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Chia Seeds: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects and more!

By Dr Smita Barode +2 more

Introduction: 

Chia, also known as Salvia hispanica, is a herbaceous plant belonging to the family Lamiaceae. It is native to northern Guatemala and southern Mexico. This plant produces several dried indehiscent fruits, usually called seeds.1

Now, chia is cultivated in Colombia, Australia, Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, and Argentina. Pre-Columbian people consumed chia in the 16th century to get strength, energy, and stamina. Oil is extracted from the chia seeds; this oil may be used in cosmetics. The other parts of the plant, including roots, leaves, and branches, may have been used less commonly to fight respiratory infections.2 Let’s take a closer look into the chia seeds benefits and side effects.

chia seeds

Do You Know?

Nutritional Value of Chia Seeds: 

The nutritional value of chia seeds per 100 g is as follows:3 

Nutrients Content per 100 g 
Water 5.8 g 
Carbohydrates 42.1 g 
Protein 16.5 g 
Fats 30.7 g 
Energy  486 kcal 
Fibre  34.4 g 
Iron 7.72 mg 
Calcium 631 mg 
Magnesium 335 mg 
Sodium 16 mg 
Potassium 407 mg 
Phosphorus  860 mg 
Copper  0.924 mg 
Zinc  4.58 mg 
Manganese 2.72 mg 
Selenium 55.2  µg 
Vitamin A 54 IU 
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 0.62 mg 
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 0.17 mg 
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 8.83 mg 
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 49  µg 
Vitamin C 1.6 mg 
Vitamin E 0.5 mg3 

Don’t let a weak immune system bring you down! Chia seeds are loaded with nutrients like antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that can help support immune function and reduce inflammation in the body.

Dr. Ashok Pal, BAMS

Properties of Chia Seeds:

The potential uses of chia seeds may be associated with the following properties:

  • It may have  antioxidant activity
  • It may have cholesterol-lowering potential
  • It may have blood pressure-lowering activity
  • It may have  anti-inflammatory action
  • It may have  anti-cancer potential
  • It may have blood sugar-lowering activity .2,4

Chia seeds are a superfood, but don’t be quick to snack on them alone! Although these seeds are packed with nutrients, eating them dry can be harmful. The seeds can absorb water in your digestive system and potentially cause issues, so it’s best to incorporate them into a recipe or mix them with a liquid before consuming them to reap their benefits safely.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Potential Uses of Chia Seeds:

The potential chia seeds uses might be beneficial for various conditions. However, more research is needed to state the chia seeds benefits for human health.

Potential uses of chia seeds for blood sugar

Some animal studies have shown that chia seeds may have beneficial effects on type 2 diabetes. In an animal study by Chicco et al. 2009, chia seeds decreased the internal fatty tissue and insulin resistance, indicating that chia seeds may have a role in lipid and glucose homeostasis (maintaining balance).4

This information is insufficient because these studies are done on animals. However, more studies on humans are required to support such potential use of chia seeds for managing blood sugar levels in the body.

Potential uses of chia seeds for inflammatory diseases

Inflammatory diseases are linked with redness, pain, and swelling, which might lead to the loss of essential functions. A chia seed oil in diet may have been shown to lower the risk of pro-inflammatory agents (involved in inflammation). Therefore, it is suggested that chia seed oil might benefit the management of inflammatory diseases.4

This information is insufficient and requires more scientific proof to say that chia seeds have benefits for inflammatory diseases.

If you’re struggling with feelings of depression or anxiety, incorporating chia seeds into your diet could be a simple way to improve your mood and mental health. These seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have antidepressant and antianxiety effects.

Dr. Anuja Bodhare, MD

Potential uses of chia seeds for the heart health

High levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in the blood may be directly linked to the development of heart-related diseases in humans. Consuming chia seeds may have   been shown to lower serum cholesterol levels, as it contains a high amount of unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fibre.2 Therefore, chia seeds might benefit in fighting against heart diseases. However, extensive research will be required to back up such claims.

Potential uses of chia seeds for high blood pressure and dyslipidemia

High blood pressure and dyslipidemia (high level of fats or cholesterol in blood) may be the most critical risk factors for heart diseases. Some studies have shown that chia seeds may have the potential to manage blood pressure and dyslipidemia. People who had high blood pressure when consumed chia seed flour might have lowered experienced a reduction in blood pressure. It might be caused due to the presence of a large amount of fatty acids that show anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.2 This information is insufficient and requires further studies to establish the effects of chia seeds on managing high blood pressure and dyslipidemia in humans.

Potential uses of chia seeds for weight management

If you’re looking for a natural way to improve your bone health, chia seeds may be a great addition to your diet. These small but mighty seeds are packed with essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus that support strong bones.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

As chia seeds are low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fibre, they may reduce the desire to eat and increase satiety (a state of being fed beyond capacity). A review report by Grancieri et al. 2019 suggests that the consumption of chia seeds by overweight and diabetic adults might show  weight loss, reduced waist circumference and increased adiponectin (a protein hormone that reduces inflammation and fat deposition in the blood). In addition, overweight and obese people who eat chia seeds might also lose weight and fat.2 In another human study by Lombardo et al. 2009 and Morato et al. 2015, a significant reduction in waist measurement was observed after taking chia seeds for one month.4 However, this information is insufficient and needs more research on this subject to support the potential use of chia seeds in managing weight loss in humans.

Though there are studies that show the benefits of chia seeds in different health conditions, this information is insufficient. And hence, there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of chia seeds on human health. Additionally, every person may respond differently to these herbs. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor before using chia seed for any medical condition.

You may like: 10+ Easy Home Remedies To Reduce Weight

How to Use Chia Seeds? 

