5 Health benefits of Chia seed + 3 Myths and 5 Recipes
Chia seed is known as ‘superfood’ and is praised for omega 3 fatty acids and dietary fiber.
But is that all right? What are the proven health benefits and what are not?
In this article you will learn:
- What are the health benefits of chia seeds
- Which health claims are not scientifically proven
- How you can process chia seeds in your food in a tasty way
What Is Chia Seed?
Chia seed comes from the plant species Salvia hispanica and grows naturally in Mexico and Guatemala. The Aztecs,according to the tradition, grew chia seeds which they used to size and color as food and medicine.
chia fresca Chia seed is still grown in Mexico and Guatemala. Part of it is intended as a superfood for export.
Another part is used for domestic consumption where it is used in nutritious energy drinks (chia fresca, worth trying) and as a food ingredient. Nowadays, a lot of chia seed comes from Australia which has become the largest producer.
Chia seeds are known to be rich in fatty acids. The word chia is also derived from “chian”, which is “greasy” in a language that descends from the Aztecs.
Chia seeds are very small, they are about one millimeter in size and are speckled in the colors brown, white and gray-black. They are a bit like poppy seeds in terms of size and color.
Nutritional Value of Chia Seed
Chia seed is super nutritious per gram. This, while the number of calories is relatively low, gives different nutritional values for such a nutritious product.
Different brands give different nutritional value for their chia seed. This has to do with the fertility of the soil where the chia seed is grown (source).
For the overview below I have averages which are mentioned on the package from a number of web shops which mention this on their site.
|Nutritional Value Chia Seed||Per 100 grams|
|Of which saturated||3,33 grams|
|Of which sugars||0,5 grams|
|Including indigestible dietary fiber||34,4 grams|
The Kcal of Shia Seed
The number of calories that can be absorbed by the body is 360 kcal per 100 grams which is a lot less than the 490 kcal which contains the gross.
What is striking when comparing the different brands is that the chia seed from the Superfoodies brand only contains 330 kcal per 100 grams.
Presumably, they have assumed the number of calories that can actually be absorbed by the body.
The 490 kcal of 100 grams of chia seed is subdivided into macronutrients, originating from:
- Carbohydrates: 178 kcal
- Fatty acids: 257 kcal
- Proteins: 54 kcal
Fatty Acids Profile Chia Seed
Because chia seed is widely used because of the fatty acids, it is interesting to see what the fatty acid profile looks like. This is as follows:
Fatty acid Per 100 grams
Saturated fatty acid 3,33 grams
Of which palmitic acid 2,17 grams
Of which stearic acid 0,91 grams
Of which myristic acid 30 mg
Monounsaturated fatty acids 2,3 grams
Of which oleic acid 2,3 grams
Including paullinic acid (omega 7) 41 mg
Of which palmitoleic acid 29 mg
Polyunsaturated fatty acids 23,66 gram
Alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3) 17,83 gram
Linoleic acid (omega 6) 5,84 gram
Cholesterol 0 mg
As you can see, the chia seed contains large amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). We will discuss the ALA fatty acid later in this article.
Protein Profile Chia Seed
Chia seed contains all essential proteins as a vegetable protein source. And is one of the best vegetable protein sources.
However, it is not a full-fledged plant protein source for children in growth (source). This is because it contains too little of the amino acid lysine.
The best plant source of all essential proteins is hemp seed.
Amino acids in chia seed per 100 grams
Proteins, of which: 15,52 grams
Tryptophan 721 mg
Threonine 665 mg
Isoleucine 696 mg
Leucine 1,26 grams
Lysine 917 mg
Methionine 90 mg
Cystine 361 mg
Fenylalanine 1,03 grams
Tyrosine 503 mg
Valine 1,05 grams
Arginine 1,98 grams
Histidine 526 mg
Alanine 927 mg
Asparaginic acid 1,63 grams
Glutamic acid 2,47 grams
Glycine 907 mg
Proline 897 mg
Serine 1,01 grams
Vitamins in Chia Seeds
To get your daily amount of vitamins you can leave chia seed to the left. The amount of vitamins in chia seed is in fact nil! There are virtually no vitamins in it (source). Something you would not expect for something that the label ‘superfood’ has been given.
