So many people in the fitness industry praise chia seeds, not "just" for weight loss, but for health as well.
They have so many good nutrients and gut-friendly fiber in them, that it would almost be a sin to say anything against them.
The thing is, modern science disagrees.
So read my guide on eating chia seeds for weight loss all the way though, and I can promise you'll start seeing chia seeds in a completely different light.
Before we jump in, here's a short overview of what I've covered in this guide:
Chia seeds contain zero sugar, but so what?
While it's true that chia seeds contain no sugars, they are still pretty high in calories overall.
According to USDA Food Composition Databases, 100 grams of chia seeds contains 486 calories, which puts them among the top 617 highest calorie foods in the US.
And while this doesn't make them the most fattening food in the world, there are still over 7,000 foods you can choose from that have less calories than chia seeds.
So please explain this to the next person praising chia seeds to be beyond awesome for weight loss, simply because they're sugar free. Politely ask the person how many non-sugar calories they contain, like fat-calories for example.
Because in the end, it (almost) doesn't matter if you're eating sugar-, protein-, or fat-calories. It also doesn't matter (for weight loss) if the calories come from healthy or unhealthy fats, a calorie is still a calorie.
Eat too many of them from chia seeds or any other healthy food, and they WILL MAKE YOU FAT.
This will make you feel fuller than chia seeds
Yes, it's true that chia seeds have a lot of fiber in them. And yes, it's true that fiber can actually help increase your feeling of fullness and satisfaction.
But there is one other thing that can do the same job, and it can do it a lot better than fiber.
I'm talking food volume. In other words, being able to eat a ton of food without getting in any extra calories, can also make you feel full and satisfied longer.
Let's look at some examples of how much food you could eat, if you wanted to get in as many calories as 100 grams of chia seeds contain.
Like I said, 100 grams of chia seeds contain 486 calories. 3.5 pounds (1.6 kilograms) of watermelon or 8.8 pounds (4 kilograms) of cucumber also contain 486 calories.
I can't even begin to imagine how many pounds of cucumber or watermelon you're capable of swallowing down. But I can guarantee that eating pounds and pounds of cucumber or watermelon will make you feel much fuller and satisfied than 100 grams of chia seeds ever could.
What do chia seeds even taste like?
Ok, maybe you're not a huge fan of cucumbers or even watermelon. But chia seeds also taste like, well, nothing (on their own).
In other words, plenty of better tasting alternatives to chia seeds exits (that are also lower in calories.
Sure, you can throw chia seeds into a smoothie and they'll taste better this way. But since they taste quite bland on their own, you could use a lot of different foods in your smoothies instead of chia seeds.
Foods that will actually improve the taste without brining that many calories to the table.
Why do I go on and on about the bland taste of chia seeds?
Because how your meals taste, is one of the most important factors when it comes to weight loss. As in, better tasting meals will literally skyrocket your chances of actually sticking to your food plan.
So why waste a good portion of your limited daily calorie budget on a tasteless, high calorie food like chia seeds?
Why, when there are so many better alternatives available?
Chia seeds are immune to this weight loss trick
I have covered the science on this trick in an article about eating flax seeds for weight loss.
If you eat flax seeds (or many other types of seeds) whole, your body can't digest them.
So unless you grind the seeds before you eat them, your body won't be able to absorb most of the calories in the seeds. The bad news is, your body won't be able to extract any healthy nutrients from the seeds as well.
But this isn't the case with chia seeds. The calories from chia seeds can be extracted by your body, even when you don't grind them.
So with chia seeds, this simple trick to absorbing less calories from the foods you eat, is off the table.
The science on eating chia seeds for weight loss
Normally, I hate to rain on anyone's parade.
Unless it's a parade that's (intentionally or unintentionally) misleading people who are struggling to get rid of that stubborn body fat.
So let's see what science has to say about eating chia seeds for weight loss:
In one study, people ate 50 grams of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks.
The results of the study showed that chia seeds had absolutely no effect on weight loss.
So this blows even the most well-intended theories about how chia seeds can boost weight loss right out of the water.
Just as an interesting side not, the study also showed no improvements in "disease risk factors" because of chia. So not only was there a complete lack of weight loss miracles, but also health ones (but that's a story for a different article).
Are chia seeds really that awful?
No, not really. It's just that as a weight loss blogger, who relies on science to help deliver his readers real life results, I have a low tolerance for bullshit.
In other words, the nutritional benefits of chia seeds are real (I wouldn't dare speaking against those, oh, my). They actually are an excellent source of omega-3's and they do have a lot of fiber in them.
But like I said, this is a weight loss blog, and for weight loss, there are far better alternatives out there.
And while it's true that fiber should help reduce your hunger by increasing the feeling of fullness and satisfaction, plenty other foods contain fiber as well.
And way fewer calories too.
Ask any nutritionist about chia seeds, and there is a high chance you'll hear a lot of praise about them.
The nutritional profile beats most foods that are a part of our modern diets. They are rich in the healthy omega-3 fats. They're also rich in fiber, which helps keep your gut healthy and makes you feel fuller and satisfied longer.
And it's all true, these benefits are all there. The only problem is, you probably won't hear anything similar to this:
When it comes to eating chia seeds for weight loss, you should keep in mind they are a high calorie food. And this doesn't change, no matter how much attention you pay to their other benefits.
At the end of the day, calories don't know where they're coming from and if you eat too many of them, you WILL GAIN WEIGHT.
The bottom line is, if you want to include chia in your weight loss diet for its other benefits, go ahead. Just keep a close eye on how many total calories you're getting in.
1. Nieman DC, Cayea EJ, Austin MD, Henson DA, et al. Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults. Nutr Res 2009;29(6):414-8.