Chia seeds can be used as:

  • Whole seeds
  • Seed oil1
  • Seed Flour
  • Leaves
  • Branches
  • Roots2

People consult a professional physician before taking any herbal supplements made up of chia seeds. We advise you to not replace or quit your ongoing medications with an ayurvedic or herbal preparation without consulting a physician or an Ayurvedic doctor. They will recommend you the best form and the dosage to have it.

Side Effects of Chia Seeds:

Although chia seeds are relatively safe, some stomach-related side effects (unspecified) have been reported.5

However, if you experience any chia seeds side effects, seek immediate medical attention from your concerned doctors who have prescribed it. They will be the best person to provide you with proper treatment.

Protein malnutrition is a serious concern, but incorporating chia seeds in your diet could be a simple and effective way to prevent it. With 20% protein content, these little seeds pack a powerful punch when it comes to meeting your daily protein needs.

Dr. Smita Barode, BAMS

Precautions to Take With Chia Seeds:

Having chia seeds in small quantities is safe. However, general precautions need to be followed.

  • Allergy: Chia seeds protein may cause allergy. People who are allergic to mustard seeds and sesame should avoid chia seeds.5
  • Medicines: Avoid taking chia seeds if you are taking medications like anticoagulants and antiplatelets (prevent blood clots), anti-hypertensive (treats high blood pressure), anti-cancer, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, as chia seeds might interact with these medicines.5
  • Stomach-related problems: Avoid chia seeds if you have stomach-related issues.5
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: There is not enough data on the safe usage of chia seeds during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Therefore, avoid taking chia seeds during pregnancy and breastfeeding or consult your doctor if you can take chia seeds during these times.
  • People should not use chia seeds to self-medicate themselves without taking consultation from a doctor.

Interactions With Other Drugs:

Natural products may interact with your ongoing treatment, so you must always disclose your ongoing treatments to your Ayurvedic doctor and discuss the possible reactions before they prescribe you to form an dosage of natural products for their benefits as per your condition.

  • Antiplatelets and anticoagulants (medicines that prevent blood clots): Chia seeds might interact with antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs. Chia seeds contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, might which increase  the risk of bleeding. So take caution when taking chia seeds with medicines, foods, or supplements having anticoagulant or antiplatelet effects.5
  • Antioxidants: Chia seeds may known to show antioxidant activity. Therefore, chia seeds might have competing or additive effects when combined with antioxidants like vitamin A, C, and E.5
  • Anti-hypertensive (medicines that manage high blood pressure): In a study, chia seeds were found to lower blood pressure in patients with type 2 diabetes who were already taking medicines for blood pressure. Combining these medications with chia seeds might lead  to a pronounced blood pressure-lowering effect.5
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Chia seeds contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. It is known that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding. Therefore, it is advised to avoid taking chia seeds with foods or supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids.5
  • Anti-cancer: An animal study found that chia seed oil might inhibit  tumour growth. Interactions with anti-cancer agents may be possible, but there is no sufficient evidence supporting this.5

Also Read: Fennel Seeds: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Are there any health benefits of chia seeds?

Chia seeds may have many health benefits. They may be suitable for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart-related diseases, and obesity. They may also have anti-cancer, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.2,4  However, one should always consult a doctor before using chia seeds for any health conditions

Are chia seeds good for weight loss?

In a study by Morato et al. 2015, chia seeds reduced body weight and fat in overweight and obese people. Chia seeds are low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fibre, which might reduce  the desire to eat and increasing satiety.2 Therefore, it might benefit you in losing weight. However, more studies on humans are required to back this claim.

Are chia seeds good for diabetes?

Chia seeds might be good for diabetes. Some animal and human studies found chia seeds may have beneficial effects on managing diabetes.4 In animals, chia seeds lowered the internal fatty tissue and insulin resistance and might be involved in maintaining a balance in lipid and glucose levels.4 However, this information is insufficient and requires more human studies to support this claim.

Can I take chia seeds during pregnancy?

There is no sufficient data on the safe usage of chia seeds during pregnancy. Therefore, consult your doctor before taking/consuming chia seeds during pregnancy.

Is there any nutritional value in chia seeds?

Yes, there are various nutrients in chia seeds, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibre, energy, iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B9, C, and E.3

Can chia seeds cause allergy?

Yes, chia seeds might cause allergies. People who are allergic to mustard seeds and sesame should avoid chia seeds.5

How to use chia seeds?

You can use chia seeds as a whole, seed oil, seed flour, branches, roots, or leaves.1,2

Also Read: Brahmi Grita: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

References: 

1. De Falco B, Amato M, Lanzotti V. Chia seeds products: an overview. Phytochem Rev. 2017;16(4):745–60. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316994147_Chia_seeds_products_an_overview 

2. Grancieri M, Martino HSD, Gonzalez de Mejia E. Chia Seed (Salvia hispanica L.) as a Source of Proteins and Bioactive Peptides with Health Benefits: A Review. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2019;18(2):480–99. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33336944/ 

3. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Seeds, chia seeds, dried [Internet]. USDA. 2019. p. 1–3. Available at: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168411/nutrients 

4. Abdulrashed R, Gazem A, Chandrashekariah SA. Pharmacological Properties of Salvia Hispanica ( Chia ) Seeds : a Review. J Crit Rev [Internet]. 2016;3(3):63–7. Available at: http://www.jcreview.com/admin/Uploads/Files/61c71e25d3b1d4.46297628.pdf 

5. Ulbricht C, Chao W, Nummy K, Rusie E, Tanguay-Colucci S, Iannuzzi C, et al. Chia (Salvia hispanica): A Systematic Review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Rev Recent Clin Trials. 2009;4(3):168–74. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20028328/ 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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