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The health benefits of chia seeds — and how to use them

There’s a reason why so many health and nutrition pros keep chia seeds on hand.

All of the attention on TikTok may make it seem like chia seeds are a trendy new ingredient. But it's actually quite the opposite. Chia seeds have long been used as a superfood, prized by the Aztecs and Maya for their ability to provide long-lasting energy.

The tiny seed is native to Mexico and Guatemala. Related to mint, they come from the Salvia hispanica plant. And yes, they are the same chia seeds sold in “Chia Pet” kits.

It is true that the ancient ingredient has been getting some modern-day love. Chia seeds have become a common ingredient in healthy recipes, from muffins to overnight oats to TikTok famous chia seed water. But it's left people with a lot of questions about the superfood seed. How many chia seeds can you eat in a day? Do chia seeds help you lose weight? What is the best way to eat chia seeds? And can you eat too many? We break this wellness trend down for you right here!

The health benefits of chia

There’s a reason why so many health and nutrition pros keep chia seeds on hand. They’re a good source of protein, high in fiber and gluten-free. Plus, they’re rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a type of plant-based omega-3 fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory benefits. A 2-tablespoon serving (which is a TON of seeds) has 150 calories, 10g of fiber, 6g of protein and 10g of fat, most of which is the healthy polyunsaturated variety.

In terms of how much chia to eat each day, it’s smart to stick to the 2-tablespoon serving size. You’ll probably want to break this up throughout the day, adding a teaspoon or two to your smoothie, another teaspoon in your mid-morning yogurt, and the rest in recipes like chia pudding.

Chia and hydration

The diminutive seeds can absorb up to 10 times their weight in water. This means that when you eat chia pudding or chia gel, you’re also getting the liquid they absorbed along with it. Consuming liquids via chia can be smart for times when you don’t want to drink a lot of water, like before a race or a run, or even before bed.

Chia’s hydration benefits mean that the ingredient is also beneficial for healthy, glowing skin. Because chia include healthy fats, they’re also a smart ingredient for anyone dealing with dry skin.

Can chia seeds help you lose weight?

When used properly, chia is an incredibly healthy ingredient. But some influencers on TikTok are recommending using it in a way that could be harmful to certain individuals. So-called “chia water” has been touted as a weight-loss aid. Proponents of the trend claim that drinking the water helps promote weight loss by making you feel full due to the expansion of the seeds in your stomach.

The "internal shower" drink is another chia-inspired TikTok trend that claims to cure constipation and bloating.

While the fiber and protein content of chia seeds do make them a smart ingredient choice for anyone who wants to feel fuller longer — and avoid too many between meal snacks — they are not meant to block hunger. And while chia seeds and water can help promote digestion and could help you go to the bathroom easier, which may leave you feeling lighter, these drinks aren't a smart choice for everyone.

The dangers of using chia seeds

The potential danger of using chia seeds in a beverage like chia water (basically chia seeds mixed with water) is that if you don’t allow the chia seeds to expand first, they could potentially cause an issue for people with dysphagia, other swallowing disorders, or diverticulitis. Chia seeds should not be consumed dry by the spoonful as they can mix with saliva to form a gel and possibly block the esophagus. And this drink wouldn’t be advisable for children, babies or anyone with difficulty swallowing.

You should also stick to no more than one 8-ounce glass of this type of mixture daily. More than that could lead to stomach cramping and possibly diarrhea. Two tablespoons of chia seeds have 6 grams of fiber, which isn’t a crazy amount, but if you’re not used to a high-fiber diet, it could be too much all at once.

How to use and store chia seeds

Due to their fat content, chia seeds should ideally be stored in a sealed bag or container in the refrigerator or freezer to increase their shelf-life.

How can you use chia seeds? The sky is the limit! Sprinkle chia seeds over cereal and yogurt, add them to smoothies, soup and even burgers. You can make a chia gel to use as a thickener in creamy soups and as an egg replacement. Combine ¼ cup of seeds with 2 cups of water, let stand for 15 to 30 minutes, then stir with a whisk. You can mix the get with mashed fresh fruit to make a jam, or with fruit juice or plant-milk to make chia pudding.

You can also use chia seeds as a coating for energy bites. Simply roll the mixture into balls, then roll in the chia seeds to coat. And it’s a fantastic addition to homemade granola.

Here are some delicious recipes to try:

Berry-Chia Jam
 Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

Get The Recipe

Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN
Black Bean Soup

Have fun experimenting with chia and don’t forget to stock up on dental floss — the seeds love to get stuck in your teeth!