Are Chia seeds good for you?
Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico going back to the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures. “Chia” means strength.The Chia seeds served as a staple food of the Aztec people about 3000 BC.
Folklore has it that, these tiny black and white seeds are used as an energy booster. Ground and whole seeds are still used in Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina and Guatemala for nutritious foods and drinks.
Fast forward 1991: The seeds that are making us so ‘Chia-full’
One man Wayne Coates an ultramarathon-running professor of agricultural engineering at the University of Arizona was looking for a profitable crop that could be grown in northwest Argentina, as part of a project he was working on with Argentinian farmers. Someone suggested chia. He found that it was easy to grow, so he started to investigate its potential uses.
What he found astonished him.
He says “Chia is the highest plant source of Omega-3s. It has tons of fiber and even a lot of antioxidants and minerals. It’s 20% protein — which is, compared to wheat, or even soy, incredibly high,”
Further analysis convinced him that chia had vast potential. Initially, he thought it might work well in livestock feed, to increase the amount of Omega-3s that made it into eggs and milk. That worked, but the relatively high price of chia kept farmers away. So Coates started to think about selling chia directly to consumers instead.
He began visiting trade fairs, hoping to find a company that would include chia seeds in its products, but he said no one wanted to be the first to bet on an unproven ingredient. In 2005, Coates and Ayerza published a book on the topic entitled “Chia: Rediscovering A Forgotten Crop Of The Aztecs,” but it attracted little attention outside of his native Arizona.
But in the late 2000s, two new high-profile supporters of Chia finally emerged.
Dr. Mehmet Oz started promoting chia as a “superfood” on “Oprah.” He showed fans how to incorporate chia into their diets by adding it to smoothies and to muffins. His endorsement encouraged health-food enthusiasts to embrace the new trend.
When chia was featured in Christopher McDougall’s “Born To Run,” a best-selling inspirational tract for runners. McDougall profiled a legendary long-distance runner named Micah True, who learned about chia from the Tarahumara tribe of native Mexicans. The book increased awareness of chia in the athletic community.
Chia sales skyrocketed, and Coates quickly found that its popularity had ballooned far beyond what he had imagined. His second book was published in 2012 “Chia”: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood,”
New companies, including Nutiva, began producing it, as many others in the food industry began to realize that the seeds’ blandness gave them a wide range of potential applications.
Janie Hoffman is a self-declared health food enthusiast from Southern California and the founder of beverage company Mamma Chia. She started adding chia to juice after realizing that it worked to reduce symptoms of an autoimmune disorder she’d faced for decades. Hoffman said her friends were so enthusiastic that she decided to sell the juices commercially in 2010. Mamma Chia is now available in 2000 stores, including most Whole Foods locations.
As the chia market became more competitive, people began to make bold claims about the seeds’ benefits. Many including Coates stated that chia seeds help people to lose weight, that chia seeds increase energy and that they lower peoples’ cholesterol.
Chia seed as a weight loss food- the scientific evidence
Chia as a weight-loss food is its ability for absorbing water up to 10 times its weight. Barbara Rolls, a highly-respected nutrition researcher, and Director of Pennsylvania State University’s food laboratory has investigated the power of water-rich foods to keep us full and satisfied for longer, with fewer calories and recommends this strategy for people trying to lose weight as they get older. This strategy is evident in her book published in 2013 “The Ultimate Volumetric Diet” Smart, simple and scientific based strategies for losing weight and keeping it off”. Though Rolls has not studied chia seeds, in particular, she expects the same principles would apply to chia, if added to other dishes to boost their water content.
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.
The Scientific literature on chia seeds’ ability to help you lose those pounds and keeping it off has been limited. A lot of studies need to be done to establish this fact.
This is what one result states.
“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.”
While there’s little evidence for the weight loss benefits of chia, it can be a nutritious addition to your diet. Nieman notes that people in his study tolerated it without any complaints for 12 weeks.
Nieman believes the seeds show promise as an energy food for sports performance, and his research into this aspect continues. At the very least, chia seeds are a healthy and natural source of some very beneficial nutrients and deserve a place in your daily diet. One nutritionist warns that no single food can provide you with all the nutrients you need for a healthy well being. In short variety in your diet is best.
Another result of Chia seeds concluded that:
“The evidence is limited on chia, and only two clinical trials examined heart health and body weight,” 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.
For this reason, those who market chia seeds have shifted their focus away from specific health claims and toward simple statements about the uncontroversial nutrition of the chia seed.
To date, no evidence indicates consuming chia seed has adverse effects on or interacts with prescription drugs.
April Helliwell, the chief operating officer for the Australia’s company The Chia Company, which now grows nearly half the world’s chia, explained, “The last thing we do is to market chia as a fad.”
Uses of chia seed:
Chia is believed to be the richest combined source of omega 3 fatty acids and protein of any plant.
- The mild and almost bland flavour of chia seeds makes them easy to add to foods and beverages.
- Chia seeds are often sprinkled on cereal,
- Used as thickening agents in sauces,
- For garnishing meals
- Can be added to rice dishes or any other dish you wish,
- Use in Yogurt or
- mixed in fruit juices
- Can be used in baking
- Add to dips such as guacamole
- Use as tea
- make a homemade gel by mixing chia seeds with water
- Can be used to” bread” fish or meat when it is grounded or in a powder form.
The use of chia seeds are actually endless. Just take a look online. Buy chia seeds from HERE
The bottom line is little scientific evidence for using chia as a weight loss tool but there is no doubt about the numerous nutritional benefits it provides.
Chia Recipes to follow soon x
What is your experience with Chia seed? Please comment below! Would love to hear from you