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Small but mighty, chia seeds are one of the healthiest foods around. They’re packed with fibre, protein essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and there’s plenty of different ways to use them.
Here are 10 chia seed benefits + reasons why your next dessert should be a chia seed pudding.
Chia seeds are shiny, smooth, grey/black seeds that measure only a few millimeters.
It is estimated that chia seeds have been used by humans for food, folk medicines and canvases for around 5500 years, starting with the Aztec and Mayan people.1
They come from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is part of the mint family and can be found in Central and South America.
In the Mayan language, ‘chia’ means ‘strength’, so it comes as no surprise that they were a fan of these little seeds. It’s believed that they made up one of the basic four food groups of Central American civilisations.
Fast-forward to now, and they’ve obtained ‘superfood’ status and a lot of love in nutrition worldwide – for good reason!
Two heaped tablespoons (about 28g) contains approximately2:
And it doesn’t stop there! Chia seeds also contain the following micronutrients with approximate RDI (recommended daily intakes):
|% of RDI
|Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
|Omega 3 Fatty Acids
|Omega 6 Fatty Acids
You may have scrolled past those sprinkled on fancy-looking breakfast bowls or dotted through smoothies, but what is the best way to eat chia seeds?
It’s generally recommended that you don’t exceed 15g of chia seeds a day (approx. 1tbsp).
Trust your body with this one. If you’ve not eaten them before, then start off slow and increase the amount to see if you experience any negative side effects.
Although there is no doubt that chia seeds are a great addition to most people’s diets, if you eat too many, you may experience some chia seed side effects, including:
If you eat too many chia seeds they may cause you some digestive discomfort. This is because they are high in fibre, and too much fibre can cause issues for some people, e.g. bloating, abdominal pain, gas, constipation and diarrohea.
Although they are safe for most people, chia seeds may cause an increased risk of choking. This is because they absorb so much water, so if you have trouble swallowing you need to be careful.
As with any food/drink, some people may be allergic to chia seeds. It is quite uncommon, though.
Chia seeds can affect some blood sugar or blood pressure medication. Please check with your GP if you take any of these medications to see if you can eat chia seeds.
Are chia seeds good for you? Find out here!
Our body uses healthy fats, like essential fatty acids, for multiple body processes and for energy. Their health benefits include1:
One study on deeding 50g of chia seeds a day to 12 healthy individuals for 30 days found that their blood pressure significantly declined with no negative side effects.2
One portion of chia seeds (approx. 28g or 2 tbsp) provides around a third of your recommended daily fibre intake – not bad eh!
Getting enough dietary fibre every day can help you3:
Chia seeds are one of few plants that contain all 9 of the essential amino acids - the ones your body can’t make, and you must get through your diet.4 And as chia seeds are made up of around 19% protein – they certainly pack a protein punch!5
In just a couple of tablespoons, chia seeds provide you with roughly 4.5g of protein, providing you with an easy way to boost the nutrition of your meals.
Making sure you get enough protein every day allows your body to grow, repair and maintain itself. This goes for your muscles too. When we’re slogging it at the gym, our muscles tear and need protein to repair themselves and grow stronger.
As we’ve already discussed, chia seeds are a fantastic source of plant-based protein.6
Protein can also help you to lose or maintain your weight in multiple ways:
One 4-week weight loss study on high protein diets and overweight people found that high-protein diets resulted in more weight loss than a low-protein diet.7
As they are vegan and naturally gluten free, most people can enjoy them and use them in their diets to up their protein intake.
As you can see from the nutritional table above, chia seeds manage to pack a whole lot of minerals into such a tiny space!
The most abundant minerals in chia seeds include:
Chia seeds are full of antioxidants, like polyphenols. In fact, it is estimated that dry chia seeds are 8.8% antioxidant (phenolic)!8
Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help to reduce the oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
Chia seeds have a lot to offer to your diet – as breakfast bowl or smoothie aficionados can tell you. They have an unusual texture when wet, as they swell and soften.
Because of their ability to absorb both water and fat, they can be used as a handy ‘free from’ ingredient – replacing flour to thicken sauces or even egg in certain dishes.
Pure chia seeds contain no gluten (always check the label for added ingredients or cross-contamination), so can also be used in place of breadcrumbs to cover chicken or fish.
Cleaned and dried chia seeds (how they usually come) have a pretty long shelf life.9 This is due to their rich antioxidant content, which protects their fats from oxidative damage.10
Chia seeds contain multiple nutrients that are essential for healthy bones, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and protein.
With a whopping 177mg (18% RDI) of calcium in each 28g serving, gram for gram, chia seeds have more calcium than most dairy products. Head’s up all you vegans and dairy-intolerant people out there!
However, chia seeds do contain phytic acid, which does reduce calcium absorption slightly, so don’t rely on them.
One of the best things about chia seeds is how easy they are to incorporate into your diet.
The little seeds don’t really have a taste, so you can add them to juices, porridge, smoothies, yoghurt, cereal and vegetables without affecting their flavour.
They’re also highly absorbent, making them an amazing egg substitute and sauce thickener.11 You can even just mix them with milk and a sweetener to make chia seed puddings – one of the healthiest desserts out there.
Chia seeds are generally well-tolerated and can easily enhance the nutritional value of so many dishes. So, it make sure you have a pot in your kitchen cupboard!
Chia seeds make an eggcellent egg replacement for cakes, puddings, cookies, pancakes and other bakes.
Because chia seeds are pretty much flavorless, chia eggs can be better than other vegan egg alternatives like banana and oil in some dishes.
How to make a ‘chia seed egg’:
Get inspired with these 4 chia seed recipes.
Nutrients per serving:
Nutrients per serving:
Nutrients per serving:
1. Heat the oven to 220°C. Mix the seeds and soy sauce together and scatter onto a baking tray. Toast for a few minutes, checking frequently to ensure they don’t burn (shake the tray whenever you open the oven door to help them toast evenly).
2. Allow to cool before eating or store in an airtight container.
Nutrients per serving (1 tbsp):
Last updated: 12 April 2021
Joined Holland & Barrett: January 2018
Bsc in Nutrition, Registered Associate Nutritionist and Certification in Pre and Post Natal Nutrition
Donia started her career as a freelance nutritionist, later she joined Nestle as their Market Nutritionist to help support their healthier product range, before joining the team at Holland & Barrett in January 2018.
Donia has over 6 years experience as a Nutritionist and also works with clients on a one to one basis to support their goals which include weight loss, prenatal and postnatal nutrition and children’s health.