You’ve probably heard about the amazing benefits of chia for lowering cholesterol and boosting heart health. But are aware of all of its incredible properties? Do you know how to include it in your diet to get the maximum possible value from it?
As well as being a superfood which promotes a healthy heart, this little seed has a range of other benefits ranging from assisting with weight loss and regulating the digestive system to lowering blood pressure and combatting ageing.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Key Facts
- 3 Our selection: The best chia on the market
- 4 Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about chia
- 4.1 What exactly are chia seeds?
- 4.2 What are the advantages of having daily chia?
- 4.3 Can chia help you loose weight?
- 4.4 Why do they say chia and its supplements are heart-boosters?
- 4.5 Can you replace the omega-3 in chia with omega-3 from fish?
- 4.6 What is the best way to take chia to improve skin appearance?
- 4.7 Can chia seeds treat constipation?
- 4.8 What does it mean that chia is a prebiotic?
- 4.9 What restrictions are there on chia consumption.
- 4.10 What is the recommended daily chia intake?
- 4.11 What is the best time of day to take chia seeds or supplements?
- 5 What kind of chia products are there and which is the most suitable for me?
- 6 Shopping Criteria
- 7 Summary
- Chia is known for its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6, dietary fibre and proteins which are sources of essential amino acids. Additionally, chia an excellent source of many important minerals including potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and copper.
- Chia can be consumed in the form of seeds, powder, flour, capsules or chia oil, depending on the consumer’s preference.
- Chia is a food, it is also a nutraceutical seed because it is from natural origin and has beneficial health effects that have been proven scientifically: lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attack and strokes, improving sports performance, and more.
Our selection: The best chia on the market
These days, the market is full of supplements based on chia, with different nutritional and therapeutic purposes. The products not only vary in form – oil, capsule, powder or seed – but also in terms of their nutritional profile and therapeutic properties. Following are the best chia supplements on the market, accompanied by an analysis of each to help you make an informed decision.
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about chia
In this section you will find comprehensive information about the benefits of chia, its nutritional value and the recommendations and constraints (or observations) relating to taking chia supplements. Our goal is to enable you to make an informed decision about whether it is the right supplement for you and, if so, have a complete understanding of its benefits and advantages.
What exactly are chia seeds?
On average, 100 grams provide:
- 550 calories
- 12-16 grams of complex, low-GI carbohydrates
- 28-32 grams of (mostly insoluble) dietary fibre
- 20 grams of high-quality protein
- 34 grams of fats (Omega-3 alpha-linolenic and Omega-6 linoleic)
- No cholesterol, like all plant-based foods
- Minerals: calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, copper and phosphorous
- Antioxidants: flavonoids, chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid
Once the scientifically proven benefits of regular consumption of chia seeds became known, supplements were developed in the form of powder, capsule and oil to make chia easier to consume. These forms also concentrate the nutritional elements, boosting health effects.
What are the advantages of having daily chia?
- Heart: lower risk of heart attack and cardiac arrhythmia
- Blood vessels: lowers blood pressure, glycemia and cholesterol. Excess levels in any of these damages blood vessel structure and is a risk factor for heart and brain diseases, as well as circulatory problems (varicose veins, cellulitis, venous thrombosis).
- Brain: reduced risk of cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) and neurodegenerative pathologies, such as Alzheimer's disease. Improves cognitive function.
- Skin: delayed cellular ageing of the skin, meaning improved appearance and fewer wrinkles.
- Bowel: treatment of constipation, prebiotic function: encourages healthy bacterial growth in the intestine.
- Stomach: slower appetite and feeling of being fuller, longer, because chia takes a long time to digest.
- Bones and joints: strengthens bones and promotes bone mineralisation thanks to high calcium content.Omega-3 helps to reduce inflammation and joint pain.
- Liver: protection of liver health and aids treatment of liver problems.
Can chia help you loose weight?
Chia seeds contain mucilage, a form of soluble fibre that helps retain water and liquids in the stomach. This slows down digestion and makes you feel full for several hours, stopping the urge to snack between meals. It is critical to take chia with plenty of water so that it can form a solution in the stomach and have the full appetite-curbing effects.
Why do they say chia and its supplements are heart-boosters?
- Omega-3 and 6: both omega-3 and omega-6 have a lipid-lowering effect. That is, they reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood.
- Omega-3: also has other benefits for heart health - it reduces the risk of arrhythmias and triglycerides and prevents the formation of clots.
- Antioxidants: flavonols, chlorogenic acid, vitamin E and caffeic acid are powerful antioxidants present in chia seeds. They neutralize the free radicals that cause oxidative damage to the cells in the heart and blood vessels.
Can you replace the omega-3 in chia with omega-3 from fish?
What is the best way to take chia to improve skin appearance?
- Vitamin E (tocopherol)
- Chlorogenic acid
- Caffeic acid
The last two of these are used in facial rejuvenation treatments. Undoubtedly, ageing is a natural and irreversible process, but it is also true that this process is accelerated by oxidative stress, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, environmental pollutants and smoking. Regularly taking chia improves skin health and softens the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Can chia seeds treat constipation?
