Don’t be fooled by the small size of chia seeds. These tiny seeds are power-packed with innumerable health benefits and were first discovered by the ancient Aztecs and Mayans. Messengers, in particular, were known to run long distances solely on the energy provided by chia seeds. In fact, the word chia means ‘strength’ in the Mayan language.

Tiny black seeds of the plant Salvia Hispanica, chia seeds are rich in magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.[1] They are a part of the whole grains family and are naturally gluten-free. They are loaded with antioxidants that fight free radicals, which damage cells and contribute to cancer and aging.[2,3,4,5]

Chia seeds have a high fiber content that allows them to absorb 10-12 times their weight in water. They become gel-like and expand in the stomach, making you feel full and curbing your hunger pangs.[6] They are also a good source of essential amino acids, which the body uses to make proteins for growth, repair of body tissues and breakdown of food.[7,8]

Chia seeds are also rich in protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, that reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, curb inflammation and increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lowering your risk of heart disease.[9,10] Animal studies, too, have found that they decrease insulin resistance and reduce belly fat.[11,12] 

Chia Seeds For Diabetes
A malfunction of the body’s metabolism, diabetes causes abnormal levels of blood sugar. Insulin—a hormone produced by the pancreas—plays a vital role in helping the cells absorb glucose. If there is an insufficient production of insulin, cells do not absorb glucose and blood sugar rises. The levels also increase if cells do not respond to insulin appropriately.

Animal studies show that chia seeds reduce insulin resistance and improve control over blood sugar levels that can decrease the risk for metabolic syndrome, heart disease and help manage diabetes.[13,14,15,16]

Clinical studies have shown that bread made from chia seeds causes a reduced blood sugar response compared to traditional bread.

How To Take Them

  • Soak 1tsp chia seeds in a cup of water. They’ll develop a gelatinous coating after 15 minutes. Strain them and add to a glass of your favorite fruit smoothie. Drink twice daily to keep blood sugar levels under control.

For more interesting stories, visit our Health page and read about other Natural Remedies here.

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References:
1. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3061/2 (site accessed on 24 September 2015).

2. Martínez-Cruz O, Paredes-López O. Phytochemical profile and nutraceutical potential of chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L.) by ultra high performance liquid chromatography. J Chromatogr A. 2014 Jun 13;1346:43-8. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2014.04.007. Epub 2014 Apr 13. PubMed PMID: 24811150.

3. M. Silvia Taga, E. E. Miller, D. E. Pratt. Chia seeds as a source of natural lipid antioxidants.Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society
May 1984, Volume 61, Issue 5, pp 928-931

4. Cutler RG. Antioxidants and aging. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 Jan;53(1 Suppl):373S-379S. Review. PubMed PMID: 1985414.

5. Ames BN, Shigenaga MK, Hagen TM. Oxidants, antioxidants, and the degenerative diseases of aging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 1993;90(17):7915-7922.

6. Vázquez-Ovando Alfredo, Rosado-Rubio Gabriel, Chel-Guerrero Luis, Betancur-Ancona David. Physicochemical properties of a fibrous fraction from chia (Salvia hispanica L.). LWT – Food Science and Technology, Volume 42, Issue 1, 2009, Pages 168-173

7. Olivos-Lugo BL, Valdivia-López MÁ, Tecante A. Thermal and physicochemical properties and nutritional value of the protein fraction of Mexican chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.). Food Sci Technol Int. 2010 Feb;16(1):89-96. doi: 10.1177/1082013209353087. Epub 2010 Feb 5. PubMed PMID: 21339125.

