You have probably heard about the amazing benefits of chia for lowering cholesterol and caring for heart health. But are you aware of the full range of its medicinal properties? Do you know how to incorporate chia into your diet to best capture its nutritional and functional value? Besides being a key ingredient in the cardioprotective diet, this seed offers additional benefits that range from facilitating weight loss and regulating intestinal function to reducing blood pressure and slowing the aging process.

Key Facts

  • Chia is well known as an important source of omega 3 fats (alpha-linolenic acid),  omega 6, dietary fiber as well as essential amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. They are also an excellent source of minerals such as: potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and copper.
  • Chia can be consumed in the form of seeds, powder, flour, capsules or oil, depending on ones preferences and needs.
  • Chia is considered a functional food. It is classified as a nutraceutical seed due to its natural origin. Chia’s beneficial health effects have been scientifically proven with research documenting its properties in: lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attack and strokes as well as improving sports performance and overall wellbeing.

Ranking: The best chia supplements on the market

There are a wide range of chia based supplement offerings, each one with distinct nutritional and therapeutic value. The particular type of product form can vary. Chia supplements can be taken in oil, capsule, powder or raw seed form. It is important to note that the nutritional and therapeutic properties associated with each form can vary. Our ranking presents the best chia supplements alongside a strong analysis about each offer, so that you can make an informed decision.

No. 1: Organic Sprouted Chia Seed Powder by Navitas Naturals

Navitas Naturals is our top chia pick.  They provide a finely milled chia powder rich in omega fats, protein, antioxidants and dietary fiber at an affordable price. The product has a very mild nutty taste.

This product is exceedingly easy to incorporate into ones diet. Simply mix a spoonful of this nutritious powder with oatmeal or yogurt. Some individuals also just mix with water and then drink.

No 2: Nutra Key Chia Seed Capsules

Our second product pick is Nutra Key Chia seed capsules. This product offers an easy way to consume chia especially for busy people who are constantly on the move. Each bottle contains 120 capsules.

For optimal results in reducing inflammation and strengthening ones immune system, it is recommended to take two capsule servings 2-3 times per day. These capsules are often taken with or slightly after a meal.

No 3: Viva Naturals Organic Chia Seeds

Viva Labs offer a high end organic chia seed option in two pound bags. The seeds are preserved with naturally-present cinnamon acids that extend shelf life and delay the effects of oxidation.  Viva Labs Organic Chia Seeds contain 2,440mg of omega-3’s and 4g of fiber per serving.

Viva Labs Organic Chia SeedsChia seeds can be sprinkled over smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt and salads or integrated as a binder in more involved recipes. The recommended serving is 1-2 tablespoons per day to amplify the nutritional integrity of your favorite dishes.  Viva Labs selectively choose high quality organic chia seeds, which is why this option costs more than other alternatives.

No 4: Yupik Organic Black Chia Seeds

Yupik’s Organic Black Chia are whole seeds derived from a flowering plant.  This product comes in 1 kilo bags. The seeds are crunchy in dry form and have a neutral taste. Chia seeds can be added to baked goods, savory foods, or topped over foods, such as yogurt, salads, etc.

Yupik’s seeds can be also be added to beverages, including coffee. For optimal results add 1-2 teaspoons to food or drinks. This product is certified kosher.

No 5: ELAN Organic Chia Seeds

ELAN’s organic seeds come in small packs of 250 grams at a reasonable price point. This product is ideal for people who are just beginning to try chia seeds and don’t want to purchase large bags at the onset. ELAN’s seeds are also neutral in flavor and crunchy.

Similar to the other chia seed options, ELAN’s seeds are easily consumed by mixing with beverages or adding to meals. The company also offers several interesting recipes that can further be used to creatively integrate chia into your diet.

Shopping guide: Everything you should know about chia

In this section you will find comprehensive information regarding the benefits of chia, its nutritional value as well as recommendations and observations regarding its intake. Our aim with this guide is for you to be able to evaluate if it is the right supplement for you and, if so, to know the types of nutritional and health advantages chia can offer you.

