Chia Seeds

“Ch-ch-ch-chia” may be a familiar jingle if you grew up during the 1980s. Little did we know that those popular ceramic pets sprouting grass “hair” were a foretelling of the even greater success their seeds would have in edible form 25 years later. Chia seeds are often referred to as a “superfood” or functional food—unregulated terms more useful in the marketing sphere than by nutrition experts who understand that there is no magic bullet or replacement for a healthful dietary pattern that relies on a variety of nutritious foods.

Functional foods are touted to offer benefits beyond their nutritional value, such as lowering cholesterol or improving gut health. Not only listed as such, chia seeds are also used as a functional ingredient, added to less nutritious items like baked pastries and snacks, to improve their appeal to health-conscious consumers. Health claims about chia seeds include reducing appetite and weight, lowering triglycerides, and improving blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes.

Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica L., and were at one time a major food crop in Mexico and Guatemala. Cultivated as a food source as early as 3500 BC, it was offered to Aztec gods in religious ceremonies. According to industry reports, the chia seed market is projected to reach more than 2 billion USD in sales by 2022.

Source of:

Two tablespoons of chia seeds (1 ounce or 28 grams) contain about 140 calories, 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, 7 grams of unsaturated fat, 18% RDA for calcium, and trace minerals including zinc and copper. They are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body.

Chia Seeds and Health

Chia seeds contain several components that, when eaten as part of a balanced plant-rich diet, may prevent the development of various chronic diseases. Of particular interest by researchers is chia seeds’ high content of alpha-linolenic (ALA) fatty acids. Sixty percent of the oil in chia seeds is from these omega-3 fatty acids. However, available research has been more favorable towards a diet containing omega-3-rich foods rather than on chia seeds alone.

In animal and human studies, omega-3 fatty acids have shown a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health (lowering cholesterol, regulating heart rhythms and blood pressure, preventing blood clots, decreasing inflammation). The fiber in chia seeds is mainly soluble fiber and mucilage, the substance responsible for the gluey texture of moistened chia seeds. These fibers may help to lower LDL cholesterol and slow down digestion, which can prevent blood sugar spikes after eating a meal and promote a feeling of fullness.

A large Chinese cohort of more than 63,000 individuals found that those with the highest intakes of omega-3 fatty acids from seafood and plant sources had a 17% reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality compared with those who had the lowest intakes. Few cohort studies include ALA plant sources of omega-3, but these oils are fairly common in the Asian diet. The Nurses’ Health Study found a 40% reduced risk of sudden cardiac death in women who ate the highest amounts of ALA. The Cardiovascular Health Study cohort with more than 5000 men and women, ages 65 years and older, found a 50% lower risk of fatal ischemic heart disease with higher intakes of ALA. Food sources of ALA in these studies included whole grains, cooking oils, legumes, and soy.

Animal studies have shown that chia seeds can beneficially affect cholesterol levels, weight loss, and increased satiety. However, literature reviews and controlled trials in humans have not shown a specific benefit of chia seeds on cardiovascular risk factors including body weight, blood pressure, lipid levels, blood sugar, and inflammation. These findings affirm that chia seeds do not act alone to benefit human health but may contribute to disease prevention when incorporated as part of a varied plant-rich diet and other healthy lifestyle behaviours.


  • People often wonder if chia seeds should be eaten ground instead of whole. The surface of chia seeds is delicate and easily breaks apart when exposed to moisture, so they are typically prepared with liquid foods (as seen with the recipe ideas below). In this way, they are absorbed and digested well in their whole form, unlike flax seeds. If eating the seeds dry, choosing ground chia seeds may help to improve absorption.
  • Chia seeds last for 4-5 years without refrigeration. Store in a cool, dry spot.


  • Chia Gel: Chia seeds absorb water quickly (up to 10 times their weight in liquid!). Place ¼ cup seeds in 1 cup liquid, stir well, and cover. Allow to sit for about 15-20 minutes until the texture changes to a soft gelatin. Store in refrigerator for up to one week. Add to smoothies and soups to boost nutrient value and create a thicker, more satisfying consistency.
  • Chia Pudding: To make a dessert variation, mix ¼ cup of seeds with one cup of liquid such as milk (almond, soy, or dairy all work) or 100% fruit juice. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes refrigerated. Add nuts, chopped fresh fruit, or cinnamon if desired.
  • Chia Sprouts: Place chia seeds in a single layer (use only about a teaspoon to allow enough space to grow) in a terracotta saucer or unglazed clay dish. Spray the seeds with water several times and cover with plastic wrap or a clear glass dish. Put in a sunny spot. Spray morning and evening until green sprouts appear, about 3-7 days. Use these microgreens to garnish salads and sandwiches.
  • Egg Replacer: This may be used to replace whole eggs in baking. For 1 whole egg, mix 1 tablespoon of whole chia seeds or 2 teaspoons ground chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens to the consistency of a raw scrambled egg.


