Chia Seeds For Weight Loss

Czerwony recommends putting one or two tablespoons of chia seeds in an eight- to 10-ounce glass of water. If you’ve never consumed the seeds before, you may want to start with a smaller amount to see how your body tolerates them.

Chia Seeds and Weight Loss: What You Need to Know

Chia Seeds For Weight Loss

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Remember those ch-ch-ch-chia commercials? Well, chia seeds have come a long way since the days of terracotta Chia “pets.” You’ve probably seen delicious-looking puddings and smoothies made with chia seeds popping up on your Instagram feed a lot recently.

Chia seeds have even been called a superfood in recent years. Claims abound about the health benefits, including that they may help you lose weight. But can they really help shrink your waistline? Read on to find out.

Chia is actually a member of the mint family and native to Mexico. Chia seeds are consumed like whole grains, but they’re a pseudo grain. That means they’re the carbohydrate-rich seeds of a nongrass plant. When chia seeds encounter liquid, they expand and form a thick gel.

Chia seeds were said to be a staple of Aztec and Mayan diets, but were later banned because of their ritualistic religious use. Over the last century or so, they’ve enjoyed a minor following, but recently made a comeback on the market as a potential superfood.

There are many assertions on the internet that chia seeds curb your appetite and promote weight loss. The running theory is that since chia seeds are filling and high in fiber, they keep you fuller longer. They may therefore help prevent overeating.

Two tablespoons of chia seeds have almost 10 grams of fiber. That’s around 40 percent of the recommended daily intake. Diets high in fiber have been linked to weight loss. According to 2015 research , eating 30 grams of fiber daily may help you lose as much weight as if you followed a more complicated diet.

Here’s the catch, though. Research doesn’t back the hype. There are few human studies on chia seeds and weight loss. A 2009 study reviewed the effects of chia seeds on weight loss and disease risk factors.

For the study, 90 overweight or obese adults consumed either a placebo or 25 grams of chia seeds mixed with water before their first and last meals of the day. Unfortunately, the results showed no impact on body mass, body composition, or disease risk factors.

Chia seeds are also relatively high in calories and fat. Two tablespoons have 138 calories and 9 grams of fat (1 gram saturated). When used in moderation, chia seeds may help you feel more satisfied and less likely to eat too much. Still, if you eat too many throughout the day, you may go over your daily calorie limit.

Chia seeds are often marketed as heart-healthy because, though they are tiny little seeds, they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids. However, most of the omega-3 fatty acid in chia seeds is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

A 2012 review found that foods and supplements high in ALA may reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome and coronary heart disease. But at least one study found that high ALA levels are associated with an increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

Of the 16 studies reviewed, half supported the health benefits of ALA while the others did not. More research is needed.

Can Drinking Chia Water Help You Lose Weight?

chia seed water

What do you think of when you think about chia? Maybe it’s pudding, or maybe it’s quirky houseplants. For some TikTokkers, it’s breakfast. They’ve started putting these tiny seeds in water and drinking them to stave off hunger — or so they say.

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Is there any truth to this trick? Registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, explains the science behind the seeds, including whether this trend is one to try or to toss.

The benefits of chia seed water

Chia seeds are incredibly healthy, a source of fiber, protein and various nutrients. They’re also whole-grain, low-carb and low-calorie, with only about 100 calories per ounce.

They come from Salvia hispanica, a purple-flowered plant in the mint family, which grows in Mexico and Guatemala. And though the seeds themselves are teeny-tiny — similar to poppy seeds — they pack quite the nutritional punch. They’re loaded with:

  • Antioxidants: These substances help protect you against free radicals, which can contribute to cancer and various illness and impact the way your body ages.
  • Fiber: One ounce of chia seeds includes 11 grams of fiber, which is key for gut health and helps you feel fuller for longer. (More on this in a moment!)
  • Protein: Sometimes referred to as the “building blocks” of your body, protein is vital in the health of your muscles, skin, bones and more. It’s also key to losing weight and building muscle, among other health benefits.

And that’s not all. “Chia seeds are considered a superfood,” Czerwony says. “They have some nice vitamins and minerals, like phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc — though quite honestly, not too many people have those deficiencies.”

Can chia water really help you lose weight?

Chia seed water is exactly what it sounds like: A spoonful of chia seeds dropped into a glass of water. But why?

Chia seeds can absorb as much as 12 times their weight. When they get wet, they swell in size and take on a gelatinous texture — which is a polite way of saying that they get pretty slimy. Think tapioca, but less flavorful.

The idea behind drinking chia seed water is that the wet seeds will enlarge in your stomach and take up space, preventing you from getting hungry. That may, in turn, cause you to become less hungry and ultimately help you to lose weight.

So does it work? In a word, yes. Kind of.

“The chia seeds mix with the water and your gastric juices, and they expand in your stomach,” Czerwony confirms. “It keeps you fuller longer because it takes up space, and all of that soluble fiber slows down digestion.”

When your digestion slows, your body releases blood sugar at a slower rate, preventing the spikes and valleys in blood sugar that cause increased appetite (a.k.a. being “hangry”).

The risks of chia seed water

But Czerwony warns not to go overboard with the chia seed water. While it’s fine to do every once in a while, like to fend off that late-day urge to snack, it shouldn’t be seen as a key method for weight loss.

