Chia Seeds – Pros & Cons, Benefits & Warnings

Chia seeds are considered today as a "superfood". It is high in fiber, aids in digestion, and has a low glycemic index. But it is not for everyone. Here are some warnings...

 

Today I want to discuss Chia seeds. It’s one of those “health foods” that is misunderstood. Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the plant Salvia hispanica, which is related to mint.

chia plant

Chia seeds were an important food for the Aztecs and Mayans for thousands of years. They utilized them for their ability to provide sustainable energy.

In fact, “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength“.

In recent modern days, the Chia Seeds are considered by many to be a “superfood”. Some people even call them one of the healthiest foods on the planet.

And if you take a look at the benefits, you can see why.

Benefits & Pros of Chia Seeds

They’re very high in fiber, which is good for a healthy colon and it can keep you full for longer periods of time. This also helps with weight loss.

They are high in calcium, magnesium, and boron, which is important for strong bones.

When mixed with water, they form a gel that aids in digestion.

They’re high in important omega 3 fats… which I’ll discuss in further detail in a minute because it can actually be a negative aspect of this benefit, specifically for chia seeds.

chia benefits

It’s well balanced in the macronutrients because it contains a good ratio of fats, carbs, and proteins.

It’s also good if you’re worried about blood sugar. It has a low glycemic index and load and it also contains no sugar.

So all in all, you can see why it really is very healthy.

Cons & Warnings of Chia Seeds

So, let’s discuss some of the potential “cons” and I’ll end with an important warning.

Some people are allergic to chia seeds. Sometimes it’s subtle and other times it’s very evident. And I’ll tell you why this happens in a minute. But pay attention to symptoms and signs such as rashes, hives, and watery eyes. There are also those common ones which are usually related to foods in general, such as trouble in breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling of the tongue.

Another problem is stomach and gastrointestinal problems, such as gas, bloating, and constipation.

Something else that most people don’t know is that Chia seeds can thin the blood and can also lower blood pressure, which can actually be a benefit if you suffer from poor circulation and hypertension. But if you don’t, it could cause you to pass out or become fatigued.

And the biggest problem I’ve realized is that despite the fact they are high in omega 3 fats, which are typically anti-inflammatory, the Chia seeds actually INCREASE inflammatory markers and this is because of 2 reasons.

1 – Poor Conversions

Omega 3 fats are best consumed from fish sources – food or oil. But vegetarian sources such as seeds, like Flax or Chia, typically only contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

ALA is not as active in the body and must be converted to two other forms of omega-3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — to have the same health benefits as fish omega 3s.

Unfortunately, your body’s ability to convert ALA is limited. Only about 5% of ALA is converted to EPA, while less than 0.5% is converted to DHA. And the older we get, the worse the conversions.

ala to epa and dha

Thus, just because it’s “high” in omega 3 fats, does NOT mean your body converts and utilizes it. However, if you don’t want to have any fish products, then these vegetarian sources are all you’ve got – but you’ll need a higher dosage to get the same benefits of fish oils.

2 – Higher In Lectins

The second reason for the inflammation is because they are higher in lectins.

And lectins cause inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, decrease the immune system, exacerbate autoimmune conditions, and lots of other negative things.

However, Chia seeds are not super high in lectins, it’s more of a “medium-high” food. So, if you want to eat them, don’t go overboard, less is best. And it’s best to soak them in water first for an hour or two.

As with everything, test small and see how you feel and look. Then, increase the amount or dosage and continue to monitor how you look and feel. If everything is good and you feel great, then keep doing it.

If not, then this or some other particular food doesn’t work for your body type, genetics, and hormones. At least you know.

The hardest part is to pay attention to the minor changes in your body — good or bad. When you eat food, you should feel good, energized, and it should continue that way for many hours.

So, there you have it. Enjoy your chia seeds.

Watch out for potential allergies and inflammation due to lectins.

Pay attention to how you look and feel. Test small and increase, as long as you feel good.