Fad food or simply fabulous?
Chia seeds have grown in popularity and their health benefits have attained an almost god-like status in health conscious circles over the past few years.
So do these tiny seeds provide you with the countless health benefits for which they are reputed, or are they just another fad food destined to fade into oblivion?
Let’s take a look at some of the health claims associated with chia seeds and see where the current research stands…
1. Nutritionally dense
Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are definitely loaded with nutritional goodness. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Database reveals that chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, dietary fiber, and are rich in minerals, particularly calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and potassium.
2. Lowers blood glucose levels
In 2013 a randomized controlled study was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition which found that chia seeds can help to reduce blood sugar levels.
The alpha-linolenic acid found in chia seeds combined with their high fiber content help to balance your insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats and removing excess glucose from the blood.
3. Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which have numerous health benefits, including cardiovascular effects. In 2011 a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids have a significant cardioprotective effect and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Furthermore, in 2012 a study revealed that chia seeds help to reduce cardiovascular changes associated with a high fat diet. Chia seed supplementation for six months increased whole body lean mass, redistributed fats from the abdominal area, and normalized the chronic low-grade inflammation induced by a high fat diet.
Chia seeds have also been shown to help maintain a healthy composition of fats in your blood. This effect is due to the presence of essential fatty acids and phenolic acids.
In 2007 an animal study was conducted which found that chia seed consumption significantly decreases serum triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) whilst increasing HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol).
4. Improves digestive health
Chia seeds are a rich source of soluble fiber which creates a gelatin-like substance in your stomach. This gelatin-like substance works as a prebiotic, encouraging the growth of good bacteria in your gut, thereby enhancing your digestive function.
5. Weight loss
In 2009 a twelve week study on the effects of chia seeds on weight loss was undertaken. Ninety overweight men and women were randomized to either a chia seed or placebo group and ingested either a supplement containing 25 grams of chia seeds or a placebo supplement twice daily.
Results showed no differences in pre- and post- study measurements of body mass, body composition, inflammation, oxidative stress, blood pressure and lipoproteins between the chia seed and placebo groups.
Simply adding some chia seeds to your daily breakfast smoothie is therefore not going to be the magic bullet in helping you to drop your dress size. However, some studies have shown that chia seeds help to promote satiety, making you feel fuller for longer throughout the day.
In 2010 a study was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition which demonstrated that consumption of chia seeds was associated with a reduction in appetite.
This is most likely due to the high content of soluble fiber which slows down digestion and makes you feel full. Chia seeds can therefore help you to cut down on your snacking throughout the day and potentially reduce your calorie intake.
All the available evidence reveals that the current frenzy around the health benefits of chia seeds is vindicated, with regular consumption helping to increase your nutritional status, improve your cardiovascular health, stabilize blood sugar levels, enhance your digestive health and control your appetite.
Add chia seeds to your diet and reap the rewards of these tiny nutritional seeds rich in minerals, protein, essential fatty acids and antioxidants.