The label ‘superfood’ owes it to the fatty acids, the amino acid profile, the dietary fiber, the antioxidants and the minerals: to everything except the vitamins.
What is funny to see is that some health blogs and web shops claim that chia seeds are ‘full of vitamins’.
In contrast to vitamins, chia seed contains minerals. However, the quantities are fairly modest for a superfood.
Only manganese and phosphorus are reasonably well represented, but then 100 grams of chia seed per day must be eaten to arrive at the daily recommended amount of these minerals.
Later you read more about how much chia seed a day is recommended to eat.
Minerals in chia seed per 100 grams
Phosphorus 948 mg
Calcium 631 mg
Potassium 160 mg
Sodium 19 mg
Zinc 3,5 mg
Manganese 2,2 mg
Copper 0,2 mg
Carbohydrates in Chia Seeds
Chia seed is rich in carbohydrates, but not scare, these are mainly indigestible dietary fibers. Per 100 grams it contains 43.8 grams of carbohydrates, 37.7 grams of dietary fiber.
Chia seed may be rich in carbohydrates, but it does not contain sugars. This in combination with a large amount of dietary fiber makes it suitable for diabetics. More about that later.
Health Benefits Chia Seed
The health benefits of chia seed I have summarized for you in the infographic below which I have specially made for this. In the infographic, you will also find some nice facts about chia seed.
The health benefits are explained in more detail under the infographic.
Health Benefit # 1: Healthy Digestion
Sufficient dietary fibers are also important for the intestinal flora. The good bacteria in your intestines survive thanks to the presence of dietary fibers (source).
Recommendation Dietary Fiber
On average, advise health organizations to eat 35 grams of dietary fiber per day. Most people do not come there (source) because they eat too few vegetables and wholemeal products, which are important sources of dietary fiber.
Dietary fiber can also be found in fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts and whole wheat products.
By processing chia seed in, for example, your yogurt or smoothie, you can ensure that you get the recommended daily amount of 35 grams of fiber per day.
The dietary fibers in chia seed are non-fermentable fibers. These fibers (carbohydrates) therefore provide no energy.
In 100 grams there are only 6 grams of carbohydrates which are converted into energy.
Even with a low-carbohydrate diet, you may use this low amount of chia seed.
Health Benefit # 2: Good Source of antioxidants
Chia seed is very rich in antioxidants. It is so rich in antioxidants that it protects its own fatty acids for up to four years and prevents it from turning rancid (source). Chia seeds are one of the richest antioxidant sources which mother nature has to offer.
A recent study (2014, source) showed that there are almost twice as many antioxidants in Chia seed than previously assumed.
Another study showed that antioxidants from natural foods can have health benefits, while antioxidants from supplements are the question (source).
The Usefulness of Antioxidants
What antioxidants are good for are you wondering? Antioxidants neutralize free radicals in our body. Free radicals can provide long-term diseases such as cancer and contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases through inflammation.
Good For The Skin
Antioxidants are particularly important for the recovery of the skin and contribute to the prevention of aging of the skin.
Which Antioxidants Are In Chia Seeds?
The antioxidants that are in chia seeds are:
- Chlorogenic acid A characteristic of chlorogenic acid is that the release of glucose into the blood after eating a meal decreases (source) and it lowers blood pressure (source)
- Caffeic acid This antioxidant helps to prevent inflammation in the body (source)
- Kaempferol This antioxidant is associated with lowering the risk of chronic diseases, especially cancer (source)
- Quercetin is one of the most powerful natural antioxidants of which, inter alia, a cholesterol-lowering effect is claimed (source).
