Chia Seed Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

chia seeds nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Although chia seeds were virtually unknown in the United States 20 years ago, this trendy superfood is now on the shelves of every grocery and health food store across the country. Despite the hype, are chia seeds really all they're cracked up to be?

The tiny black or white seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant add loads of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids whether you eat them dry or soaked into a gel. These tiny seeds also provide a host of beneficial plant compounds that have a lot to offer in the management of diabetes and heart disease.

Chia Seed Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 ounce (28g) of dry chia seeds.

  • Calories: 138
  • Fat: 8.7g
  • Sodium: 5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Fiber: 9.8g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 4.7g

Carbs

In 1 ounce of dried chia seeds, there are 12 grams of carbohydrates. Of this, nearly 10 grams come from fiber. There is no sugar in chia seeds.

Fats

Chia seeds are high in healthy fats with 8.7 grams in a 1-ounce serving. About 60% of the fat in chia seeds comes from the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids also known as linolenic and alpha-linolenic acid.Research has shown that omega 3 fatty acids help with cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol, regulating heart rhythms and blood pressure, decreasing inflammation, and preventing blood clots.

Protein

Chia seeds have 4.7 grams of protein per ounce. Unlike most plant foods, chia seeds contain all nine amino acids, making them a good plant-based source of complete protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Chia seeds provide vital micronutrients, especially minerals. In a 1-ounce serving, you'll get 179mg of calcium (about 14% of the daily value) and 2.2g of iron (about 12% of the recommended dietary allowance). Chia seeds are also a good source of magnesium and zinc.

Health Benefits

Chia seeds supply beneficial nutrients that can help fill in the gaps for vegetarians and vegans who avoid seafood and omnivores who want a healthy boost of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Here are some of the ways chia seeds may improve your health.

Aids Diabetes Management

The high fiber and omega-3 fatty acid content of chia seeds is a winning combination for long-term diabetes care. In patients with type 2 diabetes, consuming 15 grams per 1000 calories of chia seeds has shown to reduce c-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) by 40% and clotting effects by 20%. When 24 grams of chia seeds was added to bread, the sugar levels were managed better than when 7 grams were added.

Promotes Heart Health

Human studies on chia seeds have shown them to effectively lower triglyceride and blood pressure levels in healthy subjects. Although the sample size was small, 12 volunteers were given 50 grams of chia seeds for one month. As a result, diastolic blood pressure went down about 5 points and triglycerides were reduced by 20 points. An independent risk factor for heart disease, visceral fat level, also appears to improve with increased intake of chia seeds.

Supports Immune System Function

Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3s, which provide well-established benefits for the immune system, including various types of T-cells and B-cells. Omega-3s support the function of macrophages in innate immunity. By increasing the phagocytic activity of macrophages, omega-3s help the body dispose of damaged cells.

Omega-3s also become embedded in the cell walls of neutrophils (white blood cells) making them more flexible and faster at migrating to areas where they're needed. If you're not getting enough omega-3s in your diet (and most people don't), eating more chia seeds can help strengthen your immune system.

Prevents Constipation

Chia seeds provide 50% of the average dietary fiber requirement in just a 1/4 cup serving. Fiber offers a host of health benefits, especially when it comes to digestive health. Two forms of fiber are found in chia seeds, the type that mixes with water (soluble fiber) and roughage, or insoluble fiber.

This combination means that chia seeds help soften stool and also add bulk, making it easier and faster to pass. Just be sure to increase your intake of fiber slowly and drink plenty of water as your body adjusts to this positive change.

Reduces Risk of Cancer

Chia seeds contain a beneficial flavonol, kaempferol. Food sources of kaempferol demonstrate anticancer potential through their ability to affect several cellular mechanisms including apoptosis and signaling. For instance, kaempferol blocks the action of bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in plastics and processed foods.

Kaempferol is proactive against several forms of cancer, including breast cancer, liver cancer, brain cancer, colon cancer, and more. As a whole food, chia seeds offer several additional cancer-fighting compounds, like quercetin and dietary fiber. With few negative side effects and lots of potential benefits, chia seeds help supply your body with free radical protection.

Allergies

Chia seed allergies are not commonly reported, however, a few cases of sensitivity to plants from the same family (including anaphylaxis from menthol in toothpaste, food allergy symptoms after the ingestion of oregano and thyme, and contact dermatitis from similar plant extracts in cosmetics) have been reported.

One case study of a man with known allergies to cat dander and grass pollen described a progressive allergic reaction within three days of increased chia seed consumption. Symptoms included shortness of breath, dizziness, and facial swelling which ultimately required emergency medical care. This is considered the first reported case of an anaphylactic reaction to chia seeds.

Although rare, chia seed allergies are possible. If you notice symptoms after eating chia seeds, see an allergist for further testing.

Adverse Effects

If you have a Chia Pet (novelty terracotta figurines used to sprout chia) laying around your house, don't eat the seeds that came with it. Buy chia seeds are safe for human consumption from the grocery store.

For anyone on high blood pressure medication, keep in mind that chia seeds may also lower blood pressure. These additive effects can cause blood pressure to go too low, especially with a sudden increase in chia seed intake.

In one case report, the ingestion of 1 tablespoon of dry chia seeds followed by a glass of water caused an esophageal block that required emergency services to remove. For safety, it's probably best to pre-soak chia seeds in liquid or eat them already mixed into other dishes.

Varieties

Chia seeds come in both black and white varieties. Although they look different, different varieties of chia seeds can be stored and prepared the same way. There is no difference in nutritional content.

Storage and Food Safety

Dried chia seeds can last for 4–5 years in cool, dry storage. If you soak chia seeds in liquid to make chia gel, you can keep the hydrated seeds covered in the refrigerator for up to a week. Be mindful of expiration dates listed on the chia seeds you purchase.

How to Prepare

Toss dry chia seeds into yogurt or onto salads for added crunch. Chia seeds can also be soaked in liquid to form a gel. Blend chia seeds with water, juice, non-dairy milk, or other liquids, and within 15 minutes, the gel will form.

You can also throw chia seeds into a smoothie. Just be aware that it may thicken as the day goes on. Experiment with adding chia seeds to baked recipes as a vegetarian egg replacer, or in oatmeal and other breakfast foods.

Recipes

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Seeds, chia seeds, dried. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  2. Chia Seeds. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

  3. What Are Chia Seeds. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Updated 2018.

  4. Kulczyński B, Kobus-Cisowska J, Taczanowski M, Kmiecik D, Gramza-Michałowska A. The chemical composition and nutritional value of chia seeds-current state of knowledge. Nutrients. 2019;11(6). doi:10.3390/nu11061242

  5. Gutiérrez S, Svahn SL, Johansson ME. Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on immune cells. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(20). doi:10.3390/ijms20205028

  6. Improving Your Health With Fiber. Cleveland Clinic. Updated 2019.

  7. Imran M, Salehi B, Sharifi-rad J, et al. Kaempferol: A key emphasis to its anticancer potential. Molecules. 2019;24(12). doi:10.3390/molecules24122277

  8. García Jiménez S, Pastor Vargas C, De Las Heras M, Sanz Maroto A, Vivanco F, Sastre J. Allergen characterization of chia seeds (Salvia hispanica), a new allergenic food. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2015;25(1):55-6.

  9. Chia. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Updated 2019.