Chia Seeds (Salvia Hispanica)

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Chia (botanically Salvia Hispanica) is a member of Lamiaceae, mint family. The seeds of Chia plant are commonly used as a super-food for their nutritional and other health benefits. Chia seeds are a rich source of fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids in form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. These seeds have similar health benefits as flax seeds, so chia seeds are considered as the best alternative to flax seeds. Chia seeds contain slightly more fiber content than flax seeds.

Chia seeds are beneficial for the skin, digestion, heart, metabolism, bones, muscles and teeth. The omega-3 fatty acids in them improve skin health and promote hair growth. Chia is also beneficial for cardiovascular health and promotes healthy brain functions. It helps to lose weight and prevents heart diseases. The fiber content in chia seeds treats constipation and prevents sudden spikes in blood sugar after eating.

Medicinal Parts

  • Seeds of Chia Plant

Seeds are edible part of the chia plant. These are mucilaginous and rich in fiber content along with other nutrients.

Phytochemistry (Chemical Composition)

Chia seeds contain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and omega-3 fatty acids in form of in form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and omega-6 fatty acids in form of Linoleic acid (LA). Seeds of chia are a good source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. However, seeds contain 5 times more insoluble fiber content than soluble fiber. 9.4 grams fiber is present in 25 grams serving of chia seeds. Therefore, chia seeds have high water holding ability. (1, 2)

NutrientsChia seeds contain:
Protein19-23% (3)
Non-fibrous carbohydrates26-41% of the seed by dry weight (4)
Fatty acids30-33% of total seed weight or 25-35% of dry seed weight (4)
Fiber30-37.6% (around 9.4 grams per 25 grams serving) (1)
Kaempferol1.1mM/kg (5)
Quercetin0.2mM/kg (5)
Myricetin3.1mM/kg (5)
Cinnamic acid
Caffeic acid6.6mM/kg (hydrolyzed seeds contains 13.5mM/kg) (5)
Chlorogenic acid7.1mM/kg (5)
Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA)17.6% of dry weight (4.4 grams per 25 grams serving) (1); can increase up to 69% upon hydrolyzation (5); or believed to contain up to 50-57% of total fatty acids in chia seeds (6)
Linoleic acid46.3% of total fatty acids, but decline after hydrolyzation to 15.3% (5); 17-26% of total fatty acids (6); generally accepted to contain around 20% of total fatty acids (4)
Oleic acid21.3% of total fatty acids (5)
Stearic acid16.2% of total fatty acids (5)
Palmitic acid9.9% of total fatty acids (5)

Chia Seeds Nutrition

ProximatesValue per 28 g (1 ounce)% of RDA
Calorie Information
Total Calories1377%
   From Carbohydrate50
   From Fat72
   From Protein15
Major Nutrients
Water1.4 g
Total Protein4.4 g
Total Fat (Lipids)8.6 g13%
   Saturated Fat0.9 g4%
   Monounsaturated fat0.6 g
   Polyunsaturated fat6.5 g
   Omega-3 fatty acids4915 mg
   Omega-6 fatty acids1620 mg
Minerals
Calcium177 mg18%
Phosphorus265 mg27%
Manganese0.6 mg30%
Zinc1 mg7%
Copper0.1 mg3%
Potassium44.8 mg1%
Sodium5.3 mg0%
Vitamins
Total ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)0.45 mg
Thiamin (Vitamin B1)0.17 mg
Riboflavin0.05 mg
Niacin2.5 mg
Vitamin A15 IU

Pharmacological Actions

Chia seeds have potent antioxidant action, which is mainly responsible for its most of health benefits. The nutritious content also supports to maintain the good health.

The fibrous content also prevents sudden spikes in blood sugar after eating, so it might help to reduce postprandial glucose, but has no positive effects on fasting blood sugar (FBS).

The local application of chia seed paste or chia oil acts as demulcent and makes skin moister.

Medicinal Properties

Chia seeds have following healing properties.

  • Antioxidant
  • Cardioprotective
  • Anti-proliferative
  • Anti-cancer
  • Mild appetite suppressant
  • Mild anti-obesity (might be due to appetite suppressant action, but the effects are not significant to reduce to weight.)

Therapeutic Indications

Chia seeds might help in following health conditions.