Chia seed is a good source of vegetable protein. It contains all essential amino acids (source) which is quite unique for a vegetable protein source. This makes it a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans (and anyone who wants to eat less meat).
Because of the presence of all essential amino acids, chia seed is a nice addition to the diet of vegetarian or vegan strength athletes.
Benefits of Protein When Losing Weight
Because proteins are slower and more difficult to digest than carbohydrates, they ensure that you have a satisfied feeling after the meal.
This can help you if you are losing weight. You then have less appetite between meals. This applies to all proteins in general, it is not something that makes chia seeds unique or something.
Not a Full-Fledged Protein Source for Children
Chia seed contains only relatively little of the essential amino acid lysine, making it unsuitable as a full vegetable protein source for growth children (source).
It can, of course, be used as a supplement to other (vegetable) protein sources for children in the growth.
Health Benefit # 4: Improvements in Diabetes Type 2
Since chia seeds are rich in dietary fiber, it is assumed that it is good for you if you have type 2 diabetes or if you want to prevent type 2 diabetes.
If you eat enough dietary fiber, the peaks in your blood sugar level are less high so your body needs less insulin.
Good for Diabetics, However, Little Evidence
Chia seed is often touted as a good food for diabetics. But to date, there is little evidence that it actually helps with type 2 diabetes. Chia seed is also not advised by organizations, such as the diabetes fund.
A study has been conducted among about 20 Type 2 diabetics. This study was aimed at assessing whether the risk of cardiovascular disease among diabetics could be reduced. Part of the group got chia seeds and other parts of the group got wheat bran.
After 12 weeks it was shown that the blood pressure had decreased (3-6 mm / Hg), that the inflammatory marker hs-CRP was 40% lower and the risk factor vWF was 21% lower (source). An insignificant decrease in blood sugar was observed.
Especially Studied On Rats
Although health experts are falling over each other to proclaim that chia seed type 2 diabetes can even cure, there is little evidence for that. In addition to the aforementioned research (which was small-scale and also did not cure diabetes), there were only studies on rats (source, source, source, source).
Health Benefit # 5: Reduces High Blood Pressure
In a study in people with high blood pressure, 12 grams of chia meal (ground chia seed) were given daily for 12 weeks. The control group received a placebo.
Among the participants in the study, it was shown that the blood pressure was lower while it remained the same for the placebo group (source).
In a study of diabetics with chia seed, blood pressure was also reduced (source).
Is your blood pressure too high? This can be reduced without medication. Read here my 20 tips for lowering blood pressure.
Myth # 1: Chia Seeds Ideal Omega 3 Supplement
Chia seed is best known as a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids. Per 100 grams it contains no less than 17.5 grams of omega 3 fatty acids. This is the omega 3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
ALA must convert the body into the active fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Especially from DHA, your brain and your body will have the most health benefits.
However, the point is that the body is bad at converting ALA to EPA and DHA (source). Only a small part of ALA will be converted to DHA.
No Increase in DHA With Chia Seeds
Several studies have shown that eating chia seeds do not result in higher DHA levels in the blood (source, source). Chia seed is therefore not really ideal if you want to use it as an omega 3 dietary supplement.
Better Alternatives for Omega 3 Fatty Acids
For the important omega 3 fatty acid DHA you can, therefore, better eat fatty fish or use nutritional supplements containing for example krill oil.
As a vegetarian or vegan, you can use the best algae oil (source) for your EPA and DHA fatty acids. Algae oil contains even more EPA and DHA than fish oil (source).
Myth # 2: You Can Lose Weight with Chia Seed
You wish! Theoretically, you can lose weight with chia seeds and it is often touted by health blogs and web shops for this characteristic. That you can lose weight is never scientifically proven.
Not Out of The Blue
That you could lose weight with chia seed is of course not completely taken care of. Because it is so rich in dietary fiber, this makes you feel that you are full. Chia seed can take 10 to 12 times its own weight in moisture and therefore expands in your stomach. As a result, your food is also absorbed more slowly (source).