Chia seeds are a highly versatile ingredient. They have little if any distinctive flavor, so they don’t compete with other flavors in a dish. They also soften in the presence of liquid and become a less detectable texture. Commercially, they are added to cereals, crackers, beverages, breads, and other baked goods to boost their nutritional value. Basically, chia seeds can be added as long as there is moisture to hold the seed in place.

  • Sprinkle a few teaspoons into breakfast cereal (hot or cold) salads, soups, or stews.
  • Stir into salad dressings, sauces, marinades, or cake/muffin/bread batter.
  • Use chia gel as a thickener added to smoothies, puddings, and soups (stir the gel into these foods after they are prepped or cooked).

11 Crazy Awesome Benefits of Chia Seeds

While I’ve always loved the crunchiness of chia seeds in salads, when I tried making chocolate chia pudding, I realized I liked the texture of them when they were softened, too.

And mixing them in with other good-for-you foods like dates, almond milk, and fruit (yes, fruit – try my yummy chia jam!) makes this tiny seed even a healthier addition to your food.
Oh, and did I mention I love blueberry vanilla chia pudding, too?
Man, chia seeds are so awesome.

Chia seeds are super versatile, easy to add to your favorite dishes, and heck, they can even replace an egg in a lot of recipes.

I’m not kidding. Here’s how you do it:

  • Take a tablespoon of chia seeds and place in a bowl
  • Add 3 tablespoons of water to the seeds
  • Wait 5 minutes, and you’ve got an awesome egg replacement!

But, let’s get back to the nutrition and the benefits of chia seeds.
It’s kinda hard to imagine that a small seed can pack such a healthy punch. Let’s dive right in and figure it out!


The chia seed comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica. The plant is native to Mexico, and it dates way back. Aztec and Mayan cultures knew of the chia seed’s remarkable properties and used it as an energy booster.
Fast forward to when we were kids, and the Chia Pet was all the rage. Don’t pretend you either had one or wanted one!
Yep, we all had one of these amazing creatures who sprouted “hair” within days. Who knew the mighty chia pet would play a role in nutrition a few years later?
So yes, nowadays, the chia seed is a healthy addition to the diet and is touted as a mild and nutty flavored food to mix into baked goods or pour into a delicious smoothie.


Chia seeds have a lot to offer. And that’s why they have the reputation they do. Look at this quick analysis of 2 tablespoons of seeds:

  • 140 calories
  • 11 grams of fiber
  • 4 grams of protein
  • 7 grams of unsaturated fat
  • Traces of copper and zinc
  • A source of omega-3’s
  • A source of vitamins C and E

Like, crazy good for ya, right?!?!?


Chia seeds are high in a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, known to have an effect on inflammation. It’s called alpha-linolenic acid and is important to a healthy heart. A study on chia seeds confirmed that consuming 37 grams of chia seeds a day led to a reduction in inflammatory markers in the blood.

Thirty-seven grams is a lot in one day (a little over half a cup), but the findings are still significant. I should point out that when taking chia seeds, it is best to use them in softened form, such as in a smoothie or pudding. Dried chia seeds sprinkled on a dessert or salad is fine, too!


Depending on your gender and age, you should eat between 19 and 38 grams of fiber per day. Around 25 grams is ideal for women. Two tablespoons of chia seeds have 11 grams of fiber. Recommendations for consuming chia seeds runs about 1.5 teaspoons a day (add the seeds to oatmeal and a smoothie, and you’re all set). Then, get the rest from other great sources of fiber, like beets, tomatoes, and broccoli.


There are several excellent ways to eat chia seeds. As previously mentioned, don’t eat them dry other than sprinkled on a salad. Here are some tasty ideas:


One of the best benefits of chia seeds is that they are so simple to incorporate into your diet. You don’t need to grind them (like flax seeds for example) to make them digestible. They mix well with liquids, and they are a simple but quick addition of nutrients to a variety of foods.

One thing to note, because they are so high in fiber, it’s best to add them to your daily regimen slowly. If you typically eat a lot of fiber, you’ll be okay.


