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Dispelling The Weight Loss Myth About Chia


Black Chia Seeds

by Rachelle Chandraan - Nov 8, 2014

Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert flowering plant in the
mint family called Salvia hispanica. You may have seen chia sprouts growing on the novelty
planters called Chia Pets, but historically, the seeds have been the most important part of the
plant. In pre-Columbian times they were a main component of the Aztec and Mayan diets and
were the basic survival ration of Aztec warriors. They are prized them for their ability to
provide sustainable energy, in fact its believed that one tablespoon was believed to sustain an
individual for 24 hours. The Aztecs also used Chia medicinally to stimulate saliva flow and to
relieve joint pain and sore skin.
Chia seeds are a concentrated food containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids,
carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium. Chia seeds are an unprocessed, wholegrain food that can be absorbed by the body as seeds (unlike flaxseeds). The mild, nutty flavor
of chia seeds makes them easy to add to foods and beverages. The seeds are tasteless, so they
wont affect the flavour profile of your food, which makes them easy to integrate into your
meals. They can be sprinkled whole on top of salads, cereal, sauces, vegetables, yogurts, added
to ice creams or or added milled to smoothies, and even eat them sprouted. They can also easily

be integrated into baked goods and mixed with water to be made into a gel.
History Behind Chia Seeds
Long ago, before the Spanish conquest of Latin America, Chia seeds were a staple food, like
corn andbeans, in the diets of the Aztecs and Mayans. Most evidence shows that humans began
using Chia seeds around 3500 BC. Ancient south-American civilisations like Aztecs and
Mayans, prized the tiny chia seed and its remarkable nutritional profile more highly than gold.
They would mix chia with water and consume as a beverage, grind into flour, add to medicines,
press for oil and even use chia as a base for body paints. At this time in history, chia seeds were
considered to be almost magical because of their ability to increase stamina, endurance and
energy over long periods of time.
The name chia literally translates to strength in Mayan, with the seed long being famed a
running food. The Tarahumara tribe of northwest Mexico are considered to be the greatest
runners in the world, they can run for hundreds of miles at a time through the rugged terrain of
their homeland after consuming a special beverage called Iskiate, which is a mix of chia seeds,
fresh water and lemon.
However, after the Spanish conquest of Latin America, chia seeds and their benefits became
somewhat eclipsed, as the Spanish introduced their own foods and prohibited the farming of
chia. Still, its remained in regular use in its native countries, but was largely unknown in North
America until researcher Wayne Coates began studying chia as an alternative crop for farmers
in northern Argentina about 29 years ago. Coates started his work on chia in 1991, and since
then has become an advocate of the tiny seeds health benefits.
There are additional benefits from the Chia seed aside from the nutritive enhancements when
used as an ingredient. It was also used by the Indians and missionaries as a poultice for gunshot
wounds and other serious injuries. They would pack the wounds with Chia seeds to avoid
infections and promote haling. If you place a seed or two in your eyes it will clean your eyes
and will also help to clear up any infections.
Myths About Chia
1. Cure for Diabetes?
Chia is being studied as a potential natural treatment for type-2 diabetes because of its ability to
slow down digestion. The gelatinous coating chia seeds develops when exposed to liquids can
also prevent blood sugar spikes.
In a study, 20 diabetic patients received either 37 grams of chia seeds, or 37 grams of wheat
bran, for 12 weeks. When they got the chia seeds, they saw improvements in several important
health markers. Blood pressure went down by 3-6 mm/Hg and an inflammatory marker called
hs-CRP went down by 40%. A risk factor called vWF also decreased by 21%. There was also a
small drop in blood sugar, but it wasnt statistically significant. Read the study here.
2. Can it Lower Cholesterol?
In two studies, a diet with chia seeds, soy protein, oats and nopal, has been shown to lower
LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, increase HDL cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Because
these studies also used other ingredients, nothing can be concluded about the chia seeds

