So, I finally did it; I broke down and bought some chia seeds. I’ve been reading about them for several months and wanted to try them, but we still have this whole jar of flax seed, and do we really need another seed in the fridge? But, this weekend, I went to Austin to visit some friends and one of them mentioned how eating chia seeds had really improved her complexion.
“Really?” I said. And that’s how it goes sometimes; you think your decisions are all to benefit your long-term health, but in the end, vanity wins. I bought chia seeds this weekend not to decrease my risk of heart disease or high blood pressure, but to get awesome skin.
So what are the benefits of chia seeds?
For those of you a little less vain than I, and are interested in integrating these little seeds for loftier reasons than a nice complexion, there are quite a few health benefits as well. Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, so in theory they should be good for your heart and your gut. But, I wanted to know whether the research actually supports the claims, and here’s what I found. Chia seed consumption was found to decrease blood triglycerides and increase HDL (the good cholesterol) in rats who consumed large amounts in their feed (Ayerza 2007). Adding chia seeds to a sugary diet also improved blood sugar and insulin levels in rats, especially in those who had markers for diabetes (Chicco 2009). Both studies sound exciting, but the effects in humans are not as conclusive. Neimen et al gave overweight adults two servings of chia seeds every day for 12 weeks and saw no improvements in body weight, body composition, inflammation, or blood pressure. However, this study did not control for the diet of the participants. When all participants were on a reduced calorie diet, adding a mixture of chia seed, soy and oats led to a greater reduction in inflammation, and markers of diabetes.
So should we eat chia seeds?
Mostly, yes. Certainly they don’t seem to be a miracle drug, and if you don’t make any other changes to your habits, chia seeds probably won’t reverse your heart disease or diabetes. But, they do appear to give you an extra boost when combined with other healthy choices. So, if you’re looking to improve your overall health, chia seeds are a great addition to a healthy life.
How do I eat them?
They are teeny-tiny seeds that you can sneak in almost anywhere. They don’t need to be ground up to be absorbed (unlike flax), so you can sprinkle them on salads, on yogurt or even eat them plain. I’ve been adding them to my morning smoothie to make it a little more filling; the fatty acids and fiber help increase satiety. Another goofy thing about chia seeds is that if you let them sit in water for a few minutes, they create a gelatin, similar to tapioca. You can use the gel to make super-healthy desserts!
Have you ever tried chia seeds? I’ll let you know if I think they actually help your complexion!