Do chia seeds really help with weight loss? Health benefits, nutrition facts and ways to include them in diet  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
- Chia seeds are very rich in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, protein and several nutrients and antioxidants
- These tiny nutrition-packed ‘superseeds’ be eaten cooked or raw, but you should add them to another food or soak before eating
- Find out the nutritional value of chia seeds and whether eating these nutritious seeds can help you shrink your waistline
New Delhi: Chia seeds have been gaining popularity in recent years. In fact, most dietitians would recommend adding these tiny seeds to your diet if you’re trying to shrink your waistline. It is claimed that chia seeds, which are often referred to as a ‘superfood’, have many health benefits, including weight loss. But, is eating chia seeds really ‘one trick’ to losing belly fat?
Basically, chia seeds are tiny power-packed seeds that are loaded with proteins, fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, and several healthful nutrients and antioxidants. Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica L, and are a native of Mexico – it does not have an Indian name.
Nutrition facts of chia seeds
Studies have shown that consuming 2 tablespoons of chia seeds each day can do wonders for your health. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, 2 tablespoons of chia seeds (28g) contain:
To understand more about chia seeds, its health benefits, and whether these tiny superseeds can actually aid weight loss, we spoke with Ms Priya Prakash, a certified nutrition coach and biotechnologist, Co-founder of Naturally Yours, who also suggests ways to incorporate them into your diet.
Can chia seeds help you lose weight?
The idea is that since chia seeds are high in fibre, which is filling and can temporarily suppress appetite, they may help you eat fewer calories, thereby promoting weight loss. Research has linked eating a high-fibre diet to weight loss and reduced belly fat. The fibre in chia seeds is mainly soluble fibre, which absorbs large amounts of water and takes up a gel-like consistency. This helps in slowing down the digestion and absorption of food. This, in turn, leads to feeling full for a longer period of time and thus avoiding unnecessary snacking in between meals. Reducing a person’s desire to snack throughout the day and, therefore, helping them reduce their daily calorie intake is helpful for people who are looking to lose weight sustainably. Chia seeds are an excellent source of protein, another key nutrient for weight loss.
Yet, there’s little evidence for the weight loss benefits of chia seeds, however, they can be a nutritious addition to your diet. For instance, a review, published in the Journal of Obesity, concluded that ‘there is limited data to suggest the use of chia seeds for weight loss’, although many obese people take supplements to shed those extra pounds. You should understand that chia seeds are also relatively high in fat and calories, hence, moderation is the key here – as with any other food.
Some health benefits of chia seeds
Here are some health benefits of chia seeds:
- Helps with digestion: The fibre content in chia seeds aids in regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. It also supports the growth of good bacteria in our gut which plays a significant role in our overall health. In addition, much of the fibre in chia seeds is soluble fibre. Soluble fibre is thought to be the more tolerable form of fibre for people who have IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
- Keeps you energised: Chia seeds can give the sustained energy boost that you need throughout the day. They have a good ratio of protein, fats and fibre and they’re low-carb. The fibre content slows down the digestion and absorption process. This prevents any sudden spike and fall in blood sugar levels, helping in sustained release of energy over a longer period of time. It also keeps you hydrated due to its amazing water absorption characteristics and helps to improve body fluid level regulation and electrolyte retention. Since dehydration is one of the primary causes of tiredness and fatigue, keeping yourself well hydrated by itself can help you feel energized.
- Promotes endurance: It also supports endurance for those running marathons or undergoing intensive workouts. The proteins in chia seeds not only aid in building lean muscle but also help with cell and tissue regeneration thus easing recovery. Being an amazing source of Omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds have also been known to reduce inflammation, which can help reduce aches and pains. So you can continue with your workouts or run for a longer period of time without having to stop in between due to muscle pain.
- Helps in stabilising blood sugar levels: Chia seeds support stable blood sugar levels due to the high fibre content which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugar. Studies have shown that chia seeds can help improve glucose and insulin tolerance and reduce inflammation, making them a great choice for diabetics.
- Heart-healthy: 60 per cent of the oil in chia seeds is from omega-3 fatty acids, which have shown to have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health. They are believed to help in lowering cholesterol levels, regulating heart rhythms and blood pressure, preventing blood clots and decreasing inflammation. This helps in reducing the risk of cardiac diseases.
How to use chia seeds in your diet
Chia seed does not have a strong taste of its own so it can be easily included in any recipe without altering the taste of the final dish. It can be consumed raw, roasted, or in the powder form. But remember to always combine them with dishes that have some moisture content in them. Do not eat dry chia seeds by themselves.
- Sprinkle them on salads or breakfast cereals, add it to your favourite smoothie, lemonade, yogurt, or fold them in while making bread, cookies, cakes, chapati, etc. There are myriads of ways in which you can include this versatile seed in your food.
- You could also add a tablespoon of chia seeds in a bottle of water and carry it to work. Keep refilling the bottle and take regular sips of water to help you stay energized and avoid cravings.
- Chia seeds are also a great replacement for eggs. Add 3 tablespoons of water to 1 tablespoon of chia seeds. Wait for about 5 minutes, until it becomes a gel. Use this gel in place of a regular egg and give an amazing nutrition boost to your food.
While more extensive studies are required to test the effects of chia seeds on weight loss and overall health, you can make these nutritious pseudo grains a part of your healthy weight loss plan. So, you may include them in your daily diet to reap the benefits of this superfood. The antioxidant and omega-3 rich seeds can keep you energised and supports cardiac health, healthy digestion and sustainable weight management. But, if you want to lose weight, make sure that you follow a healthy, balanced diet and get more physical activity. Remember, there’s no magic bullet or seed for weight loss.
A word of caution: Chia seeds do not typically cause side effects, however, they may interact with blood thinners such as warfarin. Therefore, people should avoid consuming chia seeds if they are using any of these drugs.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.