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Why Dr. Oz, Oprah Praise Chia Seeds as a Superfood


If your only experience with chia seeds has been hearing the words “Chia Pet” on commercials every holiday season, then you are missing out on a superfood. In fact, both Dr. Oz and Oprah, among other well-known celebrities, have praised chia seeds for their extraordinary health benefits.

What are chia seeds?

First of all, chia seeds don’t come from a Chia Pet (although chia seeds are used to make the novelty “fuzzy”). Chia (Salvia hispanica) is a type of flowering plant that belongs to the mint family. The plant is native to Guatemala and southern Mexico, and the people in both countries still use the seeds for food and in beverages.

Traditional uses of chia include grinding the seeds to make a flour, which is added to corn flour or used in baked goods such as bread and biscuits. The whole seeds are added to water or fruit juice and known as chia fresca. When the seeds are soaked, they can be used in puddings and porridges.

Chia seeds are associated with weight loss

The excitement about chia seeds, as voiced by Dr. Oz on his TV show and on the Oprah show, is related to both the nutritional value of the seeds and their use in weight loss and other health benefits.

For example, earlier in 2011, Dr. Oz explained that chia seeds are a very effective supplement to help with weight loss, especially after age 50 when metabolism slows down. One reason chia seeds help with weight loss is that they can absorb about 9 times their weight in water in about 10 minutes.

When you expose chia seeds to water, they form a gel that causes the seeds to gain both size and weight. The best part is that while the seeds gain weight, it can help you lose it because the expanded chia seeds can help you feel full.

Another reason is that chia seeds are high in fiber. One ounce of chia seeds provides a whopping 11 grams. The daily recommended amount of fiber for adults ranges from 25 to 30 grams.

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Not everyone agrees that chia seeds are a weight loss wonder, however. A 2009 study published in the Reviews on Recent Clinical Trials reported that “there is limited evidence supporting the efficacy of Salvia hispanica for any indication,” and that there were no effects of chia seeds on weight loss.

Chia seeds also offer other benefits

Chia seeds are also an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acid linoleic, which the body cannot manufacture. In fact, chia seeds are the richest plant source of this important oil. Linolenic acid is associated with cholesterol reduction, prevention of cardiovascular disease, and management of chronic disorders, including diabetes.

If you are looking for an energy boost, chia seeds may be a good choice. One ounce of chia seeds contains 4 grams of protein, and chia is one of the rare few plants that is a complete protein source.

If you have diabetes, chia seeds may help keep your blood sugar levels in balance. The ability of the seeds to absorb water and the fact that they contain both soluble and insoluble fiber can help slow down your body’s transformation of starch into sugar.

In addition to Dr. Oz and Oprah, another well-known individual who has sung the praises of chia seeds is Andrew Weil, MD, internationally known author and pioneer in integrative medicine. He has noted that chia seeds are such a rich source of antioxidants, the seeds can be stored for an extended period of time without turning rancid.

Weil also has pointed out that chia seeds, unlike flax seeds, do not have to be ground so their nutrients can be used by the body. Chia seeds are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, niacin, phosphorus, and zinc.

So now you have some idea why people like Dr. Oz, Oprah, and Dr. Weil think chia seeds are a superfood. Before adding chia seeds to your diet, you may want to consult a knowledgeable healthcare professional. Since chia seeds are very high in fiber, a sudden change in fiber intake may affect your intestinal tract.

Dr. Oz show
Ulbricht C et al. Reviews on Recent Clinical Trials 2009 Sep; 4(3): 168-74

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons