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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 (100 Responses)
  1. RunCrissieRun

    I'm so excited to see this on CNN and getting mainstream attention. Chia seeds are fabulous – soak some for 20 minutes in vanilla soymilk with a bit of sweetener and cocoa powder, and you get vegan pudding!

    April 29, 2011 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brandy

      I take chia seeds whole, followed by water. It's easy and quick. I had read they were extremely high in omega-3s, and since anti-depressents haven't worked for me I gave chia a try. I noticed a positive difference almost immediately and I'm not the type to be fooled by the placebo effect. They don't make me feel full but after awhile I seemed to be satisfied with less to eat. It's only been a month now and I'm hoping for the best. It may not work for everyone but since they are so healthy I'd say give them a try. The only thing I've read on the negative side is that they naturally lower blood pressure and that could be dangerous for someone on bp lowering drugs.

      April 30, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse |
    • Denise

      I live in Fresno, CA..........where can you buy these?

      April 30, 2011 at 22:23 | Report abuse |
    • Not Not Denise

      Wow, Not Denise, in the amount of time it took you to demean Denise, you could have done something that is actually helpful, and assisted her with her question. Proud of yourself, though, aren't you!

      May 1, 2011 at 21:19 | Report abuse |
    • think

      http://www.google.com "how to use google"

      May 1, 2011 at 22:33 | Report abuse |
    • think

      Also, =! Den... spell check much?

      May 1, 2011 at 22:34 | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      denise: go to http://www.tryseed.com

      July 8, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
    • Monica

      Trying this as we speak.

      August 3, 2011 at 23:23 | Report abuse |
    • LohiLipoLaser

      Crissie! I have been eating my chia seeds the same way every morning for a month and I feel great! We recommend them to patients as a healthy way to get protein. I think they are FAB. http://www.lohilipolaser.com

      September 14, 2011 at 13:21 | Report abuse |
    • lol

      soy sucks, don't talk about what you don't know

      September 24, 2011 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      As an added benefit, green shoots began to come up immediately until my bald head was completely covered in chia. It's hard to comb, but easy to style.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:37 | Report abuse |
  2. erica

    I sprinkle some in my salad for a non-gelatinous crunch, or throw them in cereal (with soy milk). They are awesome! Of course, everyone who doesn't know about them things I'm crazy, but whatever!

    April 29, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bulligan97

      Read up on soy milk, there are better alternatives for you.

      April 30, 2011 at 09:05 | Report abuse |
  3. Dawn

    I throw them in my stir fry sauce, yogurt, baked goods, etc.

    April 29, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Fred Evil

    I'd try them, but I can't bear the thought of eating baby Chia Pets..

    April 29, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fred Fan

      lmao. Thanks! I needed that this morning! :o)

      April 30, 2011 at 07:33 | Report abuse |
  5. blf83

    Become your own chia pet! Will it make my hair grow?

    April 29, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. tiffany

    I know I am off topic but what ever happened to the blog
    This just in CNN

    April 29, 2011 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Rod C. Venger

    If only the Earth had two suns! My Chia Obama head just doesn't look right with green hair.

    April 29, 2011 at 17:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Jerry

    You mean there's now something even more useless and annoying than sesame seeds?!?

    April 29, 2011 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Jerry, check out what Dr Mehmet Oz has to say about chia the product is fantastic, helps beat Alzheimers,Breast Cancer and much much more

      May 2, 2011 at 15:51 | Report abuse |
  9. Julie

    Chia seeds? I've never heard of them. Seriously – are they the seeds you schmear onto a chia pet?
    And chia pets aside – where would they be in a grocery store? By the sesame seeds? *mystified* Where the heck are the sesame seeds?
    Tch. Maybe I'll just stick to wheat germ and die a few minutes before the chia seeders.

    April 29, 2011 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lily

      I only found out about them after reading about a turkey meatball recipe that had them in it and you don't even know they are there! They're wonderfully healthy and are a really great way to sneak in some extra nutrients in foods that you already like. I highly recommend them!

      April 29, 2011 at 21:04 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Chia seeds have been in health food stores since the 1970s at least, but they weren't promoted until recently because only recently has the medical community realized that fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein might be good for you. Eating chia seeds was a Native American way to run long distances when traveling across North America. Go ahead and smear them on your chia pet; I'll eat mine.

