Chia Seeds, Diabetes

Health-food fans have been talking up chia seeds for years. Now some studies show benefit for these seeds in diabetes. Possibly, chia seeds could help you.

Chia is an herb in the Lamiaceae plant family, related to mint and sage. It grows in Mexico and Central America. It is the same plant that became a fad a few years ago as a “Chia Pet.” When you water a Chia Pet, it grows a “fur” and becomes kind of cute. But we’re talking here about eating the seeds and their health benefits. Why is chia getting so much media buzz now?

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Writing on Diabetic Connect, Jewels Doskicz, RN, explained: “Chia seeds are a total protein” (which not many plants are). “They are high in fiber, rich in healthy omega-3s (actually higher than salmon), and are also high in calcium and antioxidants.”

A report in Harvard Health Blog highlights studies of animals in which a high-chia diet led to lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and higher HDL, the good cholesterol. Eating a lot of chia also lowered triglycerides (blood fat levels). In a study of 20 humans with diabetes, one variety of seed called Salba helped participants control blood glucose, reduce blood pressure, and lower C-reactive protein, a major marker of heart disease risk. The study was published in the journal Diabetes Care.

The omega-3 oils and antioxidants in chia are healthy, but the fiber content may be a bigger benefit. Chia seeds seem to slow glucose passage into the blood. They fill you up and so reduce appetite. The oils are a good energy source — Aztecs used to carry bags of them to keep going on long walks at high altitude.

If you want to try chia seeds, how do you take them? A reader on the American Diabetes Association online support group asked that question and received many answers from fans of chia. One user posted a list of 40 ways to use them. You can add them to water, juice, or milk to make a thick liquid, which can be drunk or used in baking as an egg substitute. You can add them to soups, salad dressings, or smoothies as a nutritious thickener.

Actually, you can add chia seeds to almost anything — barbecue sauces, stews, and rice are suggested. You can also eat them straight, although some people don’t like the texture. Because they are so small, they do not have to be ground up as other seeds do. According to the Cleveland Clinic newsletter, the only risk factor is if you are taking blood thinners or blood pressure medicines. Chia doesn’t react well with them (and should not be eaten by people on blood thinners).

One user on Diabetes Forum commented that the seeds last over two years without going bad, “longer than some processed foods. I find it stabilizes my blood glucose. I use it in all of my baked goods. I make a hot cereal in the morning with it. It is also great when making chocolate pudding. When you mix it with any liquid it will gel. It as close to a miracle food as you can find.”

Chia seeds are widely available in stores. I’m not sure how one verifies that the seeds in the package are high quality, or even that they’re really chia. They can cost up to $10 a pound, but are much cheaper ($3 to $4 a pound) at places like Costco — not too high for seeds, in my opinion. If our readers have more information or experience with chia seeds, please let us know.

  • loretta thompson

    I started eating chia seeds for a natural solution of ridding my body of imflamation which I had been taking anti-inflamitory medication for years for fibromyalgia. Then I got severly depressed. The anti-depressants cured my fibromyalgia as per my physicarist. I started looking into a natural cure for imflamation and tried chia seeds. They are a miracle cure. No imflamation. No arthritis. Boosts mrtabolism. Energizer. Fatigue beater. Curbs the want to overeat. I put a tablespoon on or in whatever I’m eating for breakfast and 1 on or in my lunch everyday. I feel happy and energized. I have lost weight too. I buy my seeds by bulk at the Bulk Barn in Canada.

  • Anupama

    I’m severely underweight , can i eat chia seeds . If yes which ones to go for as there are both black chia and white chia available in market

  • Kevin EarthSoul

    I’ve been having great success controlling my blood sugar with a chia seed pudding. I don’t like the tapioca-like texture of the whole seeds when soaked, so I grind them in my Ninja blender. Then, I blend the ground seeds with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, add cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and stevia to sweeten. It’s a great shake! I mix about 1/2 cup ground seeds with 32 oz. almond milk.

  • Elizabeth

    Chia seems to lower my blood sugar significantly. I use them in a red smoothie with unsweetened almond milk, or coconut milk, strawberries and blue berries. I just ate a Trader Joe’s organic chia bar and two hours later my blood sugar is 87. It also went down after breakfast when I had the shake. So I am encouraged and will keep monitoring my sugars….. I am hopeful.

  • Nicky Christopher

    I soak old fashioned oats in 2% milk then mix that in with a fruit flavored Greek yogurt and add 2 table spoons of chia seeds to it. Tastes great, super healthy and filling. Only downside is the chia seeds can get stuck in your teeth and gums. It adds a nice crunch to my breakfast mix. Yummo!