Chia seeds, in case you haven’t been to a health food store in a while, are tiny white and black seeds that come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, and everyone has been talking about them as an amazing weight loss aid. Let’s take a closer look.
“Chia” actually means strength, and it is thought that Mayan and Aztec cultures used these seeds for energy. They are native to Mexico and Guatemala, and most people who are old enough remember them from the 1980’s when “Chia Pets” were all the rage (as much as Chia Pets can be a rage.)
They are in fact filled with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium. They’re unprocessed, whole-grains, and one ounce contains about 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates, and 11 grams of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals. Not bad.
The have a mild, nutty flavor, and they’re commonly add to cereal, sauces, rice dishes, and yogurt. They are unique, in that when they are mixed into liquids, they create a gel like substance, an important part of this whole weight loss craze.
Because chia seeds soak up liquid when immersed, it has been thought that when you consume them, they expand in your stomach, making you feel full faster, eat less, and ultimately lose weight. But so far no studies have been able to back up this phenomenon.
In a study by Appalachian State University in North Carolina, researcher David Nieman, DrPH said that “Over a 12-week period, we did not see a change in appetite or weight loss… Our study showed no reduction in body weight, body fat and no improvement in traditional cardiovascular markers from 50 grams of chia per day.”
Another study found similar results. “The evidence is limited on chia, and only two clinical trials examined heart health and body weight,” explains researcher Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD. “One showed some beneficial heart effect, but neither showed any effect on weight loss.”
I have no problem with chia seeds and believe they are a nutritious food to add to one’s diet, but there are some websites out there claiming that chia seeds will cure every ailment from wrinkles to cancer, and that’s simply not true, or at least in no way scientifically proven.
In conclusion, these little seeds may not cure you of all physical and emotional maladies, but they are very nutritious, and I encourage you to try them. If you want to experiment with a few chia seed recipes made with raw ingredients at home, feel free to browse through some of these recipes.