Chia seed is also rich in proteins. Because proteins are slowly digested, you will be full for longer.
Theoretically, these are all favorable characteristics if you want to lose weight. However, several studies have been conducted into the effect of chia seed on body weight. And the results of these studies are disappointing.
In a study, a group of overweight people received 50 grams of chia seed every day for 12 weeks. After these 12 weeks, nothing had been lost. There was also no improvement in the blood levels that mark the risk of various diseases of the well-being (source).
Another study showed that chia seed can reduce your appetite, but the participants did not lose significant weight (source).
In yet another study, chia seed had no effect on the weight of the female participants. The study lasted 10 weeks and participants received 25 grams of chia seed daily and the control group received a placebo.
After this period of 10 weeks, an improvement was measured of omega-3 values of ALA and EPA in the blood. Participant lost no to hardly any weight. There was no improvement in the important DHA in the blood, so there was no improvement in the inflammatory values in the blood (source).
That you can lose weight with chia seed is therefore not proven. However, chia seed can be part of a healthy diet.
Myth # 3: Chia Seed Is Good For Your Cholesterol
Healthy cholesterol levels are important to keep the risk of cardiovascular disease low.
The assumption is that chia seed would help you improve your cholesterol. The assumption that chia seed is positive for your cholesterol stems from the fact that chia seed is rich in fiber, omega 3 fatty acids and proteins.
These assumptions have therefore been investigated in miscellaneous studies.
In a group of women who received chia seeds for 10 weeks, no improvement was found in the cholesterol values (source).
In another study, a diet was obtained that included soy protein, chia seed, oats and a number of (healthy) Mexican foods.
At the end of the study, there was a reduction in bad LDL cholesterol and an increase in good HDL cholesterol. Moreover, the inflammatory values in the blood were reduced (source).
Only 23 people participated in this study and in addition to chia seeds they also received all sorts of other adjustments to the diet, so you can not conclude that the improvements were due to the chia seed.
Side Effects of Chia Seed
There are no known side effects with regard to eating chia seed (source). This research is based on modest quantities.
Allergic Reactions by Chia Seed
Chia seed is not known as an allergen. Yet there are rare reports of people who have had an allergic reaction to chia seed. The reports are skin rash, hives, watery eyes, breathing problems and the swelling of the tongue.
On the other hand, a lot of research is currently being done on chia seeds because it could help with allergies. For example, the antioxidant Quercetin in chia seeds has an inhibiting effect on the production and release of histamine (source).
Because chia seed absorbs a lot of fluid, it is advisable to drink enough if you have eaten it. Especially if you have not let it soak in water beforehand, because then it takes your fluid from the stomach.
If you are not used to eating a lot of dietary fiber then you may suffer from diarrhea if you eat a lot at once.
You may also experience bloating and flatulence. It is therefore advisable to slowly build up the use of chia seed to see how your body reacts to it.
Chia Seed and Prostate Cancer
With regard to prostate cancer, there is some conflicting research. A study with ALA fatty acids and prostate cancer showed that this fatty acid increases the risk of prostate cancer (source). This while a meta-analysis showed that ALA fatty acids reduce the risk of prostate cancer (source).
Chia Seed In Combination With Medication
If you use blood thinners, blood pressure lowering or fluid-drifting medications, it is advisable to first consult your treating specialist before using chia seed. This is because chia seed can already lower blood pressure (slightly).
How To Use Chia Seed?
You have to let it soak for at least 20 minutes. You will then see that it is turned off by the absorbed moisture. The chia seed has then become a bit of a gel-like substance.
What you do not see is that a layer of enzymes that surround the chia seed is partially dissolved. This will make it easier to digest.
By first soaking the chia seed it is better digested and the nutrients are better absorbed in the intestines. This will make you less likely to suffer from your bowels if you let the chia seed soak first.
