A quick Google search for "chia" might have you convinced that chia seeds -- famous for forming an impressive green coat of fur on Chia Pets -- have some seriously awesome health benefits. The seeds are credited with everything from improving cardiovascular health and stabilizing blood sugar to aiding with weight loss. But is it worth it? Here is more on some of the touted benefits:
Claim #1: It can help with weight loss
Chia is loaded with fiber (1 ounce has 11 grams!) and contains more veggie protein than an equivalent serving size of soybeans. Fiber- and protein-rich foods take longer to digest, giving your brain time to register that you've eaten - potentially helping you to avoid overeating. Still, studies on the weight loss benefits of chia are slim (pun intended) and don't show any payoff.
Claim #2: It may help reduce heart disease risks
One study found that eating more than an ounce of the seed daily could reduce risk factors for heart disease in people with type-2 diabetes who are already at high risk. Chia has plenty of magnesium, potassium (more than a banana!), and omega-3 fatty acids, which all support a healthy heart.
Claim #3: Its omega-3s improve overall health
True, these ancient wonders contain omega-3s, but not the kind you'll find in fish so the benefits aren't the same. While one study found that daily chia consumption increased levels of certain omega-3s in the body, the authors concluded that there was, "no influence on inflammation or disease risk factors."
If you are ready to add chia seeds to your diet, however, they are sold like flax seeds -- for adding to yogurts, cereals, and baked good. You'll also find them in a growing number of products like energy bars. Some of our favorites include KIND Healthy Grains Maple Walnut Clusters with Chia & Quinoa, Mary's Gone Crackers Sticks & Twigs Pretzels, Enjoy Life Crunchy Flax Cereal with Chia, and Tumaro's Low-in-Carb 9 Grain with Chia Wraps.
The Bottom Line: While the seeds can certainly be a nutritious addition to your diet, at 139 calories per serving, don't count on them to help you shed pounds. As for the other claims, the fiber and other nutrients in chia seeds will likely promote good health but again, at this point the science is weak.
Ann Lokuta is a Masters of Public Health degree candidate from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and research assistant at the University of Michigan Cancer Center.
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