Find out if chia seeds help promote weight loss and healthy blood pressure and get ideas for how to eat chia seeds.
It’s back—again. Not in the form of green “fur” on bald clay animals—thank goodness. Instead
these tiny seeds that once fueled ancient Aztec and Mayan empires are now a key element of the latest diet craze, the Aztec
Diet. But do they deserve their miracle weight-loss superfood status? No one disputes that the seed is nutritious—“It’s the
highest plant source of omega-3s,” in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), says Wayne Coates, Ph.D., professor emeritus of
agricultural engineering at the University of Arizona. It’s also a complete protein, boasts more fiber than flax and contains
niacin, magnesium and antioxidants. Whether chia has more to offer is up in the air. The handful of clinical trials on the seed
are mixed. Most have found that people who eat chia regularly (2 to 5 tablespoons a day) have higher levels of ALA in their
blood, which has been loosely linked in other studies to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. But most trials show no direct
link between eating chia and lowering blood pressure, cholesterol or inflammation—actual markers of cardiovascular disease.
They also don’t confirm that chia helps people lose weight or boosts energy or focus or concentration. A few intriguing
results—from small studies—do exist, however. In 2007, Vladimir Vuksan, Ph.D., professor at the University of Toronto, found
that when people with type 2 diabetes ate about 3 tablespoons a day of a variety of chia called Salba (compared to when they
ate the same amount of wheat bran), their systolic blood pressure and hs-CRP (a marker of inflammation) decreased significantly
(possibly because their blood omega-3s increased). A 2010 study he did of healthy people—using Salba baked into bread—showed
participants had lower spikes in blood sugar after eating bread with higher amounts of Salba. They also felt satisfied for
longer. Chia makes for a heart-healthy nutritious ingredient (mix it into a smoothie or sprinkle it on a salad as you would
sunflower seeds). But, at this point, that’s it. If you’re sensitive to mustard, sesame seeds, oregano or thyme, you may be
allergic to chia. And if you’re taking blood thinners or other heart medications, check in with your doctor before stocking up
on chia. How 3 Super Seeds Stack Up Unlike flax, you can eat chia seeds whole or milled, and both seem to be equally
nutritious. Below, see how these seeds compare nutritionally (per tablespoon).