themselves. Rat studies have also shown that chia seeds can lower triglycerides, raise HDL
cholesterol and reduce inflammation, insulin resistance and belly fat. However, a study that
looked at just chia seeds did not note any improvements.
Read the studies here: (1) (2) (3) (4)
3. Can it Fight Belly Fat?
Chias stabilizing effect on blood sugar also fights insulin resistance which can be tied to an
increase in belly fat. This type of resistance can also be harmful for your overall health.
4. Can you Lose Weight?
Many health experts believe that chia seeds can help with weight loss. The fiber absorbs large
amounts of water and expands in the stomach, which should increase fullness and slow the
absorption of food. There have been several studies on glucomannan, a fiber that works in a
similar way, showing that it can lead to weight loss. Unfortunately, when the effects of chia
seeds on weight loss have been studied, the results have been rather disappointing. Although
one study showed that chia seeds can reduce appetite, there was no significant effect on body
In a study on 90 overweight people, 50 grams of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks had no effect
on body weight or health markers. In another 10 week study of 62 women, chia seeds had no
effect on bodyweight but did increase the amount of Omega-3s in the blood. Although just
adding chia seeds to your diet is unlikely to affect your weight. Read the studies here: (5) (6)
5. Muscle and Tissue Builder?
Chia seed, is a muscle and tissue builder and an energizer of endurance with extensive
hydration properties because of its physio-chemical properties. It supports effective treatment
in immediate problems of digestion. As a source of protein, Chia, after ingestion, is digested
and absorbed very easily. This results in rapid transport to the tissue and utilization by the cells.
This efficient assimilation makes Chia very effective when rapid development of tissue takes
place, primarily during growth periods of children, adolescents, during pregnancy and lactation
and for athletes who need muscle tissue for conditioning.
6. Improves Heart Health?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, chia seeds have been shown to improve blood pressure in
diabetics, and may also increase healthy cholesterol while lowering total, LDL, and triglyceride
7. Improve exercise performance?
Legend has it that the Aztecs and Mayans used chia seeds to fuel performance back in the day.
There is one recent study suggesting that this may be effective. In the study, 6 participants carb
loaded with either gatorade, or a mix of half gatorade/half chia seeds. Then they ran for an hour
on a treadmill, followed by a timed 10 kilometer long run. There was no difference between the
two groups. In other words, replacing half of the gatorade with chia seeds did not reduce the
performance of the athletes, indicating that chia seeds were of some use. According to this
study, chia seeds can help athletes carb load for endurance events, while increasing their

intake of nutrients and decreasing their intake of sugar. Read the study here.

White Chia Seeds

The Healthy Components of Chia
.High in Dietary Fibre
Fiber is vital for all aspects of health, and is especially key for weight loss and digestion. It
helps slow digestion and makes you feel fuller by soaking up fluid and expanding in your
digestive tract.
Adding ground chia to your diet boosts your intake of dietary fiber, a type of carbohydrate.
Unlike the other carbohydrates in your diet, such as sugar and starch, your body does not break
down fiber as a source of energy, and instead passes fiber through your system unchanged. This
means that the fiber in foods will help fill you up, but doesnt add to the calorie content of your
Fiber also benefits your health by slowing digestion, fiber-rich foods release sugar into your
bloodstream slowly, so you avoid the blood sugar spikes that negatively affect your energy
levels between meals.
The average American only gets 12 to 15 grams of dietary fibre, while the American Dietetic
Association recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. Just a 28-gram or one-ounce serving
of chia has 11 grams of dietary fibre, about a third of the recommended daily intake for adults,
providing more dietary fiber than two apples.
.High in Niacin
Niacin helps your body convert food to usable energy and keeps your skin and nerves healthy.
The vitamin also helps support your metabolism, and also controls your blood pressure.
Chia seeds are rich in niacin, also called vitamin B-3. Niacin plays a role in your metabolism,
helping your body use carbohydrates as energy. It also benefits your nervous system, skin, hair