Whole chia seeds retain their nutritional principles intact because they have not been processed.
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What is a chia seed exactly?

Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L) are ancient super foods that were an important dietary component of the Aztecs and Mayans due to their nutritional and medicinal properties. These seeds are very small, oval in shape and grayish brown.

On average, 100 grams of chia seeds provide:

    • 550 Calories
    • 12-16 grams of complex carbohydrates, via slow absorption
    • 28-32 grams of dietary fiber, mainly insoluble
    • 20 grams of high quality protein
    • 34 grams of fats (Omega 3 alpha-linolenic and Omega 6 linoleic)
    • 0 cholesterol, like all foods of plant origin
    • Minerals: calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus
    • Antioxidants: flavonoids, chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid

Following a series of scientific studies that highlighted the benefits of regular chia seed consumption, a variety of chia-based supplements were developed in the form of powders, capsules and oils to facilitate their consumption. In this manner, certain nutritional qualities were concentrated order to achieve certain health outcomes.

What are the advantages of consuming chia daily? Chia is a natural treasure for health. Its properties help improve the functioning of various organs of the body:

  • Heart: lowers the risk of heart attack and arrhythmias.
  • Blood vessels: reduces blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Excess in any of these values ​​damages the structure of blood vessels and is considered a risk factor for the development of heart and brain diseases, as well as circulatory problems (varicose veins, cellulitis, venous thrombosis).
  • Brain: decreases prevalence of cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) and of neurodegenerative pathologies, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Improves cognitive function.
  • Skin: delays cellular aging of the skin and, consequently, improves its appearance by reducing wrinkle formation.
  • Intestine: chia helps to treat constipation and acts as a prebiotic by providing nutrients to the normal and healthy bacterial flora present in the intestine.
  • Stomach: chia remains comparatively a longer time in the stomach and takes up a lot of volume, which translates into a greater sensation of satiety and less appetite.
  • Bones and joints: chia provides a significant contribution of calcium necessary for strengthening bones and promoting bone mineralization. Furthermore, omega 3 has anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce inflammation and joint pain.
  • Liver: prevents and contributes to the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver.

Can chia help you lose weight?

Chia is a particularly strong ally for losing weight since in certain forms, it reduces appetite. However, it is important to consider the particular form of chia, since some are less effective than others at appetite reduction. For example, capsules and oil do not have the satiating power of whole and powdered seeds. Chia seed contains mucilage, a type of soluble fiber that retains water and gels in the stomach. This slows digestion and makes the consumer feel satisfied for several hours, with no desire to snack between meals. It is key to accompany the intake of chia with plenty of water to promote the formation of gel in the stomach and take advantage of its satiating capacity.

Dr. Andrew WeilBest-selling author, spokesperson and alternative health expert

“Chia seeds are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, even more so than flax seeds. Another plus for chia over flax: it is so rich in antioxidants that the seeds don’t readily deteriorate and can be stored for long periods without becoming rancid. And, unlike flax, chia seeds don’t have to be ground to make their nutrients available to the body.”

Why are chia and its supplements described as cardioprotective?

The cardioprotective effects of chia and its supplements stem from two groups of nutrients:

First, omega 3 and 6: both omega 3 and omega 6 exert a lipid-lowering effect. That is, they reduce the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Additionally, Omega 3 has other favorable functions for the heart: it reduces the risk of arrhythmias and triglycerides and prevents the formation of clots.  And second, antioxidants: flavonols, chlorogenic acid, vitamin E and caffeic acid are powerful antioxidants present in chia. They neutralize free radicals that generate oxidative damage in the cells of the heart and blood vessels.

Can you replace omega 3 from fish with omega 3 from chia?

This is a common belief, but the answer is NO – the omega 3 from fish and from chia are not interchangeable. There are different types of omega 3 fats: chia contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), while blue fish (sardine, herring, salmon, mackerel) provide docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) . All three are essential and cannot replace each other.

