Chia Seeds: Are They Worth The Hype?

Superfoods, like many things in the fitness industry, come in waves. While kale and pomegranates have long help their position at the top of the list, chia seeds have been putting up a solid contest over the last few years. As is usually the case, supporters of these little black-and-white seeds have made numerous claims about the supposedly wide range of benefits that come from chia seeds. Specifically, chia gets a lot of attention for its proposed weight loss benefits. So, the logical question is this: Do chia seeds live up to the hype?


What They Are and What They’re Made Of

Do you remember those fuzzy little Chia Pets that ruled the 80s and 90s? As it turns out those novelty products and the superfood currently in question are one and the same. The plant has, Salvia hispanica, been cultivated for centuries in its native Mexico and enjoyed use by both the Mayan and Aztec empires. According to tradition, both of these cultures used chia seeds as a natural energy booster and believed that it would increase their strength.

Clearly, then, chia’s title as a superfood is nothing new. But is there any evidence to believe that they are actually that good for you?

Nutritionally speaking, these little seeds do seem to pack quite a punch. They have a well-rounded, complete nutritional profile – meaning that they are a rich source of healthy fats, omega-3s, complete proteins and complex carbohydrates. In addition to all of that, chia seeds also contain several beneficial antioxidants and the mineral calcium. Getting down to details, one serving of 2 tablespoons provides 139 total calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber. Overall, that makes chia seeds a pretty easy way to pack some nutrition into your snacks.


Weight Loss Claims

The idea that has really grabbed public attention, though, is that chia seeds could help you lose weight. Because chia seeds are high in fiber and form of sort of gel when they get wet, the logic goes, they will make you feel full and stop you from overeating.

Although it sounds pretty solid, does this claim hold up in the lab?

Unfortunately, no. Several studies – and reviews of the available research – have all turned up negative results in humans. Across the board, studies have shown no change in either appetite, caloric intake or weight in connection with chia consumption.


The Take Away

But does that mean that chia is a waste of time? No, absolutely not. While all the hype has driven the price of these little seeds up, the fact remains that they are a powerful way to improve your overall nutrition. But, there are other, more economical ways to get the same nutrition – even if they are a little less convenient. Black beans, for example, have a similar nutritional profile to chia seeds, minus the formation of goo.






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About jonathan.thompson

Jonathan Thompson is a Certified Personal Trainer and Running Coach with the American Council on Exercise, specializing in nutrition. In addition to his real-world experience working with clients, his articles and blogs on fitness advice have been published on many websites and magazines.