Chia seeds are little powerhouses. Packed full of antioxidants, fibre, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids, these seeds were a staple part of the ancient Aztec and Maya diets. And centuries later, they continue to be praised for their health benefits – recently becoming recognised as a superfood.

Chia seeds may be small, but the word ‘chia’ itself actually means ‘strength’ derived from the Mayan language – which should give you an idea of how mighty they really are!

Here we’ll cover the many health benefits of chia seeds and suggest ideas for how you can incorporate them into your diet.

What are chia seeds?

What are chia seeds

Chia seeds are tiny black seeds produced by the Salvia hispanica plant; a member of the mint family that originates from Central and South America.

Aztec and Mayan civilizations used chia seeds in their diets, as well as for medicinal and cosmetic purposes, because they believed they were highly nutritious – a fact that’s now confirmed by modern science.

Just one handful (28g) of chia seeds contains approximately:

  • 138 calories
  • 4.6g protein
  • 8.7g fat
  • 11.9g carbohydrates
  • 9.8g fibre
  • 14% of the DV (daily value) of calcium
  • 12% DV of iron
  • 12% DV of zinc
  • 23% DV of magnesium

7 health benefits of chia seeds

7 health benefits of chia seeds

Chia seeds have plenty of impressive health benefits. For example…

1. Chia seeds are full of antioxidants

Chia seeds are a great source of antioxidants, which fight free radicals (unstable cells that cause damage) and help to reduce the risk of certain diseases.

The specific antioxidants found in chia seeds include caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, quercetin, and myricetin – which research has found to have protective effects over the heart and liver, as well as anti-cancer properties.

For example, studies suggest that chlorogenic acid may help to lower blood pressure, while caffeic acid has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.

2. Chia seeds may support healthy weight loss

The high fibre and protein content of chia seeds makes them filling. By helping to increase fullness and satisfaction, adding chia seeds to your diet may help to support healthy weight loss.

This study found that eating 7g of chia seeds mixed with yoghurt for breakfast led to increased feelings of fullness and reduced calorie intake thereafter – compared with those who ate chia-free yoghurt.

Plus, in this six-month study, overweight or obese people who ate a calorie controlled diet with a daily dose of chia seeds experienced much greater weight loss than those who didn’t eat chia seeds.

3. Chia seeds may lower your risk of heart disease

As well as containing antioxidants, chia seeds are high in fibre and omega-3s, which science suggests may help to reduce your risk of heart disease.

For example, soluble fibre (the main type of fibre found in chia seeds) can help to lower the amount of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood, which, in turn, can reduce the risk of heart disease developing.

Similarly, consuming ALA (the omega-3 fatty acid found in chia seeds) has also been linked to a lowered risk of heart disease.

In this study, chia seed supplements significantly reduced blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure), which again, is a strong risk factor for heart disease.

4. Chia seeds may support and boost bone health

Chia seeds contain various nutrients that play a role in bone health, including calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

For example, 25g of chia seeds contains around 158mg of calcium, which is higher than in the equivalent amount of milk. Various studies have linked getting enough of these nutrients with maintaining good bone mineral density.

The ALA content of chia seeds is also noteworthy as studies have suggested that intake of this nutrient could be linked with increased bone mineral density.

For example, in this animal study, rats who were given chia seeds daily for around 13 months had increased bone mineral content compared with a control group. Experts concluded that the ALA content of chia seeds contributed to this effect.

However, while these results are promising, more human research is needed to confirm these findings.

5. Chia seeds may improve digestive health

A 25g serving of chia seeds provides almost 9g of fibre – which is a significant contribution towards the daily recommended amount of 30g.

According to science, having enough fibre in your diet is important for digestion and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.

Research also suggests that the gel-like consistency of chia seeds soaked in liquid can help to ease constipation.

6. Chia seeds may help to reduce blood sugar levels

Science has indicated that chia seeds may have blood sugar regulating qualities; possibly due to their high fibre content and other beneficial nutrients.

