AICR HealthTalk: Chia Seeds and Weight Loss

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Each week, Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, discusses hot topics where diet, nutrition, and cancer collide, for the American Institute for Cancer Research.

This week, she addresses the hype surrounding chia seeds.

Q: Is it true that chia seeds can help people lose weight and that they’re super nutritious? How would I use them?

A: When chia seeds combine with liquid, they swell and form a gel. That’s probably why some people suggest that, by expanding in your stomach and helping you feel full, chia seeds could help you lose weight. In other words, if they support weight loss, it’s by helping you eat less, not by some magical fat-burning power. However, only a few controlled studies have tested this, and so far, they do not show that chia seeds make weight loss any easier. Studies of participants using two to four tablespoons of chia seeds daily for 10 to 12 weeks generally show no effect on weight or body fat.

Chia seeds are an excellent source of the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). They are also rich in dietary fiber and provide a small amount of protein, too. They add a nutty flavor sprinkled on cereal, vegetables or yogurt, but it’s mild enough that most people seem to appreciate them more for the crunch or texture they add or as a nutrient boost. Combine about one teaspoon chia seeds to four teaspoons of water for a gel that can be used as a thickener in smoothies or salad dressings or as a vegan egg substitute.

If you’re trying to lost weight, keep in mind that each tablespoon of dry chia seeds contains about 70 calories. So if chia seeds are among the healthful foods you eat, substitute those calories for something else; don’t just add them to your current eating habits.

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