and blend them into a smooth blend. Make sure you soak the seeds in the milk and then use the concoction to make the smoothie, if the seeds absorb all the milk, add more milk as per your need. Garnish with some mint leaves and relish.

3. Chia Frozen Yogurt 

If you are someone with a sweet tooth, then this will be your go-to healthy dessert. To make this quick and easy recipe, you just need a few simple ingredients in place to nail this easy delight. To make this dish, take 1 cup vanilla yogurt, 2 tablespoon soaked chia seeds, ½ cup chopped apples, cherries and berries, ½ orange.

Just take a serving glass, spread the soaked chia seeds, add in a layer of fruits and refrigerate the dish. Take another bowl, add in the rest of the fruits and add the yoghurt, drizzle some honey and mix it all together. Next take out the chilled chia and fruit layer, add in the mixed fruits and garnish with mint leaves and serve it chilled!

4. Sweet Potato Chia Seeds

To make this baked sweet potato dish, cut the sweet potatoes and sprinkle some salt, pepper and mix them nicely. Then take a baking dish, spread these potatoes, add some freshly chopped coriander and sprinkle some chia seeds.

Bake for 5-10 minutes at 180 degree Celsius and enjoy your favorite beverage. In fact, if you want to amp up the taste quotient of your dish you can add some grated cottage cheese or cheddar cheese. Both sweet potatoes and chia seeds are rich fibers that help in making this dish a satiating meal.

5. Chicken Chia Salad

Weight loss and salads are so synonymous that you can’t think about a weight loss journey without this dish. Well, there are thousands of ways of creating your own chia salad, but here’s a basic salad recipe that you can make in just a few minutes with some easily available ingredients.

To make this chicken salad take half cup boiled chicken chunks, ½ cup quinoa, 3 tablespoon soaked chia seeds, 1 ½ cup mixed veggies (bell pepper, broccoli, beans), ½ cup corns, 1whole lime juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. To begin this recipe, wash the chicken and quinoa.

Then take a pan add in the chicken, quinoa and water with a dash of salt. Once the mixture attains a normal room temperature, transfer all this to a large salad bowl. Then add in the fresh veggies, corn, soaked chia seeds, lime juice with salt, pepper and olive oil. Mix all these properly, add in a handful of coriander leaves and indulge in the goodness.

Key Takeaway

Chia seeds are a nutritious pseudo grain that can be part of a healthy weight loss plan. But they’re not a quick fix to drop a dress size. And if you eat too many, they may have the opposite effect. No single food is ever responsible for healthy weight loss.

While adding chia seeds to your diet can be helpful, it is just one component of an overall healthy diet and exercise plan. Don’t forget to eat a healthy and balanced diet and to exercise. 

References:

(1) https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_saco6.pdf

(2) https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/what-are-chia-seeds

(3) https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijfs/2014/241053/

(4) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18031592/

(5) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6096282/

(6) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28989578/

(7) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027153170900089X

(8) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22830971/

(9) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28089080/

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4926888/

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4251481/

(12) http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3061/2

(13) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17356263/

(14) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18492301/

(15) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22830971/

(16) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17686832/

(17) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25403867/

(18) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22650225/

(19) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2909084/

(20) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24120122/

(21) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21429727/

(22) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20087375/

(23) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23778782/

(24) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19628108

 

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