Chia seeds have been growing in popularity for several years now. Like kale, spirulina and quinoa, they’ve ridden the crest of the superfood wave, becoming nutritional “it” items – must-have dietary staples beloved by savvy eaters the world over. And now there’s another reason to eat chia seeds: they’ve been shown to help with weight loss.
What Are Chia Seeds?
Grown primarily in Bolivia and Mexico, chia seeds are teeming with omega-3 fatty acids – healthful acids more commonly found in oily fish. They’re also a rich source of protein, fibre, calcium and antioxidants. In fact, they have three times more antioxidants than blueberries and twice as much protein as other seeds and grains. Talk about nutrient-rich!
While the eminence of some superfoods has only come to light in recent years, chia seeds have a historical precedence: they were prized by the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas for their health-enhancing properties.
Chia seeds are able to stabilise blood sugar levels, cleanse the colon to permit better nutrient absorption and waste elimination and also improve endurance. It is likely this latter benefit that the aforementioned cultures most revered.
Other Benefits of Chia Seeds? Weight Loss!
In a new randomised controlled trial, supplementing with chia seeds was shown to aid weight loss and reduce inflammation in overweight patients suffering from type-2 diabetes. The Canadian study contrasted the effects of two alternative calorie-restricted eating plans on a group of 77 participants. In one, subjects were given 30g of chia seeds each day, and in the other, 36g of oat bran.
As part of the trial, the dieters had to consult a dietician after a fortnight and then every six weeks for a period of six months; food diaries were also maintained to ensure strict compliance. When the study wrapped, the chia seed group showed impressive improvements in body weight and waist circumference. They also exhibited decreased levels of an inflammatory marker known as C-reactive protein.
‘How much weight exactly?’ you might be asking. Well, on average, participants supplementing with chia seeds lost 1.9kg compared to 0.3kg in the other group. This might not seem like a lot over a six-month period, but incorporating chia seeds into a healthy diet, along with a solid programme of exercise, is sure to bring about even better results.
What’s more, the chia seed group experienced a reduction in waist circumference of 3.5cm – compared to just 1.1cm in the control group. Given how stubborn belly fat can be, this is definitely worth crowing about! The researchers concluded that supplementing with chia seeds could promote weight loss, improve obesity-related risk factors and help maintain good glycemic control.
Exactly How Do Chia Seeds Help You Lose Weight?
So how exactly do chia seeds stimulate weight loss? The answer may lie in their effect on adiponectin, a protein involved in the breakdown of fat. In the individuals who consumed chia, a 6.5% increase in adiponectin levels was registered.
The ability of chia seeds to raise ALA levels could also be responsible, since research has shown high ALA levels to reduce ‘visceral adiposity’ in rats.
More generally, chia seeds’ slow-releasing carbohydrates might aid satiety, helping you feel fuller for longer.
How to Use Chia Seeds
One huge advantage of chia seeds is their versatility; they can be utilised in just about any meal. Making a stir fry? Toss a teaspoon of chia seeds into the wok and give it a stir. Yoghurt, porridge, salad, smoothie – the same rules apply. The seeds are perfect for enhancing the nutritional value of a meal without altering the taste, and the internet is littered with chia seeds recipes for you to try out.
Flax Seeds vs Chia Seeds vs Hemp Seeds
Of course, chia seeds aren’t the only superfood seeds that have been shown to entail health benefits. Hemp seeds, which are also rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are known to promote cardiovascular health too. What’s more, they contain all 20 amino acids, including the 9 classed as ‘essential’ that our bodies are unable to produce.
Budging hemp out of the limelight is flax seed, another wondrous seed bursting with protein, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous and omega-3. So just how on earth do you decide which seed you should be taking? Short answer: you don’t; you take all three.