and vision.
An ounce of chia seeds has 2.5 milligrams of niacin, approximately 18 and 16 percent of the
recommended intake for women and men, respectively.
.Good source of Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids, is a type of healthy fat that your body cant make on its own, so you need
to get it from your diet. It helps keep your cardio-vascular system healthy as you age, reduce
the risk of heart disease, and also aid in brain functioning. But there are two conflicting views
on this subject.
-Positive: Chia seeds contain more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon per serving. Theres better
conversion of omega 3s into the plasma or into the food than with flax seed. An ounce of
ground chia contains 5.1 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, your entire recommended daily intake
of the fats, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Chia seeds lipid profile is composed of 60
percent omega-3s, making them one of the richest plant-based sources of these fatty acids,
specifically, of ALA. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women get 1.1 grams and
men get 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day to maintain proper neurological development
and growth. Theyre one of few nuts and seeds with a higher concentration of antiinflammatory omega-3s than pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
-Negative: While 1 tablespoon of chia seeds contains 4 grams of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a
precursor to omega-3s, this needs to be converted into the active forms of EPA and DHA,
before it can be used by the body. Unfortunately, humans are inefficient at converting ALA into
the active forms. Therefore, plant Omega-3s tend to be vastly inferior to animal sources like
fish. Studies have shown that chia seeds (especially if they are milled) can increase blood levels
of ALA and EPA, but not DHA (the most important Omega-3 fat).
More research is needed to determine exactly how much is converted to omega-3s in your
body. Research published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology in 2012 noted
that chia seeds may help to prevent heart disease and diabetes, but more clinical trials are
needed to support the safety and effectiveness of chia seed in humans.
.Good source of Tryptophan
Chia seed is an excellent source of tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes good mood, good
sleep and a sense of calm. Because the human body cannot produce tryptophan on its own, we
need to get this essential amino acid from food sources.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to several important hormones. This means the
body uses tryptophan to produce these hormones, including the mood-regulating
neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin plays a role in fighting anxiety, promoting good moods
and producing the sleep hormone melatonin. Tryptophan also helps the body to produce
important B-vitamin niacin.
A one-ounce serving of dried chia seeds contain 202 milligrams of tryptophan. The tryptophan
content of chia seed is higher than that of many other seeds, including sesame seeds (109
milligrams), sunflower seeds (97 milligrams), pumpkin seeds (91 milligrams) and flaxseed (83

.Rich in Anti-oxidants
Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals, aging and
cancer. The high antioxidant profile also helps them have a long shelf life. They last almost two
years without refrigeration. Although antioxidant supplements are not very effective, getting
antioxidants from foods can have positive effects on health. These protect the sensitive fats in
the seeds from going rancid. Most importantly, antioxidants fight the production of free
radicals, which can damage molecules in cells and contribute to ageing and diseases like
cancer. Refer to the study here.
.High in Calcium
Ground chia contains 179 milligrams of calcium which is 18 percent of your RDA. Calcium
helps keep your bones and teeth strong and maintain nerve transmissions.
Adequate calcium intake may also increase weight and fat loss, according to a study published
in the journal Obesity Research in 2004. In the trial, obese adults taking calcium and
restricting calories lost more weight and dropped more fat from their midsections than adults
who just restricted calories.
.High in Manganese
Manganese isnt a well-known nutrient, but its important for our health. Its good for your
bones and helps your body use other essential nutrients like biotin and thiamin. One serving of
chia seeds, or 28 grams, has 30 per cent of your recommended intake of this mineral.
.Good Source of Phosphorus
Chia contains 244 milligrams of phosphorus, or 35 percent of your daily phosphorus
requirements which helps you maintain healthy bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also used by the
body to synthesize protein for cell and tissue growth and repair.
.High in Protein
Chia seeds also make a great source of protein for vegetarians and dont have any cholesterol.
One 28-gram serving of these super seeds has 4.4 grams of protein, nearly 10 per cent of the
daily value. By weight, they are about 14% protein, which is very high compared to most
plants. Each 3-tablespoon helping of chia seeds has 7 grams of protein. Based on a 50-gram
protein DV, you eat 14 percent of your days protein in each serving.
.Rich Source of Amino Acids
Chia seeds are also a rich source of other essential amino acids, including leucine, lysine,
tyrosine and arginine, combined, these amino acids contribute to chia seeds considerable
protein content, which is about 4.5 grams protein per ounce.
Protein has all sorts of benefits for health. It is also the most weight loss friendly nutrient in the
diet, by far. A high protein intake reduces appetite and has been shown to reduce obsessive
thoughts about food by 60% and the desire for night time snacking by 50%. Chia seeds are an
excellent protein source, especially for people who eat little or no animal products. Read
the study here.