The soluble fibre in chia, on the other hand, is also helpful as it absorbs a large amount of water and liquids, therefore, providing moisture to the faecal material and facilitating its expulsion. This type of fibre is a moderate intestinal stimulus, meaning it prevents or treats constipation, without causing colic, swelling or flatulence.
These benefits, however, do not follow from taking chia capsules or oil.
What does it mean that chia is a prebiotic?
Chia’s prebiotic activity regulates intestinal function and inhibits the growth of tumour cells in the colon. To take advantage of the prebiotic benefits of chia, the seeds must be taken in whole or powder form.
What restrictions are there on chia consumption.
- People who have problems with early satiety (for example, after having undergone gastric bypass surgery) should avoid consuming whole or powdered chia seeds because when it absorbs water its volume increases dramatically. In these cases, soft chia capsules may be appropriate.
- In cases of diverticulitis, that is, when a person has diverticula in the colon which become inflamed, chia seeds and powder should be avoided, but oil and the capsules are ok to consume.
- In people with diverticulosis (diverticula in the colon) the consumption of chia seed and powder is safe. Until recently there was a myth that very small seeds could "get stuck" in a diverticulum and generate infection, but it has been found that this has no scientific basis.
- Those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or IBS should avoid chia seed and powder during episodes.
- For diabetics, the whole or crushed seed acts as a hypoglycaemic, reducing the glycemic impact of foods rich in carbohydrates (for example, pasta, rice, potatoes).
All of this is thanks to the fibre chia contains, which delays digestion and the subsequent absorption of the glucose found in carbohydrates such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta.
Although the benefits for diabetics, in particular, are very important, those who rely on insulin should be sure to consult with their doctor about adjusting dosage in accordance with the amount of chia seeds they are consuming. Otherwise, they could risk suffering from hypoglycaemia.
- People suffering from blood clotting disorders and taking anticoagulant drugs should consult their doctor before taking chia. It can cause problems for these people especially the form of capsules and oil, since omega-3 has a powerful anticoagulant effect that, in combination with the medication, could have negative side effects.
- Pregnant and lactating women should opt for whole or crushed chia seeds and avoid supplements in the form of capsules or oils. Research has not found that taking omega-3 supplements during pregnancy and lactation is safe.
What is the recommended daily chia intake?
The maximum daily intake of chia for adults is 20 grams of whole seeds or powder. Children older than 2 years can consume chia, but not more than 5 grams per day.
An excess of chia can cause digestive discomfort (diarrhea, swelling, colic, flatulence or pain) and cases of pruritus on the skin (itchy or irritated skin) have also been documented. In terms of capsules and chia oil, 1 to 3 capsules or 1 tablespoon, respectively, are the recommended daily dosage for adults.
What is the best time of day to take chia seeds or supplements?
What kind of chia products are there and which is the most suitable for me?
As already mentioned throughout this guide, you can take chia in four main forms:
- Whole seeds
- Powder (crushed seeds)
- Soft capsules
- Chia oil
Whole chia seeds
Because whole chia seeds have not been processed, they retain all their nutritional properties. The recommended daily intake in order to enjoy the benefits as previously mentioned is 15 to 20 grams. It is important to soak them at least 10 minutes in water to "activate" them and be able to take advantage of all their nutrients. It is important to soak them in water for at least 10 minutes to “activate” them and fully realise their nutrients.
You should always take them with an adequate amount of liquid: mix with water, juice, veggie juice, milk, smoothies or soup. You can also add them to salads, yoghurts, fillings, sandwiches, muffins, biscuits and cereal.
Once hydrated, chia seeds expand by more than 10 times and form a gel that can be seen with the naked eye. In this form, they make an excellent replacement for eggs in vegan dishes. You can also use it in sauces and jellies.
Basically, this is chia seeds which have been crushed until they become a powder. Sometimes this is also called chia flour. The recommended daily dosage is between 5 and 20 grams per day. Chia powder is ideal to mix with other flours and make your cakes or biscuits more healthy.
Its nutritional profile is very similar to chia seeds: it is high in protein, fibre, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, complex carbohydrates, vitamin E, antioxidants and minerals. The only difference is that it takes more effort to digest whole chia seeds.
Just like the seeds, you can mix chia powder with a wide range of drinks and solid foods, as well as including it while preparing salads and desserts.
These capsules contain chia oil, so their nutritional composition includes omega-3, omega-6 and vitamin E. They are easier to take than seeds or powder because you don’t need to mix them with other foods or liquids in order to consume them. It is recommended to take 1 to 3 capsules per day, depending on the concentration of omega in the supplement.
They are an excellent option to improve cardiovascular health, alleviate vascular pain, reduce cholesterol and treat liver conditions. They also help to prevent blood clots, but they don’t deliver all of the benefits of other forms of chia, such as fibre and protein.
