Chia seeds have recently gained popularity, and with that I have had a lot of questions about these seeds. If you look online, you will that they are touted to be the new super food that will solve many problems such as…
- Aiding in weight loss because they
- help control the appetite
- reduce food cravings
- block calorie absorption
- Improving heart health, mental health, and digestive health
- Helping hydrate athletes
- Reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars
- Improving skin, hair and nails
So it leaves you to wonder…can one food really do all these things? Recently the “Food & Nutrition Magazine” released by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics addressed this very question. It was interesting to see that there have only been four clinical trials published to date on the health benefits of these seeds. Three of the four studies did find a positive impact on triglyceride levels, blood sugars and weight. However, the last study found no significant effect on weight loss or disease risk. So, while there may be some health benefits, there is clearly not enough research to support all of the above claims that are made.
So, that leads to the next question…what are the nutrition components of these seeds? One ounce of these seeds (or 2 Tablespoons) contains:
9 gm fat
10 gm fiber
5 gm protein
18% daily value for calcium
2,500 mg omega 3’s in the form of alpha-linolenic acid
These little seeds do pack a nutrition punch because that they are loaded with fiber, they have more omega 3’s than flaxseed, they do provide a decent vegetarian source of calcium and they contain some protein.
It is true that fiber can help with heart health, blood sugar management and weight management. The omega 3’s can also be helpful with heart health and do have many other health benefits. The calcium can help with bone health. However, before you start loading up on these seeds, there are a couple things to remember…
- There are no “super foods” that can undo other poor food choices, so they should be part of an overall healthy diet. They should not be used as a band-aid for a poor diet.
- They will not lead to weight loss on their own and they are high in calories, so you will gain weight if you do not account for the calories!
- Chia seeds are touted to aid in weight loss because they may help to control appetite (which may be a benefit of the high fiber content). However, weight loss comes down to calories in vs. calories out. You need to burn more calories than you consume, and these seeds (like all seeds) come with a high calorie cost (almost 140 calories in just 2 Tbsp). So, those calories still count toward your daily calorie goal. You can’t just add them to your breakfast and expect them to help you magically shed pounds.
For those interested in trying chia seeds, there can be many ways to incorporate them into the diet. They can be eaten whole or ground, and they do form a gel when they are combined with a liquid. You can simply sprinkle them on cereal, a salad or in yogurt or pudding. They can also be used in veggie patties or to increase the nutritional value of baked goods. They can also help to thicken soups or act as a substitute for pectin in jam or as a substitute for eggs in baked goods.
They can be stored for several months when they are whole, but should be stored in a container with a tight lid and used in about a month once they are ground.
In Summary, these seeds can absolutely be part of a healthy diet, but there isn’t enough research yet to support all of the exagerated claims you see online and on TV. Just remember, a small amount goes a long way and portion control is still important!!