.Good Source of Carbohydrate

There are also just 17 grams, or 5 percent of a 300-milligram DV, of carbohydrates in each
.High in Unsaturated Fat
A 3-tablespoon serving of chia seed has 12 grams of fat, only 1 gram of which is saturated. The
remaining 11 grams are heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Each serving
of chia seeds has 18 percent of a days fat intake and 5 percent of a days saturated fat intake.
You dont consume any cholesterol in a helping of chia seeds.
.Low in Sodium
It only contains 6 milligrams of sodium.
.High Iron Content
Iron is essential to keep your blood oxygenated. One ounce of chia seeds has 2.19 milligrams
of iron, providing men with 25 percent of their recommended intake for iron. Women, who
need 18 milligrams of iron per day, get about an eighth of the iron they need.
.Other Minerals and Vitamins
Chia also contains trace amounts of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B-12, thiamine and folate.
One serving of dry chia seeds is 3 tablespoons, which weighs about 1.4 ounces. Each serving
has just over 190 calories.
.Hydrophilic properties
One of the exceptional qualities of the Chia seed is its hydrophilic properties, having the ability
to absorb more than 12 times its weigh in water. Its ability to hold on to water offers the ability
to prolong hydration. Fluids and electrolytes provide the environment that supports the life of
all the bodys cells. Their concentration and composition are regulated to remain as constant as
possible. With Chia seeds, you retain moisture, regulate, more efficiently, the bodies
absorption of nutrients and body fluids. Because there is a greater efficiency in the utilization of
body fluids, the electrolyte balance is maintained.
.Balanced Fibre and Carb
Looking at the nutrition profile of chia seeds, you see that an ounce has 12 grams of
carbohydrates. However, 11 of those grams are fiber which isnt digested by the body. Fiber
doesnt raise blood sugar, doesnt require insulin to be disposed of and therefore shouldnt
count as a carb. The true carb content is only 1 gram per ounce, which is very low. This makes
chia a low-carb friendly food. Because of all the fiber, chia seeds can absorb up to 10-12 times
their weight in water, becoming gel-like and expanding in your stomach. Theoretically, this
should increase fullness, slow absorption of your food and help you automatically eat fewer
calories. Fiber also feeds the friendly bacteria in the intestine, which is important because

keeping your gut bugs well fed is absolutely crucial for health. Chia seeds are 40% fiber, by
weight. This makes them one of the best sources of fiber in the world. Read the study here.
In summary, a 1 ounce (28 grams/2tbsp) serving of chia seeds contains:
Fiber: 11 grams.
Protein: 4 grams.
Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1
(Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.
Provides 137 calories and 1 gram of digestible carbohydrate. (If you subtract the fiber, which
may not end up as usable calories for the body, chia seeds only contain 101 calories per ounce).
Chia seeds are whole grain food, and are usually grown organically, are non-GMO and
naturally free of gluten. Chia seeds can be either black or white, but never brown. There is no
nutritional difference between black and white chia, however brown chia is immature and
should not be eaten. If you have food allergies (especially to sesame or mustard seeds) or are on
high blood pressure medications or blood thinners, you should ask your health care provider
before adding chia to your diet.