If you were watching Dr. Oz way back when he was on Oprah, or if you have been a runner for a while, you probably first heard about chia seeds as a health food (as opposed to a tacky gift,) about a decade ago.
While it was slow to take off, this little seed’s popularity eventually surpassed acai and pomegranates, then rocketed past flax and hemp seed as the hot, new “superfood.”
According to blog posts everywhere, this seed can help you lose weight, increase your energy and lower your cholesterol. But at around $15-20/lb, I had to ask – does chia seed really live up to all the hype?
Do Chia Seeds Help You Lose Weight?
Chia seeds absorb water and expand, hence the notion that they could help you lose weight by helping you feel full. As it turns out, many websites touting the weight loss benefits of chia are referencing an animal study, not a human study. In this rat study, “chia seed-supplemented rats had improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.”
Hooray for the rats! But what about humans?
There have only been a couple of chia seed studies on humans. Unfortunately, neither has shown a direct weight loss benefit. In the study conducted at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, overweight and obese men and women ingested 50 grams of chia seeds a day for 12 weeks. They hypothesized that the high dietary fiber and alpha-linolenic (ALA) found in chia seed would produce a small but significant decrease in body weight and fat and improve disease risk factors. Their conclusion? Chia seeds had “no influence on body mass or composition, or various disease risk factor measures.”
Bummer. So is there any reason to spend your bucks on organic chia seeds?
Yes! The key is to use chia seeds as a whole food substitute for less healthy processed grain options, rather than as a supplement. Even though there may be no studies yet that prove the efficacy of chia seeds for weight loss, including seeds in your diet is just plain smart.
It’s a seed. Seeds are concentrated power-foods. In exchange for the 138 calories in one ounce of chia seeds, you get 7 grams of polyunsaturated heart healthy fats, 12 grams of carbohydrates for energy, 4.7 grams of plant protein, and a whopping 10 grams of fiber.
Ancient cultures prized it. There is usually much wisdom in “traditional” foods. Mayan and Aztec cultures used chia as an energy booster. Maybe they were on to something?
Mega antioxidants. Chia seeds have more free-radical-neutralizing-antioxidant power than any whole food. Even more than blueberries.
Easy to eat and digest. This seed is very easy to digest, and does not have to be ground like flax seed. They really don’t taste like much of anything, and can be easily added to foods and beverages. Sprinkle them on your cereal or yogurt, or add them to baked goods.
An egg substitute. Chia seed gel can be used as an egg substitute in baked goods. Mix chia seeds and water in a 1 to 6 ratio to make a chia gel. Use about one tablespoon of chia gel to replace a large egg in baked goods.
They’re fun! Food should be fun. Even healthy food. So if you are getting bored with your “healthy food” choices, chia seeds may be just what you need to keep eating better fun and interesting.
My favorite way to enjoy chia seed is in a hydrating and tongue-tingling citrus drink in the morning. A glass of Sparkling Chia AM Refresher takes care of my appetite for several hours. And if you drink it INSTEAD of a high calorie or nutrient-less breakfast, you most certainly will experience a health benefit and maybe even lose some weight.
Sparkling Chia AM Refresher
Juice of 1 grapefruit
2 T. organic chia seeds
Sparkling water or club soda
In a tall glass, mix all ingredients. Let the chia seeds absorb the juice and water for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the chia seeds from clumping. Enjoy this refreshing, tongue-tingling hydrator.