Various animal studies have found that chia seeds can help to improve insulin sensitivity and stabilise blood sugar levels following a meal.

In addition, this study revealed that, among healthy adults, eating bread containing chia seeds helped to lower rises in blood sugar, compared with eating bread without chia seeds.

7. Chia seeds may reduce the risk of diabetes

As a result of their ability to help reduce and stabilise blood sugar levels, some research has suggested that intake of chia seeds may be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes who’re overweight or obese.

However, while chia seeds may help to improve risk factors for diabetes, there’s currently no conclusive evidence to suggest that chia seeds can directly reduce the risk of diabetes.

Are chia seeds suitable for everyone?

Are chia seeds suitable for everyone

Generally speaking, chia seeds are well-tolerated by most people. However, consuming too many in one sitting could potentially lead to abdominal pain, bloating, and constipation. As a result, experts recommend drinking plenty of water alongside them – especially if the seeds haven’t been soaked in liquid.

People with conditions like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and inflammatory bowel disease may need to regulate their fibre intake and limit consumption of high-fibre foods like chia seeds to prevent flare ups.

In addition, if you’re on medication for diabetes or high blood pressure, you may need to moderate your intake of chia seeds because they’ve been found to enhance the activity of some medications. It’s always worth speaking with your GP or a dietitian if you have any concerns or are thinking of making any changes to your diet.

How can I add chia seeds to my diet?

Chia seeds are incredibly versatile. They can be eaten raw or prepared in a variety of dishes, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between.

They’re very absorbent and create a gel-like texture when soaked in liquid, which makes them easy to mix into things like yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies. But equally, they can be used as a fun topping for a variety of dishes – both sweet and savoury – too.

Below are a few delicious options to consider.

Raw strawberry jam with chia seeds

Raw strawberry jam with chia seeds

If you’re after the quickest and simplest way to make strawberry jam, chia seeds could be the ingredient you’ve been missing. Due to their high absorbency, all that’s needed to make this no-cook, no pectin strawberry jam from BBC Good Food is to combine four ingredients (chia seeds, strawberries, lemon juice, and maple syrup), leave to thicken, and stir!

It’s perfect for spreading on your toast in the morning, or as a sweet topping for yoghurt and oatmeal.

Chia and herb crumb coating

Chia and herb crumb coating

While you may initially think to pair chia seeds with sweet dishes, they also make a great addition to many savoury meals too – for example, to make a crusty, flavoursome coating for meat and fish.

This chia, almond, and herb-crusted fish from Healthy Food makes a delicious, and super healthy dinner.

Chia seed pudding

Chia seed pudding

Chia seed pudding is made by soaking chia seeds in water or milk. On its own, chia seed pudding often has a mild, earthy flavour, but it’s easy to spice up with other ingredients like vanilla extract, peanut butter, or a sprinkle of cinnamon.

This chocolate peanut butter chia seed pudding from Pro Shape Fitness contains just 200 calories and 29g per serving. It’s super easy to make and makes a deliciously indulgent snack, dessert, or breakfast.

Chia seed oatmeal

Chia seed oatmeal

Chia seeds make a great addition to morning oatmeal – not only for texture and taste, but to set you up with plenty of energy to face the day too.

You’ll need just seven simple ingredients to make this cinnamon, honey, and vanilla chia seed oatmeal recipe from Food Faith Fitness.

Alternatively, if none of these ideas have caught your eye, why not check out these 35 fun ways to eat chia seeds from Healthline? From baking chia seeds in bread to using them as a flour replacement in soup and gravy, hopefully there’s something for everyone.

Final thoughts…

Chia seeds may be tiny but they certainly pack a punch. Packed full of healthy fats, protein, and antioxidants, their wide-ranging health benefits are nothing short of impressive.

So if you’ve been looking for a simple way to boost your health, why not consider adding chia seeds to your diet? The good news is that you won’t be short of options for delicious ways to eat them.

For more health and diet tips head over to the diet and nutrition section of our website. Here you’ll find everything from advice on essential vitamins and minerals to the best foods for heart and brain health.