It is also said that you can increase the nutritional value of chia seed by grinding it first. The nutrients and especially the omega 3 fatty acids could then be better absorbed by the body. Sounds logical. However, there is little scientific evidence for (source).
How Much Chia Seed Per Day?
There is no recommended daily allowance for chia seeds. Many studies assume a dosage between 25 and 50 grams per day. This is because scientists assume that these effects should clearly show the effects on your health.
Build It Up The Use Of Chia Seeds
If you start using chia seeds then it is wise to start with small amounts. You could start with one teaspoon that you first soak in water before adding it to something. You can then see how your body, especially your digestive tract, responds to this before you build up the amount.
How Much Chia Seed Maximum?
There is no limit to the amount of chia seed you may use, but remember that you can get diarrhea or other symptoms with your digestive system if you eat too much fiber (chia seed is 34% fiber). In addition, it absorbs 10 to 12x its own weight in moisture and expands it. It is therefore recommended to drink plenty of water if you use a lot of chia seeds.
Chia Seed During Pregnancy
According to some scientists, chia seed is safe to use during pregnancy and is even encouraged. Advise others to use chia seeds in small amounts, or rather not at all, during pregnancy and lactation.
At present, insufficient scientific research has been done on chia seeds during pregnancy.
If you want to use chia seed as the main source of protein, then chia seed is a fairly expensive solution. It is more advantageous to use protein sources with an animal origin such as meat, eggs or dairy.
If you prefer to use a vegetable protein source, you could look at hemp seed. It also contains all essential amino acids, but in better proportions than chia seeds.
Another disadvantage of chia seed is that it is not really suitable as the omega 3 supplement, despite the high concentration of ALA (omega 3).
Where to buy Chia Seed
You can buy Chia Seeds in almost every nature store and also many online shops sell Chia Seeds.
Buy Organic Chia Seeds
If you want to buy organic chia seed, you can go to health food stores and various webshops.
Raw Chia Seed
Furthermore, when buying chia seed you could make sure that it is ‘Raw’ (raw). Then you know for certain that the chia seed has not been heated so that all nutrients have been preserved.
Most Sold Chia Seed Products
A much-sold chiaa seed product is that of the Sevenhills Wholefoods. This brand contains 100% raw chia seeds and is free of flavors, colors and preservatives.
It can be used as a healthy supplement in yogurt.
More About Superfoods
More about superfoods can be seen in the video below:
Chia Seed Recipes
By soaking it until it is a gel-like substance (chiagel) you can process it in practically everything you drink. Chlorelle is made by soaking it for at least 20 minutes in plenty of water (using 10 times as much water as chia seed).
Once the chiagel is ready, you can drink it like that. You can also do it by your favorite smoothie, by the yogurt or by your muesli … whatever you want. You can even use it as a thickener for your sauces and gravy.
Chia seed can also be used without soaking. If you do not eat large amounts and drink enough that will not cause problems with your digestion. For example, you can sprinkle it over your salad or stir-fry a scoop. You can also bake with it, so you can process it in your pancakes or bake bread with it.
We will give you some delicious recipes based on chia seed so you can get a bit of an idea of the possibilities.
Recipe 1: Gluten-Free Wraps
Let’s start with a nice feature of chia seed: it is gluten-free. This recipe to make wraps is not only free of gluten, it is also free of added sugars and also 100% vegan.
If you buy gluten-free wraps, they usually tear open as soon as you try to roll something into it. You do not have that problem with this recipe.
If you make a supply of these wraps at the beginning of the week, you can use them for the rest of the week to prepare your lunch. If you keep them in the fridge they will stay good all week.
- 100 grams of chia seed
- 70 grams of buckwheat groats
- 100 grams of broken linseed
- 50 grams of sorghum flour (Mashela)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 cups of hot water
Remove the oven plate from the oven and preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Put baking paper on the oven plate.
