Over the past couple years chia seeds have gained in popularity for their overwhelming health benefits. We break down all the benefits that chia seeds have to offer.
Health Benefits Of Chia Seeds
I have to admit, I too love chia seeds. They’re so nutrient dense and so easy to add to smoothies or one of my favorites – cottage cheese. I also think it’s funny that a toy that I had from when I was a child (cha-cha-cha-chia, anyone?) turned out to have so many health benefits.
A Brief History Of Chia
Chia is known to have originated from Central America. It was a common staple of the ancient Aztec diet and was frequently ground into a meal called pinole, which is a highly nutritious type of flour base from maize, chia seeds, various herbs, and cacao. It was reported that “long distance messengers” would eat chia seeds for energy (1). Native Americans would also consume the seed to enhance physical performance as well (2).
Nutritional Value Of Chia Seed
Chia seed is very nutrient dense. Let’s break it down: in just one tablespoon of chia seed you get a healthy dose of fiber and a really great ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 which is anti-inflammatory. In fact, when comparing chia seed to oatmeal, you get 26 times more fiber in chia seed. If you’re looking for a way to increase your fiber, chia delivers.
What about the other stuff?
Nutrition Facts via NutritionData.com
Anticancer Effects Of Chia Seed
Who doesn’t love anti-cancer foods? There is some beginning research out there that showed that oil from chia seed may be an anticancer agent. A diet supplemented with chia oil reduced tumor growth and metastasis in a mouse model of mammary gland adenocarcinaoma. After analyzing the data it was revealed that the decreased tumor growth and metastasis was caused by slowed cell replication and increased cell destruction (also called apoptosis, 5). I know we’re not mice, but hey, it can’t hurt, right?
Antioxidant Effects Of Chia Seed
I know a single mouse study about anticancer effects isn’t really much but chia seeds do have antioxidant effects as well. Oxidation of cells in our bodies can cause damage to our DNA which in turn can cause cancer as well. So any antioxidant effects can also be anticancerous as well. Chia seeds contain quercetin, kaempferol, and caffeic and chlorogenic acid which all have potent antioxidant effects (6).
Heart Health Effects Of Chia Seed
So how about the effects of chia on cardiovascular health? A small study performed on rats was done to look at how the fatty acids had an effect on blood lipid levels. The study found that a whole seed diet significantly reduced blood triglyceride levels and that ground chia seed increased HDL levels. Both types of diets significantly improved fatty acid blood levels (7).
What about people?
A small study was performed on a group of diabetic patients who were fed approximately two and a half tablespoons per day of chia seed. The study had remarkable results. The study found that the average systolic blood pressure dropped by 6.3 points (1). Systolic blood pressure is the amount of pressure the heart has to pump against to get blood out to the rest of the body – it’s the top number in the blood pressure reading for example: 120/80. A lower blood pressure reduces the workload of the heart. The study also found that hs-CRP levels – a marker for inflammation in blood vessels – also decreased (1). This is a huge finding because inflammation is a huge reason for cholesterol buildup in our arteries.
Another amazing finding is that the study found that fibrinogen and von Willebrand factor levels in blood both decreased (1). To keep it simple, increased levels of both of these in our blood can increase the risk for a clot which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. By decreasing the risk for blood clots you can decrease that risk.
What else did this amazing study show? Perhaps one of the best things that the study showed (and great news for any diabetics) is that A1C blood levels were also significantly decreased (1). An A1c test shows how well insulin works at keeping your blood cells from holding on to sugar. Sugar is inflammatory and toxic to your body and can also increase hs-CRP levels and the risk for a stroke or heart attack.
And a little of the bad…
There is one study out there that measured the effects of chia seed in overweight/obese individuals. The study found that overall, chia seed had no effect on body mass composition and inflammation, oxidative stress, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels were not decreased after consuming chia seed (8). The participants had chia seed before their first and last meal of the day but the study doesn’t list what their diet included otherwise so it goes without saying, an overall healthy diet is the best route to go – with chia seed of course…
Summing Up The Health Benefits Of Chia Seed
Although research is limited chia seed is packed full of heart healthy nutrients. Including them in your diet from time to time as part as a healthy balanced diet is sure to benefit your body. So what’s your favorite way to get your dose of chia seed? My favorite ways: adding them to a smoothie or to cottage cheese. Chia seed crusted salmon, anyone?
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1. Bazinet R, Hanna A, Jenkins R, Rogovik A, Sievenpiper J, Vigden E, Vuksan V, Whitham D. “Supplementation Of Conventional Therapy With The Novel Grain Salba Improves Major and Emerging Cardiovascular Risk Factors In Type 2 Diabetes: Results Of A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Diabetes Care. Nov. 30 2007. Web. Dec. 10 2013.
2. Wang, X., Morris-Natschke, S. L., and Lee, K. H. “New Developments In The Chemistry and Biology Of The Bioactive Constituents of Tanshen.” Medical Research Reviews. 2007. Web. Dec. 10 2013.
3. Adams, J., Lien, E., Wang, R., Yang, J. “Preclinical and Clinical Examinations of Salvia Miltiorrhiza and its Tanshinones In Ischemic Conditions.” Journal of Chinese Medicine. Nov. 23 2006. Web. Dec. 10 2013.
4: Chow, M., Zhou, L., Zuo, Z. “Danshen: An Overview Of Its Chemistry, Pharmacology, Pharmacokinetics, and Clinical Use.” Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Dec. 2005. Web. Dec. 10 2013.
5. Berra, M., Espada, C., Eynard, A., Martinez, M., Pasqualini, M. “Effect Of Chia Oil (Salvica Hispanica) Rich In Omega-3 Fatty Acids On The Eiconsanoid Release, Apoptosis, and T-lymphocyte Tumor Infiltration In A Murine Mammary Gland Adenocarcinoma.” Journal of Prostaglandins, Leukocyte, and Essential Fatty Acids. July 2007. Web. Dec. 10 2013.
6. Reyes-Caudillo, E., Tecante, A., and Valdivia-López, M. “Diatary Fiber Content and Antioxidant Activity Of Phenolic Compounds Present in Mexican Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) Seeds.” Journal of Food Chemistry. 2008. Web. Dec. 10 2013.
7. Averza, R. Jr., Coates, W. “Effect of Dietary Alpha-Linoliec Fatty Acid Derived From Chia When Fed As Ground Seed, Whole Seed, and Oil On Lipid Content and Fatty Acid Composition of Rat Plasma.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. March 14 2007. Web. Dec. 10 2013.
8. Austin, M., Cayea, E., Hensen, D., Fuxia, J., Nieman, D., McAnulty, S. “Chia Seed Does Not Promote Weight Loss Or Alter Disease Risk Factors In Overweight Adults.” Nutrition Research. June 2009. Web. Dec. 10 2013.