U.S. Institute of MedicineFood and Nutrition Board

“recommends male adults take 1.6 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)  and adult women 1.1 grams of (ALA) per day”.

What is the best way to consume chia in order to improve skin complexion? In order to maximize the benefits of chia in delaying cellular skin aging, it is recommended to consume chia in either the whole or powdered seed form. These forms preserve all the antioxidant compounds, which include:

  • Vitamin E
  • Flavonoles
  • Chlorogenic acid
  • Caffeic acid

The last two compounds are used in facial rejuvenation treatments.  While aging is a natural and irreversible process, poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, environmental pollutants and smoking can accelerate oxidative stress. Taking health supplements such as chia, as well as avoiding unhealthy behaviour can slow the aging process and enable one to maintain a healthy complexion. Regular intake of chia improves skin nutrition and softens the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

Chia seed

It is possible to take chia in four different forms.
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Is it recommended to take chia in treating constipation?

Chia seeds, whether whole or crushed, are high in both insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is helpful in increasing intestinal peristalsis and accelerating bowel movements. For its part, the soluble fiber from chia absorbs large amounts of water and gels, providing moisture to fecal matter, and thus facilitating movement. This type of fiber is a moderate intestinal stimulus, which prevents or treats constipation, without causing colic, swelling or flatulence.

How does chia function as a prebiotic?

Soluble fibers from chia can become fermented within the bacterial flora of the colon. This process stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria and limits the development of pathogens. For this reason, chia is considered to be a prebiotic. The prebiotic activity of chia regulates intestinal function and inhibits the growth of tumors in the colon. To take advantage of the prebiotic benefits of chia, the seed must be consumed whole or in powder form.

Chia fruit

Chia is an ideal additive for enhancing the nutritional value of our recipes.
(Source: Schweitzer: 56152467 / 123rf.com)

What side effects are associated with the consumption of chia?

More than side effects, there are certain “observations” to consider alongside the consumption of chia:

  • Those who have problems with early satiety: for example, people who have undergone bypass or gastric sleeve surgery, should avoid consuming whole or powdered chia seed because, when it gels, it increases its volume noticeably. In such circumstances, it would be preferable to take chia in soft capsule form instead.
  • In cases of diverticulitis: that is, when a person has diverticula in the colon and these become inflamed, one should avoid the seed and chia powder. Instead, one can consume the oil and the capsules.
  • In people with diverticulosis (diverticula in the colon): the consumption of chia seed and powder is safe. Up until recently there was a prevalent myth that very small seeds could “get stuck” in the diverticulum and generate infection. It has since been proven that this assertion has no scientific basis.
  • Those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome: avoid seed and chia powder during periods of crisis.
  • In diabetics: the whole or crushed seed acts as a hypoglycemic reducing the glycemic impact of a meal rich in carbohydrates (for example, pasta, rice, potatoes).

This hypoglycemic process occurs due to the fibers present in chia, which delay digestion and subsequent absorption of glucose units contained within carbohydrate foods such as bread, rice, potatoes or pasta. Although this is generally a positive effect, in order to avoid situations of hypoglycaemia, diabetic people who use insulin should consult their doctor to adjust their doses in relation to their consumption of chia seed.

  • People suffering from blood clotting disorders and taking anticoagulant drugs: should consult their doctor about the consumption of chia. It is particularly advisable for people with these conditions to seek professional medical advice before taking chia in capsular and oil form. Since omega 3 has a powerful anticoagulant effect, there is a risk for adverse effects when chia is combined with certain anticoagulant medications.
  • Pregnant and lactating women: should opt for the whole or crushed seed and avoid supplements in the form of capsules or oils. There are no studies that guarantee the safety of omega 3 supplements during pregnancy and lactation.

What is the recommended daily dose of chia?

For adults, it is recommended not to exceed 20 grams of whole chia seeds or flour. Children older than 2 years can consume chia, but never in amounts greater than 5 grams per day.

An excess of chia can cause digestive discomfort (diarrhea, swelling, colic, flatulence or pain). Additionally, there there have been some documented cases of pruritus on the skin. With respect to consuming capsules and chia oil, it is advisable to consume 1 to 3 capsules per day or in oil form, 1 tablespoon, respectively.

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Did you know that chia is recognized by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration, USA) as a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) product?

What is the best time of day to consume chia seeds or supplements?

There is no set schedule for consuming chia. In the case of supplements in capsules or oils, in order to boost consistent use patterns, it is helpful to create a habit of taking them every day at the same time, for example, with lunch or dinner.

What kind of chia products are there and which is the most suitable one for me?

As we have mentioned throughout this guide, it is possible to consume the chia in four different forms:

  • Whole Seed
  • Flour or powder (crushed seed)
  • Soft capsules
  • Chia oil

Whole chia seeds

Whole chia seeds retain their nutritional principles intact because they have not been processed. In order to enhance health benefits it is recommended to take 15-20 grams daily. Furthermore, it is important to soak the seeds for at least 10 minutes in water in order to “activate” them and access all of their nutrients. They should always be consumed with plenty of liquid, by mixing them with water, juices, milk, vegetable drinks, smoothies and soups.They can also be added to salads, yogurts, fillings, breads, biscuits, muffins, granolas and biscuits. When hydrated, chia seeds increase their volume more than 10 times and form a gel.This gelling capacity makes them an excellent egg replacement in vegan preparations.Chia seeds are also used to thicken sauces and jellies.

Chia flour

Chia powder is crushed chia seed to create a powder consistency. The recommended dose is 5 to 20 grams daily. It is best mixed with other flours to make healthier pastries. Its nutritional composition is very similar to that of whole chia seed: proteins, fiber, omega 3 and 6 fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamin E, antioxidants and minerals. The difference is that it requires less digestive energy to absorb than whole chia. Like seeds, it can also be mixed with various beverages and solid foods as well as integrated into sweet and salty preparations.

Chia capsules

The capsules contain chia oil, so its nutritional composition is rich in omega 3, omega 6 and vitamin E. Capsules are more comfortable than seed or flour to consume because they do not need to be mixed with other foods or liquids. It is advisable to take 1 to 3 capsules a day, depending on the omega concentration of the supplement. They are an excellent option for improving cardiovascular health, relieving joint pain, reducing cholesterol and treating nonalcoholic fatty liver. In addition, they prevent the formation of blood clots. However, they do not provide the benefits related to other components of the whole seed (i.e. fiber, proteins).

Chia oil

The nutritional profile of chia oil is almost identical to that of the capsules: omega 3, omega 6 and vitamin E. The recommended amount per day is 1 tablespoon and can be taken alone or mixed with yogurt, smoothies, dressings and cold sauces. Chia oil is cold extracted to maintain optimal nutritional quality of its omega fats. Therefore, it is important not to subject it to cooking, so that high temperatures do not damage its fatty acids.

Chia seed Flour Capsules Oil
Price Economic Intermediate Intermediate More expensive
Taste Neutral Slightly bitter Neutro Soft
Methods of ingestion Mixed with water, other beverages or solid foods. Needs to be soaked in water to unlock some of the nutritional benefits Mixed with water, other beverages or flour for baking Ingested with water Can be ingested with a tablespoon directly, or mixed with dressings, or yogurt
Daily dose 15-20 grams 5-20 grams 1 a 3 capsules 1 tablespoon
Protein (per serving) 4,58 grams 7,2 grams Null Null
Fibre (per serving) 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 miligrams depending on the size of the serving 8 grams

Is it better to consume chia seeds or capsules?

