The chia plant is a flowering herb of the mint family and has two parts: the seed and the sprout. Also known as Salva hispanica, chia is native to Central America and may have been a staple of the Aztec diet. The seed is high in omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants and full of fiber, magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium. Although some research shows that consuming chia seeds as part of a healthy diet can help to lower triglycerides, published scientific studies on humans regarding chia are limited.
In a 2012 study published in "The Journal of Nutrition," participants were given a drink mixture including chia seeds, oats, soy protein and nopal twice a day for two months along with a reduced-calorie diets. Compared to the placebo group, those participants drinking the chia seed mixture were found to have reduced triglyceride levels and reduced CRP, or C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation. However, a 2009 study published in "Nutrition Research" found that consuming 50 grams of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks did not influence disease risk factors such as triglycerides or weight loss in overweight men and women. More research is needed to further understand these findings and confirm or deny the potential health benefits of chia seeds.
While the verdict is still out on whether chia seeds can help to lower triglycerides, they can still be a healthy addition to any diet. Compared to flaxseeds, chia seeds provide more omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and fiber -- all essential nutrients in which most Americans are lacking.
A high-fiber diet can help you to achieve or maintain a healthy weight by helping to keep you fuller longer, prevent constipation, reduce your risk of colon cancer and lower your cholesterol. Chia seeds provide 11 grams of fiber per ounce, more than 30 percent of the daily requirement for the average adult.
Chia seeds have a nutty flavor similar to flaxseed; you can eat them raw or cooked. Sprinkle chia seeds on cereal, yogurt and oatmeal or mix them into a smoothie. Add chia seeds when baking bread or muffins for extra fiber and a boost of omega-3s. The sprout portion of the chia plant is also edible, and you can add it to sandwiches and salads.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: What Are Chia Seeds
- Mayo Clinic: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet
- Dietitians In Integrative and Functional Medicine: Chia: An Underappreciated Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- American Society for Nutrition: The Real Scoop on Chia Seeds
- Nutrition Data: Analysis for Chia
- Pub Med: Chia Seed Does Not Promote Weight Loss or Alter Disease Risk Factors in Overweight Adults
Megan Ware is a registered dietitian nutritionist who runs her own weight loss and healthy-living practice in Dallas. She has previously worked as a hospital clinical dietitian specializing in gastrointestinal disorders and also has experience working as the lead dietitian and group fitness instructor for a popular weight loss resort. Ware holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from The Ohio State University, where she graduated cum laude.