Chia seeds are often marketed as a weight loss aid. Can they really help you lose a few pounds?
First things first: there is no doubt that chia seeds are good for your health. An ounce of chia seeds contains as many as 42% of the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber that prevents constipation and facilitates regular defecation. Chia is rich in protein, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B9, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. What’s more, chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids (essential for your nervous system, skin and blood vessels) and antioxidants that slow down aging and help your body fight infection.
Bioavailability, however, is an important factor to consider when eating chia seeds. Although moistened chia seeds can be easily broken open so that you can use them whole and without cooking, the latest research reveals that such nutrients as omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are much better absorbed from ground chia than from whole seeds. It is, therefore, recommended that you grind whole chia seeds in a coffee grinder or buy pre-ground chia seeds.
It is believed that chia seeds expand in your belly and make you feel full so that you eat less and quickly shed weight. However, several research studies do not confirm the hypothesis that consumption of chia can lead to change in appetite or weight loss. David Nieman, a professor at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, says that the study conducted by his team showed no reduction in body weight, body fat and no improvement in traditional cardiovascular markers from 50 grams of chia per day.
It is also worth mentioning that chia is actually not as good for your heart as it is often claimed. According to a 2015 systematic review, most of the studies did not find a statistically significant effect of chia seeds on cardiovascular health.
Although chia is known to be hypoallergenic, people who have food allergies (particularly to mustard seeds or sesame) or take blood thinners or high blood pressure medications should consult a doctor before starting to consume significant amounts of chia.
It might be reasonable to use chia seeds not as a dietary supplement but as an alternative to white bread and processed grains. The point is that the more chia you eat the less wheat you are able to consume so that there are fewer calories in your diet. For example, in Europe it is allowed that up to 5% of a bread product’s total matter can be filled with chia. Then again, it is not only chia that you can decide on to substitute bread: vegetables (like carrots and ball peppers) and fruits (like bananas) are also extremely healthy and, what’s more, low in price.
So, it turns out that chia seeds are not a magic bullet for weight loss. Are there time-tested methods for keeping your weight down? Sure, and they are called ‘a calorie-controlled diet’ and ‘regular physical activities’. There is nothing new in the world, huh?