The particular form of chia you consume should depend on the benefit you want to achieve: Chia seeds and chia flour retain all their nutritional components. These forms are recommended for people who want to improve their nutrition, lose weight and prevent cardiovascular illness. In addition, seeds and flour are helpful for treating or preventing constipation, regulate bowel function, normalize blood pressure and reduce blood sugar.

Athletes, children over 2 years of age and pregnant women should also consume chia in the form of seed or flour.

Chia oil and capsules consist of pure omega 3 and 6, as well as vitamin E. They are ideal for those suffering from heart disease (for example, arrhythmia or history of previous infarction), atherosclerosis, joint problems, high cholesterol, fatty liver non-alcoholic, poor memory or if they have had stroke. Chia oil or capsules are also an excellent option for those who do not tolerate or “just do not like” the chia seed but want to take advantage of its cardioprotective benefits.

Chia supplement form Situations in which it is recommended
Whole seed Overweight/obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, constipation, diverticulosis, high cholesterol. Healthy adults, seniors, pregnant women and children (from 2 years old)
Flour (crushed seed) The same situations as before and in athletes, since their digestion and assimilation are more rapid, but the nutritional content is very similar
Chia capsules Cardiovascular disease (arrhythmias, history of heart attack, ischemia or stroke). High cholesterol, high triglycerides. Arthritis, osteoarthritis. Non-alcoholic fatty liver. People who can not tolerate the whole seed or flour (since it accelerates intestinal movement too much and causes diarrhea, swelling or pain. Irritable bowel syndrome.
Chia oil The same situations as discussed for chia capsules. It is a matter of preference, but the therapeutic effect is the same

Why is chia flour recommended for vegan athletes?

From a nutritional standpoint, chia is considered a complete food as it provides complex carbohydrates, good quality proteins, healthy fats as well as various minerals that include calcium, potassium and magnesium, which are essential for muscle function. Because vegans cannot consume whey protein, chia is usually used in shakes for vegan athletes, as a snack before or after training. In such cases, it is best to consume chia flour since it requires less digestive energy and assimilates more quickly than whole chia seed.

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Did you know that the writer Cristopher McDougall says that a spoonful of chia is like a shake comprised of salmon, spinach and human growth hormones. His book “Born to Run” focused on a tribe of runners from Mexico whose diet is based on the consumption of chia.

Purchase criteria

In this section we will review key aspects you should consider before buying chia supplements. All the forms of chia discussed thus far have pros and cons. Your specific selection should best be aligned and guided by your personal needs and lifestyle. In general key aspects to consider include:

  • your current state of health
  • ease of consumption
  • flavor
  • gluten-free certification

Your current state of health

As discussed previously, chia is beneficial for a variety of health conditions. For example, if your goal is to lower cholesterol, you can choose any of the four forms. If your cholesterol  levels are high you should choose capsules or oil that are pure omega 3 and 6.

Alternately, if your goal is to lose weight, you will need to incorporate whole or powdered seeds.

Ease of consumption

Capsules are the easiest form to take chia supplements since they much more conducive to travel and do not need to be combined with food. Chia oil is also comfortable because you can drink the recommended dose with breakfast, before leaving home.

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Flavor

The chia seed has an almost unnoticeable flavor. What is usually more noticeable is its texture. The flour can leave a slightly bitter taste if it is consumed only with water, but integrated into other drinks or preparations it goes unnoticed.

The oil is very soft on the palate and the capsules have neutral flavor.

Gluten-free certification

If you are celiac, it is essential that you buy seeds and chia flour that is packaged, rather than in bulk, since in certain occasions bulk chia can be contaminated with traces of gluten. Whether seeds, flour, capsules or oil, it is essential that you look for the seal on the label that guarantees that it is a gluten-free product.

Summary

As we have discussed throughout this guide, chia is much more than just a food to reduce cholesterol and protect the heart. It is an ancient and highly nutritious superfood and, with the supervision of a doctor, almost all people can integrate it, in some format, into their lives. If you want to help us spread the benefits of chia, share this article with your friends and followers.

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