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April 29th, 2011
10:58 AM ET

Are chia seeds a 'superfood'?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Friday, it's Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist.

Question asked by Julie S. of Chicago, Illinois

What do you know/say about chia seeds? Are they really a "superfood?"
Expert answer:

There is no actual definition for a 'superfood', this is really just a marketing term, but foods mentioned in this category often contain above average amounts of health promoting nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and especially phytonutrients (plant based nutrients). Based on this definition, chia seeds would certainly qualify.

They are an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants, a good source of calcium, a good source of plant based protein and an excellent source of the plant derived omega 3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid) ALA similar to walnuts and flax. As with any nut or seed, they are low in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol, but like all nuts and seeds they are more calorie dense, 139 calories per ounce, so it is important to watch serving sizes and consume in moderation.

When chia seeds are combined with liquid (like water, milk, juice or yogurt), they form a gel due to the soluble fiber that they contain. This may have some benefit in terms of weight loss (although the research in this area is scant) by helping you feel fuller longer and also by delaying the increase in blood sugar of foods that you consume which contain chia seeds.

As with almost all foods, to get the most health benefits, chia seeds are best consumed in their whole state rather than consuming them as an oil or supplement (grinding them is ok too since it retains all the components of the seed). If you want to give them a try as part of your healthy eating regimen, they work well as a yogurt or oatmeal topping, tossed into a smoothie, or used as a binder and healthy fat in baked goods (particularly vegan or gluten free baking).

But as with any 'superfood', they work as part of an overall balanced diet that includes a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein, not as a replacement for or supplement to a poor diet.


soundoff (90 Responses)
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    March 17, 2012 at 09:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. kc

    I am surprised you do not bring up the cautions I've seen other places, especial for folks on blood pressure or blood thinning medications, as Chia is reported to increase the effects of both, which can be dangerous. It is also thought that it may effect the rate of metabolism of other medications. Anyone on medications should consult their physicion.
    http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/chia
    http://www.livestrong.com/article/440779-the-risk-of-chia-seeds/

    March 17, 2012 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kristen

      Funny thing about Chia seeds and meds. Anyone eating Chia is a health conscious person, typically. It seems funny to read that someone would need to worry about them clashing with their meds. Eat right and SERIOUSLY you would not need meds. Google THAT!

      May 4, 2012 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
  3. Rachel

    The above poster is correct, chia seeds have some side effects, see http://www.chiaseeds.us/chia-seeds-side-effects.htm

    March 30, 2012 at 04:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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  5. Hamish McBay

    Health foods are very much in the news these days, but sometimes people just don't know which one to go for. I understand that Wheatgrass is a very good superfood, so if you want to find out more (and perhaps get some recipies and more data) then can I suggest you check out http://www.wheatgrass-uk.com.

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  6. Kristen

    QUOTE
    This may have some benefit in terms of weight loss (although the research in this area is scant)

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  8. Chis Stalling

    Chia Seeds are a true super food, I have lost over 15lbs buy added them to my diet. I start off with adding Chia seeds to my oatmeal in the moring and also adding them to my protein shake later in the day. They keep me full and energized throughout the day. To read more about them check out http://www.chiaseedsselect.com

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  11. Storm

    I'm not a dr or nutrionist. I am constantly seeking new ways to improve my overall diet and health. I can't rely on drs because they focus on treating with medicine rather than diet and exercise which can prevent a lot of health issues as well as treat. I am actually experimenting with chia seeds now by incorporating them in my diet which is not perfect but I have come a long way. my question regarding chia seeds is, does it really have negative side effects with combined with prescribed meds? I have been a champion of the seeds and telling friends and family to go out and buy them who are currently taking prescribed meds. Should I be telling people to consult with their drs first?

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  12. Brandon Frey

    Chia seeds are indeed a superfood. Look at this article on all of the benefits from a runner's perspective
    <a href="http://forkstofeet.blogspot.com/2013/03/what-are-chia-seeds.html

    March 22, 2013 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Brandon Frey

    Copy and paste for more info on Chia from a runner's perspective

    http://forkstofeet.blogspot.com/2013/03/what-are-chia-seeds.html

    March 22, 2013 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Ian

    My experience of chia seeds on the whole is positive, I had a few irritations with them when I first started taking them, but this was down to a dosage issue. My fault.

    However I had a friend who started taking them and he had issues with his blood not clotting, this was because he was already on some medication for that.

    I guess the only sensible thing to say is that you should ask your doctor or pharmacist.

    I read an article (I'll include the link) which made me more cautious before just diving in and trying different stuff, but my thought is if I have to take something I would rather it be as natural as possible.

    http://aboutchia.com/index.php

    June 26, 2013 at 08:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Brent Brags

    chia is indeed a superfood. many people will add chia seeds to their food but are wary to add them into the drinks because of the gelatinous substance is creates. there is however a company which has made chia tea that brews in your cup. chiateastore.com best wishes to all chia lovers.

    October 10, 2013 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
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