  • Postprandial Hyperglycemia – raised blood glucose level after eating
  • Food craving (mild effect and make you feel satiety)

Chia Seed Benefits

Chia seeds (Salvia Hispanica) have a high nutritional and therapeutic value. Nutritionally, chia seeds are a rich source of fiber, several minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are known for boosting energy level and improving physical endurance. They provide strength to the body and promote hair growth, improve skin health, prevent premature aging, and strengthen the bones and muscles.

Therapeutically, seeds are restorative for the digestive system, prevent cardiovascular diseases, and improve the overall health of several organs in the human body. Chia seeds benefits include their ability to reduce the risk of cancer. It can also be used for the management of obesity. The use of Chia seeds is recommended for the patients suffering from high cholesterol.

Food Craving

Chia seeds have appetite suppressant action. In diabetic people, a decrease in appetite is linked with attenuation of postprandial hyperglycemia. (7)

This action is likely to be attributed to the high insoluble fiber content in chia seeds, which delays the absorption of other foods and produces a feeling of abdominal fullness and satiety.

Postprandial Hyperglycaemia (PPHG)

Post-prandial hyperglycemia (PPHG) is a condition in which blood sugar level increases following a meal. In this case, chia seeds prevent sudden spikes in blood sugar after a meal. (7)

Like other fiber rich foods, the high fiber content is likely to be responsible for controlling the post-prandial hyperglycemia, which might delay the absorption of the sugar from the foods.

However, chia seeds have no influence on fasting blood sugar (FBS), HbA1c and insulin. (8)

Obesity or overweight

Chia Seeds have been traditionally used to treat obesity. It is one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity worldwide. Obesity is also a common precursor to several health problems such as hypertension, high cholesterol, stroke, heart attack, and diabetes.

Obesity is associated with the accumulation of fats and the resultant expansion of adipose tissues in the body. Chia Seeds possesses potent bioactive constituents that are responsible for the weight loss promoting effects of this herb. These constituents promote the breakdown of fats and prevent expansion of adipose tissues in the body.

Chia seeds have been found to be beneficial in the treatment of obesity. It helps the patients to lose weight and reduce the risk of its complications. It influences the metabolism of fats and promotes the fat burning processes.

It also reduces the cravings and appetite of the obese patients thus limiting their intake of calories. This helps to create a negative calorie balance as the intake of calories becomes less compared to the calories required by the body to carry out different functions. This forces the body to utilize the stored fats to meet its fuel requirements. This helps to promote weight loss.

The usefulness of Chia Seeds as a natural anti-obesity remedy has been proven during research. The study was conducted to evaluate the effect of Chia seeds on the fatty acid composition of the body. The effect of this rich source of omega-3 fatty acid on the cholesterol levels was also assessed.

The results of this study indicated that Chia seeds could significantly lower the saturated fatty acid content. The body weight was also significantly lower in the participants that were fed the Chia seeds diet as compared to the control group. The findings of this study suggest that Chia Seeds could be used as a weight loss remedy. (9)

Hypercholesterolemia

Chia Seeds can be used to reduce the cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides can lead to the deposition of plaques in the inner walls of the blood vessels making them narrower. As a result, the blood flow to the vital organs of the body such as the heart and brain is affected. This can increase the risk of life-threatening diseases such as myocardial infarction, and stroke. Chia Seeds can help to reduce the cholesterol levels and prevent these conditions.

Chia Seeds possess hypolipidemic properties. It helps to regulate the fat metabolism. It also improves the ability of the body to utilize fats thus reducing the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Chia Seeds also contains alpha-linolenic acid, which improves adiposity and prevents Hypercholesterolemia.

Chia seeds have been proven to reduce the cholesterol level. These properties have been confirmed by scientific research. The study was aimed at evaluating the efficacy of alpha-linolenic acid-rich Chia Seeds on adiposity and fat metabolism. The ability of Chia seeds to regulate insulin resistance was also studied in the dyslipidemic rats.

During this research, dyslipidemia and insulin resistance were induced in the experimental rats through the administration of a sucrose-rich diet. The rats were fed the diet for 3 months following which half of the animals were continued with the same diet and the rest of the animals were fed a diet in which the source of fat was replaced by Chia seeds.