Put the chia seed in a blender and put the blender on the highest level until it is ground into a fine flour. Put the chia flour in a bowl with two cups of water so that it can well. This only needs a few minutes.
Then make flour from the buckwheat in the same way. Then add all the ingredients to the dish. And stir everything well so that you get a thick and sticky whole.
Take about a third of the batter to make 2 wraps. You do this by placing it on the baking paper and another piece of baking paper over it so that you can flatten it without sticking to your hands.
It is the intention that you make the wraps slightly thicker than the wraps you buy in the store, this prevents you from tearing if you stop eating.
Place two wraps on a baking tray and leave it in the oven for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes you turn the whole thing around and leave it in the oven for another 5 minutes.
If you remove the wraps from the oven, you can cool them for a minute before removing the baking paper, then do not stick it.
Recipe 2: Chia Seed Raspberry Jam
Chia seed can absorb ten times its own weight in moisture in moisture. This makes chia seed a good substitute for the pectin in jam. You then need much less sugar to sweeten the jam because pectin is rather bitter in taste.
In this recipe, we only use 2 tablespoons of honey to make the jam sweet.
- 150 grams of fresh raspberries
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 1 tablespoon chia seed
Let the chia seed soak in the water for 10 minutes. Put all the ingredients in the blender and mix on the pulse mode until everything is well mixed. And finished.
You can put the jam in a glass jar so that you can keep it in the fridge. And of course, you can also use other fruits to make your own jam.
Recipe 3: Chocolate Banana Pudding
Chia seed is very suitable for making pudding. This uses the gel-like structure that gets it when you’ve let it sink.
The pudding in this recipe is sweetened with dates so that it is free of added sugars. If you like it a bit sweeter, you can add a few drops of pure Stevia or a tablespoon of honey.
- 30 grams of chia seed
- 250 ml unsweetened almond milk
- 4 dates
- 1 banana
- 1 hand of granola
- 1 hand peanuts (also nice with hazelnuts)
- 1 tablespoon of raw cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- A small pinch of salt
- Caramel sauce or sauce to taste as a topping (optional)
Put the chia seed with the dates in the almond milk and let it last for at least an hour. Put this whole with cocoa powder, vanilla extract and salt in the blender and mix until you have a mousse-like whole.
Put banana wedges alternated with layers of peanut and granola in a glass and pour the pudding over it. You can possibly add a topping such as a caramel sauce (note: this is pure sugar).
Recipe 4: Chia Seed Coconut Raspberry Ice Creams
Now that we are busy with desserts, did you know that with chia seed you can make delicious and responsible ice creams? You can eat these ice creams without feeling guilty!
- 125 ml of coconut milk
- 125 ml unsweetened almond milk
- 100 grams of raspberries
- 2 tablespoons of chia seed
- 1 tablespoon coconut rapes
- 8 drops of pure Stevia
Put all ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Close the dish and put it in the refrigerator for 4 hours. After 4 hours the chia seed must have absorbed a lot of moisture and become gel-like. Pour the whole into ice-cream molds and put them in the freezer for a few hours or a night.
Recipe 5: Chia Seed Raspberry Lemonade
As mentioned earlier, you can let chia seeds in water and you can just drink it. Given the neutral taste of chia seed not really tasty. By making lemonade you create a delicious and healthy drink on the table with chia seeds.
The lemonade in this recipe is free from added sugars and the use of coconut water makes it ideal for hydration after exercise. This is thanks to the isotons in coconut water, which draw the moisture into the body’s cells.
- 500 ml of coconut water
- Half a lemon
- 150 grams of raspberries
- 4 tablespoons of chia seed
- 8 drops of pure Stevia
Squeeze the juice from half a lemon above your blender. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender until the raspberries have become nicely smooth. Let it stand for at least half an hour until the chia seed has become gel-like. Stir the whole before you pour it.
I wish you good luck with the recipes and enjoy!
Did you know that research shows that 1 in 3 just gains from a diet instead of losing weight? (source)
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