The nutritional profile of chia oil is almost identical to that of capsules: omega-3, omega-6 and vitamin E. The recommended daily dosage is 1 tablespoon and you can take it on its own or mixed with yoghurt, smoothies, fillings or sauces.
Chia oil is produced through cold extraction in order to maintain optimal nutritional quality of its omega fatty acids. For this reason, it is important not to cook or boil it, so that the high temperatures don’t deteriorate the fatty acids.
|Whole seed||Powdered seed||Capsules||Oil|
|Taste||Mild, imperceptible||Slightly bitter||Neutral||Soft|
|Consumption||Mixed with water, other liquids or solid preparations. It must be hydrated in water in order to give benefits||Mixed with water, other liquids or flours for baking||Can be consumed accompanied by a sip of water||It can be served on a spoon and swallowed directly, or mixed with dressings, sauces and yoghurts|
|Daily dose||15-20 grams||5-20 grams||1 to 3 capsules||1 tablespoon|
|Protein (per serving)||4.58 grams||7.2 grams||None||None|
|Fiber (per portion)||6.6 grams||4.9 grams||Null||Null|
|Omega-3 and omega-6 (per serving)||4.98 grams||1.08 grams||From 500 to 800 milligrams depending on the dose||8 grams|
Is it better to consume chia seeds or capsules?
This will depend on the benefits you are looking for:
Chia seeds and chia powder keep all of their nutritional benefits. They are recommended for people looking to improve nutrition, lose weight and lower their risk of cardiovascular diseases. They can also help to treat or prevent constipation, regulate bowel function, normalize blood pressure and reduce blood sugar.
Athletes, children over 2 years of age and pregnant women should also consume this food in seed or powder form.
Chia oil and capsules consist of pure omega-3 and omega-6, as well as vitamin E. They are ideal for those suffering from heart disease (such as arrhythmia or history of previous cardio infarction), atherosclerosis, joint problems, high cholesterol, liver disease, poor memory or people who have had a stroke.
They are also an excellent option for people who cannot tolerate or simply don’t like chia seeds but want to take advantage of its benefits for heart health.
|Whole seed||Weight issues/obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, constipation, diverticulosis, slightly high cholesterol. Healthy adults, seniors, pregnant women and children (from 2 years old)|
|Powder (crushed seed)||The same situations as before and in athletes, since the powder is digested and absorbed faster, but the nutritional content is essentially the same.|
|Chia oil capsules||Cardiovascular disease (arrhythmias, history of heart attack, ischemia or stroke) High cholesterol, high triglycerides. Arthritis, osteoarthritis. Liver disease. People who can’t tolerate the whole seed or powder (in some people it can lead to over-acceleration of intestinal transit, causing diarrhoea, swelling or pain). Irritable bowel syndrome|
|Chia oil||For people with the same conditions and restrictions as those mentioned for capsules, as preferred as it has the same therapeutic effects|
Why is chia powder recommended for vegan athletes?
In terms of nutrition, chia is an extremely complete food: it contains complex carbohydrates, high-quality protein, “good” fats and a variety of minerals, including calcium, potassium and magnesium, which are essential for muscle function.
Because vegans are unable to eat whey protein, chia is often used as an alternative and put in shakes as a pre- or post-workout snack. In such cases, powder is the way to go because it is more easily digested and is absorbed more quickly than whole chia seeds.
In this section, we will review all the factors you should consider before buying a chia supplement. All the forms mentioned above have their pros and cons, but the important thing is to choose the option which best suits your needs and lifestyle.
State of health
In the first table of this article, we summarised the situation in which each type of chia supplement was most appropriate. Review this again in order to find the best product for you.
For example, if your goal is to lower cholesterol, you can choose any of the four types of chia supplements, though if your cholesterol levels are very high you should choose pure omega-3 and 6 capsules or oil. On the other hand, if you are looking to lose weight, whole or powdered seeds should be our supplement of choice.
Ease of consumption
Capsules are the form which are the easiest to take and can be taken with you anywhere. People also find oil easy to take because you can consume your recommended dose with breakfast before leaving the house and don’t have to think about it until the next day.
Chia seeds have a very subtle, almost imperceptible flavour which is most detectable when consumed in its whole form. In powdered form, it can have a slightly bitter taste if taken on its own with water, but when dissolved in drinks or other mixtures it is hardly noticeable.
The oil is very smooth to taste and capsules have a neutral flavour.
If you are a celiac, it is essential to buy chia seeds or powder which has been pre-packaged, rather than in bulk, as they can sometimes become contaminated with traces of gluten. Whether seeds, powder, capsules or oil, it is critical to check the label for the seal which guarantees it is gluten-free (without wheat, oats, barley or rye).
As you have seen in this guide, chia is more than just a superfood which lowers cholesterol and promotes heart health. It is arguably one of the most useful supplements available and, under their doctor’s supervision as appropriate, almost anyone can benefit from it one way or another.
If you want to help spread the word about the benefits of chia, share this article with your friends and followers.
(Source of the feature image: Frey: 29617462/ 123rf.com)