8. María R. Sandoval-Oliveros and Octavio Paredes-López. Isolation and Characterization of Proteins from Chia Seeds (Salvia hispanica L.). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2013 61 (1), 193-201 DOI: 10.1021/jf3034978

9. Natalia Vazquez-Manjarrez, Martha Guevara, Armando Tovar, Adriana Flores, Brenda Ayala, Miriam Radyx, Isabel Medina, Miriam Aguilar, Edith Jimenez, Ximena Orozco, Marisol Castaño-Jameson, and Nimbe Torres. Effect of a dietary portfolio (nopal, soy, oat, chia seed and inulin) on lipoprotein subclasses and LDL-cholesterol in Mexican subjects with hypercholesterolemia (1035.8) April 2014 The FASEB Journal vol. 28 no. 1 Supplement 1035.8

10. Guevara-Cruz M, Tovar AR, Aguilar-Salinas CA, Medina-Vera I, Gil-Zenteno L, Hernández-Viveros I, López-Romero P, Ordaz-Nava G, Canizales-Quinteros S, Guillen Pineda LE, Torres N. A dietary pattern including nopal, chia seed, soy protein, and oat reduces serum triglycerides and glucose intolerance in patients with metabolic syndrome. J Nutr. 2012 Jan;142(1):64-9. doi: 10.3945/jn.111.147447.
Epub 2011 Nov 16. PubMed PMID: 22090467.
11. Ayerza R Jr, Coates W. Effect of dietary alpha-linolenic fatty acid derived from chia when fed as ground seed, whole seed and oil on lipid content and fatty acid composition of rat plasma. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(1):27-34. Epub 2007 Mar 14. PubMed PMID: 17356263.

12. Chicco AG, D’Alessandro ME, Hein GJ, Oliva ME, Lombardo YB. Dietary chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) rich in alpha-linolenic acid improves adiposity and normalises hypertriacylglycerolaemia and insulin resistance in dyslipaemic rats. Br J Nutr. 2009 Jan;101(1):41-50. doi: 10.1017/S000711450899053X. Epub 2008 May 20. PubMed PMID: 18492301.

13. Oliva ME, Ferreira MR, Chicco A, Lombardo YB. Dietary Salba (Salvia hispanica L) seed rich in α-linolenic acid improves adipose tissue dysfunction and the altered skeletal muscle glucose and lipid metabolism in dyslipidemic insulin-resistant rats. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013 Oct;89(5):279-89. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2013.09.010. Epub 2013 Sep 25. PubMed PMID: 24120122.

14. Marineli Rda S, Moura CS, Moraes ÉA, Lenquiste SA, Lollo PC, Morato PN, Amaya-Farfan J, Maróstica MR Jr. Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) enhances HSP, PGC-1α expressions and improves glucose tolerance in diet-induced obese rats. Nutrition. 2015 May;31(5):740-8. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.11.009. Epub 2014 Dec 19. PubMed PMID: 25837222.

15. Chicco AG, D’Alessandro ME, Hein GJ, Oliva ME, Lombardo YB. Dietary chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) rich in alpha-linolenic acid improves adiposity and normalises hypertriacylglycerolaemia and insulin resistance in dyslipaemic rats. Br J Nutr. 2009 Jan;101(1):41-50. doi: 10.1017/S000711450899053X. Epub 2008 May 20. PubMed PMID: 18492301.

16. Poudyal H, Panchal SK, Waanders J, Ward L, Brown L. Lipid redistribution by α-linolenic acid-rich chia seed inhibits stearoyl-CoA desaturase-1 and induces cardiac and hepatic protection in diet-induced obese rats. J Nutr Biochem. 2012 Feb;23(2):153-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2010.11.011. Epub 2011 Mar 22. PubMed PMID: 21429727.

17. Vuksan V, Jenkins AL, Dias AG, Lee AS, Jovanovski E, Rogovik AL, Hanna A. Reduction in postprandial glucose excursion and prolongation of satiety: possible explanation of the long-term effects of whole grain Salba (Salvia Hispanica L.). Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Apr;64(4):436-8. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2009.159. Epub 2010 Jan 20. PubMed PMID: 20087375.

18. Ho H, Lee AS, Jovanovski E, Jenkins AL, Desouza R, Vuksan V. Effect of whole and ground Salba seeds (Salvia Hispanica L.) on postprandial glycemia in healthy volunteers: a randomized controlled, dose-response trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jul;67(7):786-8. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.103. Epub 2013 Jun 19. PubMed PMID: 23778782.