We all know that inflammation is bad for the body overall. Chronic inflammation, often brought on by unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise, can wreak havoc on the body. Chia seeds are anti-inflammatory, and that means adding them to your diet helps fight cancer and other illnesses like heart disease.


Another benefit of chia seeds is that they can stabilize blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity. This reduces the chance of spikes and crashes sometimes experienced after meals. This is of great help to diabetics, in particular. Pair adding chia seeds to smoothies, dressings, and food like oatmeal with eating non-processed foods. Doing so will be very good for you in the long run.


It’s kinda cool that this little powerhouse seed has so many nutrients like phosphorous, protein, and calcium. It’s the calcium in chia seeds that will benefit your bones. A controlled study indicated that bone health and density were improved when the diet was supplemented with chia seeds.


Heart disease is influenced by a lot of factors, including inflammation, extra body fat, and high blood pressure. Studies show that chia seeds can influence blood pressure levels, thus leading to better health. Exercise, eating healthy fruits and veggies, consuming only lean meats, and yes, eating chia seeds contribute to a better you.


Yes, chia seeds do contain omega-3’s, and this is a good thing. Milled chia seeds, in particular, can increase the blood levels of alpha-linolenic fatty acids (ALA). However, it is most beneficial to get these fatty acids, and others, from fatty fish like salmon. I say this because although chia seeds supply EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is not easily converted, and that is the most essentials of the omega-3’s. Still, chia seeds will give you a boost as they are considered the best plant-based source of ALA.


Because chia seeds are high in protein and fiber, they are thought to be helpful with weight loss. Protein is known to reduce appetite and leave you feeling satisfied, which means less snacking on potentially unhealthy foods. If you are a snacker, read my post on healthy, high-protein snacks. The fiber in chia seeds can also help you to feel full.


Protein is made up of amino acids and is essential to the body. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 4 grams of protein. A 140-pound person needs about 50 grams of protein a day, and a 200-pound person, 70 grams. Use chia seeds as a way to top up your protein intake, along with lean meats, poultry, and full-fat dairy.


Chia seeds are impressively high in fiber. Fiber is excellent for gut health. Remember, two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 11 grams of fiber – almost half the daily requirement for women and about a third for men. Adding chia seeds to food is an easy way to add this important component to your food.


Antioxidants are key cancer-fighting components in food. They fight free radicals, which cause damage to cells, proteins, and DNA. With chia seeds being high in antioxidants, it just makes sense to add them to foods as much as you can. As a side note, foods high in free radicals are those deficient in antioxidants – processed meats and foods highly processed or full of sugar are examples. So, stay away from those and satisfy your cravings with clean-eating foods instead.


On top of all of the benefits of chia seeds we’ve mentioned, these little seeds pack a punch when it comes to nutrients. And the great thing is, you get a lot of goodness in a small amount. One ounce of chia seeds has 11 grams of fiber, for instance. If you make a serving of cinnamon raisin overnight oats, you’ll get 5.5 grams of fiber in that one serving.
Not to mention other good-for-you nutrients like manganese, calcium, and protein. They are gluten-free and easily digestible. It’s all win-win with chia seeds.

Can Chia Really Help You Lose Weight?

In theory, chia seeds are supposed to expand in your belly, helping you to feel full, eat less, and ultimately shed pounds. But one study indicates otherwise.

“Over a 12-week period, we did not see a change in appetite or weight loss” in study participants who consumed chia seeds, says researcher David Nieman, DrPH, a professor at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. “Our study showed no reduction in body weight, body fat and no improvement in traditional cardiovascular markers from 50 grams of chia per day.”

A study reviewing the body of scientific evidence on chia found similar results.

“The evidence is limited on chia, and only two clinical trials examined heart health and body weight,” says explains researcher Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD. “One showed some beneficial heart effect, but neither showed any effect on weight loss.”

More study is needed before chia can be recommended either for weight loss and heart health, says Ulbricht, chief editor of Natural Standard Research Collaboration.

What Are the Best Ways to Eat Chia Seeds in Your Diet?

There are lots of ways to eat chia seeds! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that they can be added raw to dishes like cereal, yogurt, and even vegetables. Because the seeds develop a gelatin-like texture when they absorb water, they are often used to create healthy puddings.
Chia seeds don’t have much flavour on their own, so they pair well with a number of dishes, and can be added to things like:

  • Bread batter
  • Salads
  • Soups
  • Oatmeal
  • Sauces
  • Muffins and cakes
  • Smoothies
  • Egg replacement