Chia seeds have been popular in health food circles for years, for good reason — they’re relatively affordable, highly nutritious and while they’re moderately high in calories, one of the major chia seeds benefits is that their fiber content makes them a welcome addition to weight-loss diets.
One of the major chia seeds benefits is that you can mix them with other foods for nearly every meal to boost fiber content and possibly help with weight loss.
Weight Loss 101
No single food, even a nutrient-dense one like chia, can make or break your weight loss on its own. To lose weight the healthy way, you’ll need to follow a balanced diet that provides fewer calories than you burn each day — that way, your body taps into your fat stores as a source of energy.
The number of calories you’ll need daily depends on several factors, including your height, weight, body composition, activity level, age and gender, and it can take some trial and error to figure out how many calories you burn each day. But cutting your calorie intake by 500 calories a day will help you lose an average of one pound a week, which is a safe rate for weight loss.
A 1-tablespoon serving of chia seeds provides 60 calories. Depending on your calorie needs, that might be a significant chunk of your daily calorie intake if you use more than a tablespoon or two, but you’ll also get a lot of nutritional value for your calorie investment, so chia is a worthwhile addition to your weight-loss diet.
Chia Seeds Benefits
Chia seeds come packed with dietary fiber — 4 grams per tablespoon. Adding them to a few meals or snacks can contribute toward your daily fiber intake goals. Health.gov’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories that you eat. A high fiber diet is helpful for weight loss, as well as managing cholesterol and blood sugar.
Research on chia seeds published in the April 2016 Journal of Food Science and Technology notes that chia seeds are beneficial for diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, among other benefits. A chia seed diet may help with weight loss, but there’s some conflicting evidence.
Read more: The 9 Best Cholesterol-Lowering Foods
A study published in Nutrición Hospitalaria in December 2014 looked at the effect of eating ground chia seeds each day for 12 weeks. The authors found that the study subjects on the chia seed diet experienced slightly more weight loss and also had a small reduction in their waist size, which suggests that chia helped burn belly fat.
However, other studies suggest chia seeds benefits don’t include weight loss. So while chia has nutrients that promote weight loss, you shouldn’t count on a chia seed diet as a magic bullet to shed fat.
Enjoy Chia Seeds for Breakfast
Chia seeds can easily find their way into every meal of your day, but they’re especially great for breakfast. When using them, an important thing to remember is to mix chia seeds in water, or some other liquid before eating (or drinking) them.
When you mix chia seeds in water, they absorb liquid and swell in size. If you don’t mix chia seeds in water first, they’ll absorb the water in your GI tract, and you run the risk of a blockage.
Starting your day with a breakfast that contains chia can help you shed pounds. Not only is eating breakfast linked to better weight control, but starting your day with a fiber-rich food like chia could help you feel full longer and avoid snacking throughout the morning. Mix chia seeds with water or milk and add them to your oatmeal to boost the fiber and nutrients.
You can also add a spoonful of whole or ground chia seeds to your favorite smoothie. Not only does the chia make your smoothie more filling, but it absorbs water to make your beverage thicker and richer-tasting, so you’ll feel more satisfied.
Sprinkle ground chia into your eggs when you make scrambled eggs or omelets, or make three-ingredient “chia pancakes” using egg whites, banana puree and whole or ground chia seeds.
Chia Seeds for Weight Loss
There are many other ways to incorporate chia seeds for weight loss. Make a healthy and filling chia “pudding” by mixing whole chia seeds in unsweetened almond milk until the mixture thickens and forms a gel about (about 15 minutes). Add variety by mixing in flavorings like banana puree and cinnamon or chopped strawberries and cacao for a decadent-tasting but healthy snack that’s much lower in calories than regular pudding.
You can also mix chia seeds with pureed berries to make sugar-free berry “jam” that you can use as a topping for whole-grain crackers or toast, or mix a spoonful of whole chia seeds into ice-cold sparkling lemon water for a healthy “spritzer.”
Finally, you can use chia seeds for weight loss as well as hydration, if you mix a spoonful in with water and a bit of pureed fruit juice to make a chia fresca.