The Truth About Whether Chia Seeds Can Really Help You Lose Weight
Chia seeds are all over Instagram these days—in everything from puddings to smoothies.
With good reason, too. These small black seeds, responsible for a flowering plant in the mint family called salvia hispanica, are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in protein (four grams per one-ounce serving) and omega-3 fatty acids, per the USDA. Plus, the nutrient-rich seed is loaded with 11 grams of fiber per serving, which can help with everything from weight loss to satiety.
“Many Americans are falling short of the recommendations for fiber intake, and incorporating chia into snacks and recipes can be one step towards getting more fiber,” says Cara Harbstreet, RD, of Street Smart Nutrition.
But can chia seeds really help me lose weight?
All that fiber in chia seeds could certainly help. Increased fiber intake can help with weight-loss goals, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Chia seeds are also a good source of protein, which is an important piece to the weight-loss puzzle. In a study published in Nutrition Metabolism, dieters who increased their protein intake to 30 percent of their diet ate nearly 450 fewer calories a day and lost about 11 pounds over the 12-week study without employing any other dietary measures.
Ultimately, though, weight loss is all about paying attention to your overall diet and exercise routine—not about eating more (or less) of one certain food. “No single food or ingredient is able to do that, so if you’re hoping for chia to solve your health concerns or be the catalyst for dramatic weight loss, I recommend reaching out to a dietitian for support for your individual goals,” says Harbstreet.
That also means chia seeds won’t help you burn belly fat—or magically boost your metabolism.
Are there side effects to eating chia seeds?
A serving size of chia seeds is about one ounce, or two tablespoons—and there’s a reason for that limit.
“Chia isn’t likely to cause a reaction or trigger symptoms, as with some other foods that are known allergens or spark GI-related symptoms,” says Harbstreet. “That being said, a sudden and drastic increase in fiber intake could potentially cause some ‘misbehavior,’ especially for people who previously consumed very little fiber.” Too much fiber often translates to bloating and diarrhea—fun!
You might also find yourself feeling fuller than usual after eating chia seeds—for better or for worse. Think about it this way: Have you ever seen chia seed pudding at your local health food store, or made it on your own at home? If so, then you’ve seen how the seeds absorb liquid and expand in volume. Now imagine that expansion happening…inside your stomach.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing—unless you’re loading up on chia seeds in favor of other foods. “It’s not an issue to eat to fullness, but if it’s replacing other foods in your diet, you may be inadvertently reducing the variety of foods and nutrients in your overall eating pattern,” says Harbstreet.
How should I eat chia seeds?
Good news! It’s super-simple to add chia to your diet. A relatively tasteless seed, they’re easy to sprinkle on yogurt or blend into your morning sip. “You can eat them raw, toasted, soaked, or cooked,” says Becky Kerkenbush, RD, and medical representative to the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “They can also make a great egg substitution in baking, by combining one tablespoon ground chia seeds with three tablespoons water to replace one egg.” Now, who’s down for yogurt parfaits?!
The bottom line: Chia seeds might help you feel satiated, but long-term weight loss will require rethinking your overall diet and nutrition plan.
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