Chia seeds are tiny, oval-shaped seeds that are rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals. In the ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures the nutrient-dense seeds were hailed for their health benefits. In recent years they have become popular as versatile sources of protein and fiber. It’s become all the rage, if you will, to use chia seeds in pudding, food, and salads, as a staple in vegan cooking and baking, and in beverages, especially smoothies.
The latest use for chia seeds that has been gaining popularity, especially on social media, is chia seed water. Chia seeds are incredibly absorbent. When you drop them into water they can get as much as 10 times their original size and become a gelatinous mixture that people are using for satiety and weight management.
Though chia water will increase your fiber intake, it can be dangerous if you don’t drink enough water, or have esophageal or swallowing issues. Lack of water intake can also increase risk for constipation.
There is no data on the benefits of drinking chia seed water, but there have been studies on eating chia seeds. They are an excellent source of linolenic acids, which become eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), omega-3s that are essential for optimal function at any stage in life. They also contain dietary fiber, which can support weight management and aid overall digestive health by promoting fully formed bowel movements, which promote the growth of good bacteria. Chia seeds also contain essential nutrients that support heart health, bone health, skin health, and healthy blood sugar levels (already within normal limits).
While there are no studies on the impact drinking chia seed water has on skin, there are strong contentions that the properties in chia seeds may help promote skin health. Early studies report that peptides and oil derived from chia seeds may both have promising skin promoting properties when developing future skin care products. This abstract concludes that while additional dietary water intake may increase the hydration of the stratum corneum (outermost layer of skin), the biological mechanisms of this relationship are still unknown. Therefore, more research is called for.
There is no research on the impact of drinking chia seed water on blood sugar levels, but chia seeds contain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), essential amino acids, high quality proteins, and adequate amounts of dietary fiber to support blood sugar levels already within normal range.
This randomized control study of healthy volunteers shows blood sugar levels being managed after meals when consuming bread that contains chia seeds. Further study is required.
While there are no studies on the impact drinking chia seed water has on heart health, chia seeds are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber may help to support cholesterol levels that are already within normal range and overall cardiovascular health. Chia seeds also contain omega-3 fatty acids that promote heart health.
While there are no studies on the impact of drinking chia seed water on overall bone health, chia seeds are rich in minerals and the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which both may play a role in bone health. Chia seeds provide a unique source of dairy-free calcium. They also contain phosphorus and magnesium which are essential for bone health.
Chia seeds contain dietary fiber. When consumed in chia seed water, the fiber and water combine to create a full feeling (satiety) that extends for longer periods of time. The seeds continue to expand in your stomach, absorbing additional water and gastric juices. This feeling of fullness is believed to control hunger and support weight management. According to this study, 7-14 grams of chia in plain yogurt as a mid-morning snack can reduce all satiety measurements (desire to eat, hunger, fullness, prospective consumption, overall appetite). Ayaz et al. studied the satiety effects of chia seed on 24 healthy subjects using a randomized, cross-over design study and found that participants reported significantly lower scores for hunger, prospective food consumption, amounts of food that could be consumed, desire for sugary foods, and higher scores for satiety on study days with 7 g and 14 g of chia seed when compared to control.
Making chia seed water is a fairly obvious and easy thing to do. The recipe is 1 tablespoon for 1.5 cups of water. Stir the mixture lightly and let it sit for about 2 minutes to let the chia seeds expand. Do not let them sit too long or your chia seed water might take on a texture far more gelatinous than you’d likely want to drink. (Think the famous brightly colored household gelatin mix just before it firms up enough to be served.) You might also want to drink your seeds immediately upon mixing, but remember they will expand significantly in your stomach. You can also add a healthy squeeze of lemon juice to the mix for flavor. Finally, if you’ve a first timer with chia seed water, it’s probably a good idea to start off with smaller amounts of seeds until you can gauge how your body responds to them. Using ground chia seeds may be safer for those with certain digestive issues.
Chia seed water is safe to drink on an empty stomach. But if you are drinking it because you are hungry, a better option would be healthy nutrient-dense foods that would satisfy your hunger while also nourishing your body at the same time.
Many people do add a hefty squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice to their water for flavor. Other types of fruit juices, fruit slices, fruit puree, or fresh herbs like mint can be used to enhance your overall chia seed beverage experience.
Chia seed water has become the latest “health hack” of the social media world. Remember, there is no scientific data to support its efficacy in weight management. Chia seeds, however, have been little nutrition powerhouses for centuries. So, it only makes sense that you would get the same nutritional boost from chia seed water that you do from chia seeds. The appealing aspect being that they make you very full and thus less inclined to eat. This is not the best way to go about weight management. It has been proven the best way to a healthy body is a healthy, varied diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grain foods, healthy fats, seafood,and dairy; exercise; plenty of rest; and proper hydration. There are numerous ways to incorporate chia seeds into your diet that don’t include consuming a gelatinous blend of expanded chia seeds and water that will make you feel very full and possibly uncomfortable. You can put chia seeds in yogurt, on salads, in the batter of home baked goods, in smoothies, or even in homemade preserves. They are also available in premium supplement form, such as Care/Of’s Chia Flax powder.