For starters, consuming chia seeds isn’t an alternative to a healthy diet — just a handy trick to be used on occasion. And if you’re gulping down a lot of fiber, be sure you’re also gulping down a lot of water, or you might end up with some pretty unpleasant digestive issues, including constipation, bloating and gas.

“Too much of a good thing is too much,” Czerwony says. “If you’re eating a lot of fiber and not drinking enough fluid along with it, the chia seeds will start to absorb the fluid in your gut and cause you to have hard stool.”

How to make chia seed water

Czerwony recommends putting one or two tablespoons of chia seeds in an eight- to 10-ounce glass of water. If you’ve never consumed the seeds before, you may want to start with a smaller amount to see how your body tolerates them.

And while you want to soak the seeds in water for a couple of minutes before consuming the concoction, don’t wait too long. “You’re going to have to drink it pretty quickly to get it down before it starts to solidify,” Czerwony advises.

The texture of chia seed water can be a little bit off-putting, to say the least, so feel free to flavor yours with lemon, lime, or whatever else makes it more palatable.

Alternatives to chia seed water

Not thrilled about glugging gelatinous goop? Chia seed water isn’t the only way to fill yourself up on fiber without going overboard on calories.

“Chia seed water is trendy right now, but it doesn’t do anything for your body that you couldn’t get from eating other sources of fiber,” Czerwony says. You’ll get the same effects from a big salad or a bowl of healthy oatmeal, which will keep you fuller longer than foods without a high fiber content.

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If you’re sold on chia, though, you can still enjoy the benefits of chia seeds without drinking them in water. Here are just a few other forms in which to enjoy them.

  • Berry Chia Seed Jam: Make your own tasty toast topping with blackberries, blueberries, strawberries or raspberries.
  • Chia and Berry Breakfast Pudding: This simple, healthy recipe tastes almost dessert-like. Want some alternative flavors? Try different toppings.
  • Morning Glory Chia Seed Muffins: These veggie-heavy breakfast treats are sweetened with dates and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.

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How to Use Chia Seeds for Weight Loss

Chia seeds on wooden spoon and vintage wooden background

Chia seeds have been popular in health food circles for years, for good reason — they’re relatively affordable, highly nutritious and while they’re moderately high in calories, one of the major chia seeds benefits is that their fiber content makes them a welcome addition to weight-loss diets.

Tip

One of the major chia seeds benefits is that you can mix them with other foods for nearly every meal to boost fiber content and possibly help with weight loss.

Weight Loss 101

No single food, even a nutrient-dense one like chia, can make or break your weight loss on its own. To lose weight the healthy way, you’ll need to follow a balanced diet that provides fewer calories than you burn each day — that way, your body taps into your fat stores as a source of energy.

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The number of calories you’ll need daily depends on several factors, including your height, weight, body composition, activity level, age and gender, and it can take some trial and error to figure out how many calories you burn each day. But cutting your calorie intake by 500 calories a day will help you lose an average of one pound a week, which is a safe rate for weight loss.

A 1-tablespoon serving of chia seeds provides 60 calories. Depending on your calorie needs, that might be a significant chunk of your daily calorie intake if you use more than a tablespoon or two, but you’ll also get a lot of nutritional value for your calorie investment, so chia is a worthwhile addition to your weight-loss diet.

Chia Seeds Benefits

Chia seeds come packed with dietary fiber — 4 grams per tablespoon. Adding them to a few meals or snacks can contribute toward your daily fiber intake goals. Health.gov’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories that you eat. A high fiber diet is helpful for weight loss, as well as managing cholesterol and blood sugar.

Research on chia seeds published in the April 2016 Journal of Food Science and Technology notes that chia seeds are beneficial for diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, among other benefits. A chia seed diet may help with weight loss, but there’s some conflicting evidence.

A study published in Nutrición Hospitalaria in December 2014 looked at the effect of eating ground chia seeds each day for 12 weeks. The authors found that the study subjects on the chia seed diet experienced slightly more weight loss and also had a small reduction in their waist size, which suggests that chia helped burn belly fat.

However, other studies suggest chia seeds benefits don’t include weight loss. So while chia has nutrients that promote weight loss, you shouldn’t count on a chia seed diet as a magic bullet to shed fat.

Enjoy Chia Seeds for Breakfast

Chia seeds can easily find their way into every meal of your day, but they’re especially great for breakfast. When using them, an important thing to remember is to mix chia seeds in water, or some other liquid before eating (or drinking) them.

When you mix chia seeds in water, they absorb liquid and swell in size. If you don’t mix chia seeds in water first, they’ll absorb the water in your GI tract, and you run the risk of a blockage.

Starting your day with a breakfast that contains chia can help you shed pounds. Not only is eating breakfast linked to better weight control, but starting your day with a fiber-rich food like chia could help you feel full longer and avoid snacking throughout the morning. Mix chia seeds with water or milk and add them to your oatmeal to boost the fiber and nutrients.

You can also add a spoonful of whole or ground chia seeds to your favorite smoothie. Not only does the chia make your smoothie more filling, but it absorbs water to make your beverage thicker and richer-tasting, so you’ll feel more satisfied.

Sprinkle ground chia into your eggs when you make scrambled eggs or omelets, or make three-ingredient “chia pancakes” using egg whites, banana puree and whole or ground chia seeds.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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