The results of this study showed that Chia seeds could prevent the onset of dyslipidemia and insulin resistance in the rats. There was also a reduction in the visceral adiposity. The study has confirmed the beneficial effect of Chia seeds on glucose and lipid homeostasis in an experimental model of insulin resistance and dyslipidemia. (10)

Cancer

Chia seeds can be used for the management of cancer. They can help to prevent the growth of cancer cells by inducing apoptosis. They also have the ability to reduce the risk of cancer. It is particularly beneficial in the management of breast cancer and cervical cancer.

Chia seeds contain alpha linolenic acid which causes a significant reduction in the nitric oxide release together with a simultaneous increase in the lipid peroxidation. It also decreases the mitochondrial membrane potential and causes activation of the caspase 3, thus inducing apoptosis. Thus, alpha-linolenic acid present in Chia seeds also prevents the growth of cancer cells through the activation of lipid peroxidation, regulation of nitric oxide release and inducing apoptosis.

The anticancer effect of alpha-linolenic acid present in Chia Seeds on the nitric oxide release and the induction of lipid peroxidation in the breast and cervical cancer cell lines were investigated during research.

The cells treated with alpha linolenic acid showed a dose-dependent reduction in the viability in the cervical and breast cancer cell lines. There was also a significant reduction in the release of nitric oxide and a rise in the lipid peroxidation. These findings suggest that alpha-linolenic acid in Chia Seeds has the ability to prevent the cancer growth by supporting apoptosis. (11)

Constipation

Chia seeds contain a high amount of insoluble fiber content due to which they should be beneficial in constipation. But the fact is entirely opposite and need a deep understanding.

Chia seeds absorb water like Psyllium Husk but make gel-like consistency. This gel-like material that forms in the gut after eating chia seed reduces its effect on constipation.

If seeds are taken without plenty of water, they are likely to cause constipation because they will absorb the available water from the gut. Instead of making bulk, they make a sticky gel-like substance in the intestine, which sticks to the walls of the intestine and causes a delay in the bowel movement.

However, 1 hour soaked chia seeds can actually absorb sufficient water outside, which does not likely to affect intestinal water content when eaten. Instead, they will help to keep stools moister and assist in forming a bulk, which is likely to stimulate a bowel movement. Theoretically, soaked chia seeds might be best for easing the bowel movement in people suffering from constipation.

Furthermore, the results with chia seeds in constipation vary person-to-person. Therefore, Psyllium Husk is a better option for constipation than chia seeds.

Safety Profile

Chia seeds are LIKELY SAFE in most people when included into the diet gradually starting from low amounts.

Side Effects of Chia Seeds

Chia seeds cause abdominal discomfort due to high fiber content. It generally occurs in people who take the seeds the first time and in larger amounts. To prevent this side effect, one can start taking it in low amounts i.e. 5 grams per day and gradually increase it to 1 ounce (28 grams).

Pregnancy

Chia seeds are POSSIBLY SAFE for expectant mothers. Generally, chia seeds provide good nutrition and boost energy level in the pregnant women. Seed porridge is a good recipe for pregnant women.

Lactation

Chia seeds are also POSSIBLY SAFE for lactating mothers. Due to high nutritional value, these seeds can be included in the food.

Precautions

  • Chia seeds are rich in fiber content, suddenly increasing intake of high dietary fiber can cause digestive upset. Therefore, incorporate chia seeds into your diet gradually to prevent this side effect.
  • Chia seeds can absorb 27 times more water than its weight forming hydrogel capsule. It can result in esophageal obstruction. Therefore, these seeds should not be taken in dry form by people having the previous history of dysphagia or esophageal obstruction. The best way to consume chia seeds is to soak them in water and allow them to expand before eating. Alternatively, ground chia seeds can be mixed in water for 15 to 30 minutes before taking. They can also be consumed making seed porridge or Chia Seed Pudding.

Chia Seed Allergy

In some people, hypersensitivity reaction can occur with intake of chia seeds, which is characterized by skin rashes, watery eyes, hives, diarrhea, bloating, gas, swelling of tongue, mouth, and throat, breathing difficulty, vomiting, etc. For more detail Read Article: Chia Seed Allergy

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