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Chia seeds are one of those foods that’s been proclaimed to be a ‘superfood’. And the topic of chia seeds and diabetes seems to come up frequently with questions such as:
- Can people with diabetes eat chia seeds?
- Are there any benefits of chia seeds for diabetes?
- Is chia harmful for diabetes?
- Is chia good for diabetics?
These are all similar questions so in this post we’re going to explore the ins and outs of chia.
What Is Chia?
According to Wikipedia: “Salvia hispanica, commonly known as chia, is a species of flowering plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala”.
It’s an ancient seed that dates back to the 16th Century and is thought to be used by the Aztecs. The seeds themselves are harvested from the flowers and can be used for multiple purposes, which we’ll cover in more detail soon.
Chia Seed Nutrition
As can be seen by this nutrition table, chia seeds are full of fiber, healthy fats such as omega 3, protein, and loads of vitamins and minerals. In fact, as far as seeds go, they really are a ‘complete’ food source so we can see why it’s been eaten for centuries.
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Data calculated from USDA Nutrient Database
Can People With Diabetes Eat Chia Seeds?
The short and small answer to this question is YES.
Chia is a healthy food for diabetics to eat.
Are There Any Benefits Of Chia For Diabetes?
As a matter of fact there are quite a number of benefits.
Improves glucose and insulin tolerance
In a recent study in rats, one group of rats were fed a high fat, high fructose (sugar) diet (HFF), and the other group were fed a high fat, high fructose (sugar) diet along with chia seeds and chia oil (HFFC). The rats fed the HFF diet developed glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress – much like humans would if fed a typical diet high in processed foods and sugar.
The rats fed the HFFC diet, didn’t develop the same problems, it was quite the opposite. The addition of chia seeds helped restore the bodies antioxidant system and improve glucose and insulin tolerance – which is actually quite remarkable.
Helps Reduce Inflammation
Over the past few years there’s been a great deal of research that shows inflammation at the core of many health conditions. I did my Masters thesis on the topic of inflammation and nutrition, and it’s always fascinated me ever since just how many things inflammation is involved in – including diabetes.
One of the main nutrients studied for anti-inflammatory benefits is omega 3, and as can be seen by the nutrition info on chia above, it contains 17.8 g of omega 3 fats per 100 g. This omega 3 comes from alpha-linoleic acid, which doesn’t convert to the usable forms of EPA & DHA as well as eating something like salmon, but it does still provide benefits.
Dietary fiber is also known as an anti-inflammatory agent – something that chia also contains a lot of. And the fact that it has great antioxidant power only contributes to it’s anti-inflammatory power.
Provides High Levels Of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are very important because they help fight free radicals and prevent oxidative stress and damage to the body. Too many free radicals causes damage to the bodies cells and leads to the development of many conditions, so chia can donate stable molecules to those free radicals and make them normal again, preventing further damage or decline in health.
Improves Major and Emerging Cardiovascular Risk Factors
This is perhaps one of the strongest and most important studies around type 2 diabetes and chia. A 2007 randomized control trial (the strongest form of study) took 2 groups of type 2 diabetics and gave them either 37 g of chia or wheat bran per day as a dietary supplement for 12 weeks.
The group taking chia seeds had a reduction in systolic blood pressure (SBP) by 6.3 mmHg, a reduction in hs-CRP of 40% (an inflammatory molecule that’s frequently seen in heart disease), and significant decreases in A1C. Both reductions in SBP and CRP indicate major improvements for cardiovascular risk factors.
Is chia harmful for diabetes?
I’m guessing you probably know the answer to this one.
No, from what research shows, there is no harmful effect of chia for diabetics, only great benefits.
Is chia good for diabetics?
Absolutely YES. Chia is great!
Including it in your every day or every other day routine is perfectly fine.
How To Use Chia Seeds
According to WellnessMama, chia seeds can be used for all sorts of things from:
- As a safe egg substitute – WellnessMama says, “to substitute for an egg: Use 1 tablespoon finely ground chia seeds and 3 tablespoons of water per egg in a baked recipe”.
- To make healthy pudding – see our coconut chia pudding recipe here.
- To thicken soup or gravies – try grinding the chia seeds in a mortar and pestle, and use the powder to thicken soups, sauces, and gravies.
- To thicken meatballs instead of breadcrumbs – just throw in a couple of tablespoons per pound of meat.
How to Soak Chia Seeds
One way chia seeds are commonly used is to soak them first.
Dr Axe provides us with insight on how to soak chia seeds:
“To soak chia seeds, simply mix them in a 1:10 ratio chia to water. That’s about 1.5 tablespoons chia seeds in one cup of water. It does not have to be exact, but you do want it to gel all the way and not be too watery. Then let them sit for about 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Since chia seeds can hold up to 12 times its weight in water, they are wonderful to prevent dehydration. However, if you choose not to soak them, then they can also absorb water from you during digestion. So make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated”.
So there you have it, I hope this convinces you to include chia seed superfood in your diet on a regular basis and gives you lots of chia inspiration too.
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