Some of you may already know that chia seeds are a very healthy food. The science is impressive. Chia seeds are famous for their omega-3 content, although they offer more than that. They are high in antioxidants and help support your cardiovascular system. What’s exciting is that pure chia oil, which has a nutty taste, is now used more often in food and beverages, and in dietary supplements. So, we’re starting to see a lot more options for including chia in our diets.
Chia seeds and chia oil are the richest sources of omega-3 found in nature, with at least 60 percent of omega-3 alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid that consumers are seeking as part of a healthy diet. This isn’t the same omega-3 fat found in fish. ALA is a plant-based omega-3. ALA is the only omega-3 that is considered biologically an ‘essential’ fatty acid because the body can’t make it on its own. You must get it from your diet.
Chia seeds naturally contain antioxidants including tocopherols and phytosterols, which help protect the fat in the seeds from going rancid. That used to be one of their claims to fame over the oils, which had very few of these antioxidants.
There’s now technology from the companies Benexia and Taiyo that keeps these natural antioxidants intact in the chia oil. That’s unusual, and it helps to stabilize delivery of the oil’s many nutritional properties. The company asked me to review the facts and provide my professional opinion about Benexia chia oil. I really like that it’s produced sustainably, it doesn’t contain any contaminants and that it is completely non-GMO.
One of the most impressive studies on chia looked at the seeds’ effects on diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors. In this 2007 study, researchers randomly assigned diabetic patients on conventional medications to one of two groups. One group was supplemented with 37 g a day of chia seeds (about 1-1/3 ounces), while the other was supplemented with an equivalent amount of wheat bran. The subjects continued with their conventional diabetes meds during the study.
The folks who were supplemented with chia seeds reduced their systolic blood pressure, their hs-CRP (a systemic marker for inflammation) and decreased their A1C (a standard metric for diagnosing diabetes). Researchers concluded that long-term supplementation with chia seeds reduced blood pressure and other factors “safely beyond conventional therapy while maintaining good glycemic and lipid control in people with well-controlled type 2 diabetes.”
There’s also evidence that chia oil supports the immune system, is anti-inflammatory, promotes cardiovascular health, is neuroprotective, and promotes healthy skin, hair and nails. The ALA in chia oil also increases the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in pregnant women and in their breast milk.
Chia is popular among those following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Even if that doesn’t describe you, chia seeds and oil are so nutritious that they should be on your weekly shopping list.
About the author
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, also known as “The Nutrition Myth Buster” ™ is a nationally known board-certified nutritionist and expert on diet and weight loss. He has appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS as an expert on nutrition has contributed to articles in The New York Times, Forbes, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair Online, Men’s Heath, Prevention, and dozens of other print and online publications.
Dr. Jonny is the best-selling author of 15 books including The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Living Low Carb (now in its fourth edition), and is the co-author, with cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, of the controversial best-seller, “The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease and the Statin-Free Plan that Will”. His latest book, Smart Fat: Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight, Get Healthy Now!– written with PBS star Steven Masley, MD— was published by Harper Collins in January 2016.