      April 30, 2011 at 02:00 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      You can also find them in Chocolate HIP cookies

      May 2, 2011 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Julie, check some simple facts google chia vs Flax you will be quite surprised we actually did 5000 free cookies to Dr Mehment Oz's Health Corps for an event of theirs Chia is amazing so are HIP Snacks and hip4Kids !

      May 2, 2011 at 16:08 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Food grade organic and Kosher Chia is not to be confused with the pet stuff Chia benefits aside of the huge hit of Omega 3 is worth a detour check out hipsnacks.com

      May 2, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse |
  10. Jenn

    A friend of my introduced me to this product a few months ago. I have been using a brand containing Chia Seed. I must say I feel amazing. I feel in love with it. Contact me for more information. milahealth@hotmail.com

    April 29, 2011 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • patricia

      I am thinking about chia seeds for weight loss but I just do know enough about the product.Your opinion on the chia seeds I will appreciate it. thank you Patricia

      October 28, 2011 at 11:14 | Report abuse |
  11. Brian

    You can often find chia near the flax seeds in the heath food/supplement section of the grocery store. Sometimes it can be found in the bulk food section of heath stores like Whole Foods.

    April 29, 2011 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Elizabeth

    Years ago, I heard about chia seeds, and their energy boosting capabilities. I also found out that they tend to settle upset stomachs; I'm not sure if the fiber deals with the acid, or if the gel soothes the stomach, but they sure work. Major drug companies keep everything but synthetic drugs out of the pharmacy manuals, so medical professionals don't know about them. Few medical professionals study nutrition at all; they think that dead molecules and dead cadavers are all they need to know.

    April 30, 2011 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Gary A Brinkerhoff

    Subject; Chia Seeds – , Primary Use; Used by the Indians when no food, or less food And water available in Deserts and while traveling fast in all areas. A pinch of seads in the mouth at times to allow them to soften for injestion, till they arrive at there destination. Chia seeds causes the sun in deserts to effect them less And gives them the strength to keep going. Thou Medical Science can not accertain the Drug in chia seeds which causes chea seeds to cause a person to be strengthend by using them. When stopping using chea seeds for food and using regular food for injestion. A person will feel Down, IE, perhaps evan Suicidal if a person did not understand why they are feeling this way for a day or two. When using Chea seeds in foods, use them sparingley. This should should cancle out the danger. I tested these chia seeds out 25 to 30 years ago. What i print here is real. gabrink45

    April 30, 2011 at 04:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Sunny

    Again we are finding another food that has been in use in India for many centuries, now the west is discovering it. This is called Takmaria in India and used to add to desserts and cold milk shakes.

    April 30, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eric Wood

      Isn't Takmaria BASIL seeds?

      October 31, 2011 at 14:49 | Report abuse |
  15. Nick

    I read about chia in the book, Born to Run, and how the Tarahumara used them as their energy/endurance source on their long runs. Further research led me to the same conclusions as Dr. Jampolis–they certainly qualify for that SUPERFOOD label. I started mixing/soaking the seeds with water, adding a splash of cranberry juice, and drinking first thing in the morning. Not only was I getting a massive blast of nutrition but, because of the low glycemic load, my blood sugar didn't spike and I felt a uniform distribution of energy without cravings. The fiber content added to that feeling of fullness and helps with flushing the toxins out of my body. The result? I lost 25 pounds (240 lbs to 215 lbs) and feel GREAT. So great, in fact, that I started a company with a colleague because we couldn't find a high quality source of chia. In our opinion, our chia is the most pure and highest quality on the market. If you want more information, please visit http://www.healthwarrior.com (check out 'how to chia' section) or email me: nick@healthwarrior.com.

    April 30, 2011 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. bill

    The people know there are benefits and the government can't leave folks alone with what they ingest.
    Shouldn't there be a world wide eradication effort/ police state set up to imprison those that choose to use a plant of their choice?
    Works for marijuana. Now everyone is afraid to use marijuana, right?
    Thanks to CNN for bringing this menace to the attention of law enfarcement. Now they have another witch hunt to perpetrate via tax dollars. POLICE!!!!! SEARCH WARRANT!!!!!!! HANDS UP!!!!!! CH ch ch Chia!!!!!

    April 30, 2011 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. BMc

    O boy. I cant wait to get my Chia pets for next Christmas so I can eat them.

    April 30, 2011 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. dean

    egg based chirps have all of those key ingreeds http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQW4tJknGW8

    April 30, 2011 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. ChiaLuvver

    Chia is some of the greatest stuff on the planet! Mix 1/3 cup with a Lg. bottle of apple juice, shake well & let sit for about 20 min. to "gel" then shake well. You'll get the same "energy rush" as you get from those nasty so-called energy drinks & supplements with no caffeine or chemicals! Once mixed with water, chia gel can be used to replace milk or eggs in many recipes or use the gel to dredge chicken or other meats before breading. BTW, chia comes in two varieties – black or white. Go for the black if you can get it! Because chia absorbs 9 times its own weight in liquid, and then slowly releases it into your system, it helps you stay hydrated on hot days and help to regulate blood sugar. Look for organically grown, non-GMO seeds. Give the stuff a try!

    April 30, 2011 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. DoWeNeedToGoThere

    Good news to read about...but I am always amazed at how many millennia we as a species have lived *without* some supplemental things. I mean, how did our ancestors survive without chia seeds??? *gasp* *shock*

    April 30, 2011 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JGex

      Um, some of these "supplemental" type foods and other edible plants and grains WERE eaten by various different indigenous cultures where these plants grew natively. Just because you never heard of them doesn't make it so.

      May 1, 2011 at 21:21 | Report abuse |
    • Duane

      In western society we eat a fraction of the variety of food that our ancestors used to eat. Chia has been and is still eaten around the world. It is too bad that we depend so much on factory farming and rely less and less on the vast variety of edible food that is to be found around us.

      May 1, 2011 at 23:48 | Report abuse |
  21. Linda B. from MS

    I use chia seed in my morning oatmeal, along with a scant handful of walnuts, 1 packet of Splenda and a dash of salt. I'm diabetic and on several medications, including a statin. The only dietary change I have made in the last six months is the addition of chia seeds in the morning. For the first time in well over a decade, I had normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels when I had a lipid panel run in January. I get it at the health food store (black chia seed) and use about a TBsp. daily.

    Works for me.

    May 1, 2011 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Leo

    Think of the chia pets! Who will think of the poor chia pets?!? Oh god, the humanity of it all!

    May 1, 2011 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Luke

    Chia seeds ought to be classified as companion animals! This is an outrage!

    May 2, 2011 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Don

    I found a very good nutritional profile of chia seeds at http://www.chiaseedsdirect.com. A lot of good recipes, too.

    May 3, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. BUY CHIA

    A lot of information and great price can be found @ http://www.buychia.com ! reciepes and how to eat

    May 11, 2011 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. nanafana

    Could the chia seeds cause kidney stones?

    May 16, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. patricia wiercinski

    On azchia.com, there are free recipes for using chia. You can order from this website as well.

    May 17, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. AP33

    http://www.RuthsFoods.com is my favourite source of Chia! They have Chia Goodness & straight Chia available across North America! 6X the calcium of milk, the best vegan source of Omega 3 there is, plus protein & fibre, filling, nutrient dense nutrition! Check out the website & Facebook Page! https://www.facebook.com/RuthsFoods

    June 2, 2011 at 01:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. AP33

    Chia recipes & videos here! http://ruthsfoods.com/recipes.html

    June 2, 2011 at 02:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. liz weyand

    I started the chia seed therapy last October. I put 2 tsp. of chia seeds in my water bottle each morning. I have noticed all menopause symptoms have disappeared. I sleep the entire night. No more hot flashes. Incredible.

    June 22, 2011 at 18:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Kimmy

    Chia should really be label as a superfood with all the benefits you can get in it.There's no side effects like drugs that you take.

    For more info about chia. check Hidalgo Foods

    July 8, 2011 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Stacy

    Like one of the previous comments I learned about chia seeds in Chris McDougall's book Born To Run. I've been adding them to my morning smoothie, and also put some of them in my water bottle that I take running with me. I noticed an increase in energy almost immediately after starting to use chia seeds.

    August 7, 2011 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Jill

    My husband started taking Mila, a blend of chia seed, two months ago. His heartburn went away, no longer has joint pain and he has lost weight. I have been taking it for a couple weeks and feel better and have more energy. I have heard amazing stories of healing when people take Mila. For more info or to order check out my website http://www.lifemax.net/jjralph

    August 11, 2011 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Margaret

    For more information about chia seeds, and some recipe ideas, check out my website: http://www.chiativity.org

    August 15, 2011 at 08:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Peter G

    you can buy Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Omega-3 Chia Seeds here: http://www.chia.com/chiaseeds

    September 1, 2011 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. roofcleaningtampa

    I have taken Chia Seed for breakfast every morning. I clean roofs here in Tampa Florida out in the hot sun,and they give me energy.

