Chia seeds have been around long before they became famous as part of the Chia Pet craze (ch-ch-ch-chia). The seeds were believed to have been a staple in ancient Aztec and Mayan diets; supposedly, they’d fill up on chia seeds before heading into battle. But how is this superfood relevant today, when you're not exactly preparing to do battle? (Unless you count the commute to work, which sometimes feels like going into war). We tapped Brooke Alpert and Dana Kofsky to give every reason—including glowy skin and weight loss—you need to start eating chia seeds.
Meet the Expert
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They Can Help You Drop Pounds
"Chia seeds are one of my favorite nutritional powerhouses," says Alpert. "They are loaded with tons of micro- and macro-nutrients, including protein, fiber, fat, calcium, manganese, and tons more. They are also a great source of antioxidants. All of this makes them great for weight loss, heart health, and digestive health."
The 11 grams of fiber and 4.4 grams of protein in a single serving of chia seeds can be beneficial to weight loss by helping keep you fuller for longer. Plus, the seeds can absorb 12 times their weight in water, making them nutrient-dense fillers to add to your smoothies and baked goods. But don't go overboard: Any more than the recommended serving and the fiber can start to upset your stomach.
They're Powerful Stress-Busters
Chia seeds are chock-full of an unsung nutrient hero, magnesium, which can help keep cortisol (aka the stress hormone) levels low. Another reason you want more of this mineral? Low magnesium levels are also associated with headaches and fatigue.
Chia seeds are also high in tryptophan (also found in your grandmother's Thanksgiving turkey), an amino acid that can help your body produce serotonin, in turn, helping you fight anxiety and have more regular patterns.
Get Glowy, Sans a Facial
These tiny seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids—a single serving contains more of this healthy fat than a serving of salmon. In addition to helping prevent heart disease, these essential fats strengthen your skin, hair, and nails.
"Chia seeds help to stabilize blood sugar levels which can reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes," explains Alpert. "They keep you full from the fat and fiber, which help to help keep hunger levels under control to aid in weight loss. The fat and antioxidants have amazing skin benefits."
According to the Cleveland Clinic, omega-3 fatty acids also reduce inflammation and dryness and help preserve collagen: Hello, tight, glowy skin.
They've Got More Calcium Than Milk
Just one serving a day packs nearly 18% of the daily-recommended amount of calcium (by weight, that's more than milk), making chia seeds an excellent option for people who don't consume dairy.
"I love chia seeds sprinkled on everything," says Alpert. "Yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, smoothie bowls and made into a pudding." Getting enough calcium means stronger bones and teeth, not to mention it might help skin cell turnover and moisture levels.
They Help Fight off Free Radicals
Blueberries get a lot of praise for being high in antioxidants, but it's time to give chia seeds their due. Antioxidants are essential for your health since they help your cells defend against free radicals. According to Kofsky, you can easily add them into your diet. "You can add them to salads, sprinkle them on yogurt, throw them in your smoothies, and use them as a coating on chicken to make them feel breaded," says Kofsky. (Don't forget to add antioxidants into your skincare routine as well.)
They Can Banish Bloat
Munch on these nutrient-dense seeds after a night of salty Mexican food indulgences. Why? Their high levels of potassium (more than bananas and milk) will help you look (and feel) less bloated.
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Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress-a systematic review. Nutrients. 2017;9(5):429. doi:10.3390/nu9050429
Lindseth G, Helland B, Caspers J. The effects of dietary tryptophan on affective disorders. Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 2015;29(2):102-107. doi:10.1016/j.apnu.2014.11.008
National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids fact sheet for health professionals. Updated October 1, 2020.
Cleveland Clinic. 23 foods that are good for your skin. Updated July 9, 2020.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Chia seeds.
Ullah R, Nadeem M, Khalique A, et al. Nutritional and therapeutic perspectives of Chia (Salvia hispanica L.): a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2016;53(4):1750-1758. doi:10.1007/s13197-015-1967-0