    September 27, 2011 at 23:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Mystie

    Chia is a 'wonderful gift from Nature,' and the health benefits of this Superfood is so amazing!... Make chia a part of your healthy lifestyle...surely these little seeds will draw you closer to GOD... GOD LOVES US!...

    October 7, 2011 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Mystie

    CHIA SEEDS PHILIPPINES
    http://www.rightharvest.com.ph
    http://www.facebook.com/rightharvest

    Welcome to RIGHT HARVEST! GOD LOVES US!...

    October 7, 2011 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Mystie

    Thank you so much CNN! More Blessings!...GOD LOVES US!...

    October 7, 2011 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. nikke

    I'm going out now too buy my seeds I'm hoping for the best- energy, weight loss, mood boost all around better me

    October 17, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. PPeter

    It may be good for you but just hold on, this is America, some pharmaceutical co. will make a study that says this stuff will have bad side effects and have to go buy their pills.

    October 19, 2011 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Yule

    I ate my Chia Pet; it tasted good. So I ate my cat too. And then I started eating my neighbors' cats and dogs; so that's how it started.

    October 30, 2011 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Yule

    It's True. Chia seeds taste much better than Flax and has a much longer shelf life. But since they go with so much more than Flax they don't last that long. And 15-20 minutes after eating it, I do feel the fullness. And, I don't know if it's my imagination but the hair on my head looks and feels alot thicker and fuller now, no more bald spot.

    October 30, 2011 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Debra Wilson

    I have taken 2 tbsp ground flax in big glass of water every morning for about 10 years. I like that Chia is high in calcium so anxious to try it. Is ground Chia better than the seeds? or does it matter. Flax has to be grounded to release the Omega oils - ?same with Chia. How much Chia grounded or seeds is safe per day? Would love to hear responses.

    December 31, 2011 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Deb

    I am trying my first cia seeds today . I don't know so many people on here are making fun of this product. I have very high hopes for using it and becoming more healthy with it. I wll post to let you know how great I will be doing.

    January 17, 2012 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Mary Ellen

    I distribute a proprietary blend of chia seeds called Mila. I have been taking them for about 8 months and feel great. I was in a bit of slump and felt much better after adding Mila to my diet...more energy and mental clarity. I love getting protein from a plant source . Most people eating the "western" diet are deficient in Omega 3s. Google Omega 3 and medical studies, you will be amazed. All Chia is not created equal due to the climate and soil content of where it is grown which gives each crop a different level of nutrition. And Lifemax is the only company I know of the blends different seeds to get maximum guaranteed nutrition in every bag. Check out Mila at my site http://www.lifemax.net/meh.

    January 31, 2012 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Wayne

    Let's face it folks, there is so much information overload out there that you really have to do your own research to find the truth. Most doctors and so called specialist haven't got a clue. They don't even in most cases look for the cause they only treat the symptom. They will put down any natural thing that might help you but readily prescribe drugs that have known side effects or could even kill you. It is all about the money. Which ever item a company has the most access to at the cheapest price is what they will promote as the best thing for you. Every time you turn around someone has the next best superfood or vitanim mix that is better than something else and will make you feel great. They know people are tired of not feeling well and want answers. So, ask questions, read labels, do your research, get the facts and take care of your health. Only you and God really care about taking care of you, unless you are one of the lucky ones to have found a true knowledgealbe health care person that wants the best for you and not themselves! In other words, your money.

    February 3, 2012 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
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  50. Marissa

    I tried chia seeds for the first time this morning using a recipe from http://www.choosingraw.com and it was prety good! Basically I just blended 2tbs of chia seeds with 3/4c almond milk, a few cashews, a pitted date, 1/4tsp cinnamon and 1/4tsp garam masala – a chia chai pudding essentially. It really had a pudding-like texture! I am excited to try it with cocoa powder and peanut butter, or cocoa powder and fresh berries... many possabilities! Also, in the 2tbs I used this morning, there was 70 calories but a full 10% of daily calcium intake and 8% of daily iron (among all the other benefits described above). Pretty impressive!

    February 14, 2012 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.