Originally from Southern Mexico and Northern Guatemala, chia seeds are now widely enjoyed across the globe. Their popularity exists primarily on behalf of many heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids — more than any other plant food.
However, chia seeds on keto are more than just a plant-based source of essential fatty acids. These tiny but mighty seeds are also high in fiber, micronutrients, and plant compounds that benefit health. In other words, they’re somewhat of a superfood. Please keep reading to learn more about chia seeds on the keto diet, including their many benefits.
Are Chia Seeds Keto-Friendly?
Absolutely! You may have read somewhere that chia seeds have about 12 g of carbs in a 1-oz serving . However, most of this is indigestible dietary fiber, and only about 2 g of carbs in chia are digestible (net carbs).
Besides that, chia seeds are high in fat and protein. The above serving has 8.7 g of fat and 4.6 g of protein. Most of the fat in chia seeds is polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), especially omega-3 fatty acids, at about 5 g in a serving. That is well above the recommended daily intake of plant omega-3s (1.32 g for women and 1.55 g for men) .
8 Benefits of Chia on Keto
Chia seeds are low-carb and high-fat, which is a good enough reason to start adding them to your keto smoothies and yogurt. But it’s worth knowing what other benefits besides a good keto macros ratio you get with them:
1. A source of omega-3s
As explained, chia seeds are uniquely rich in omega-3s, essential, anti-inflammatory fats. They are crucial for brain, eye, and cardiovascular health. Unfortunately, this vital nutrient’s global intake has declined over the past century, which may be one reason for the worldwide rise of chronic diseases . That is why their sources, like chia seeds, are so valuable.
2. A source of soluble fiber
Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate. Chia seeds contain mostly soluble fiber, which dissolves in liquids and absorbs excess cholesterol, glucose, and bile in the digestive tract . It also provides energy to beneficial gut bacteria, thus helping with digestive health. When added to liquids, the soluble fiber in chia is responsible for its unusual gelling property.
3. A source of protein
Chia seeds on keto can also add filling protein to your meals. About 17% of their weight is protein, much more than what’s found in cereal grains . They contain all essential amino acids, although in varying amounts. Some of their proteins also have biological properties that provide benefits beyond nutrition.
4. Rich in minerals
It would be best to have a balanced intake of essential minerals to stay healthy, and chia on keto can help you meet those needs. They are a good source of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Their calcium content is higher than that of grains and milk at about 180 mg in an ounce [1, 3]. The recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000 to 1,200 mg per day .
5. Contains healthy compounds
Chia seeds are considered a superfood due to their high concentration of phenolic compounds at almost 9% of their dry weight . Some of their phenolic compounds include caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, quercetin, gallic, cinnamic, myricetin, and kaempferol. All have disease-fighting properties, like helping prevent cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and high blood pressure.
6. Antioxidant protection
Our bodies produce antioxidants to help prevent damage caused by free radicals — byproducts of metabolism. However, a little help from plant antioxidants also helps boost your body’s defense system. Chia seeds contain an abundance of vitamin E, carotenoids, and polyphenols, all known for their antioxidant action .
7. Easier weight loss
The keto diet is known to help with weight loss. But chia seeds can make that easier with their fiber, protein, and low-carb count. A randomized control trial involving 77 patients with type 2 diabetes found that adding chia to a low-calorie diet resulted in more weight loss than adding oat bran .
8. Stronger bones
Chia seeds contain 18% of the daily recommended calcium intake in an ounce . Calcium is a building block mineral for healthy bones. An animal study published in a 2018 issue of nutrients found that long-term intake of chia increased bone mineral density . While the same might not translate to humans, there’s reason to believe chia can boost bone strength.
Chia seeds are small but mighty seeds known for their unusual ability to absorb 12 times their weight in water and form a gel. That’s why they’re a frequent ingredient in low-carb puddings. However, they’re also great sprinkled over keto breakfast and desserts.
Chia on keto also provides a host of nutritional and health benefits. They’re some of the best plant sources of omega-3 fats, calcium, and protein. They’re low in carbs, most of them being soluble fiber. Chia seeds on keto can improve your overall health thanks to their many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds. All in all, there are more reasons than can be listed here to make them a favorite.
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. Seeds, chia seeds, dried. April 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170554/nutrients
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Updated August 4, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/
- Tamargo A, Martin D, Navarro Del Hierro J, Moreno-Arribas MV, Muñoz LA. Intake of soluble fiber from chia seed reduces bioaccessibility of lipids, cholesterol and glucose in the dynamic gastrointestinal model simgi®. Food Res Int. 2020;137:109364. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2020.109364
- Calcium. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Updated November 17, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
- Vuksan V, Jenkins AL, Brissette C, et al. Salba-chia (Salvia hispanica L.) in the treatment of overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes: A double-blind randomized controlled trial. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2017;27(2):138-146. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2016.11.124
- Montes Chañi EM, Pacheco SOS, Martínez GA, et al. Long-Term Dietary Intake of Chia Seed Is Associated with Increased Bone Mineral Content and Improved Hepatic and Intestinal Morphology in Sprague-Dawley Rats. Nutrients. 2018;10(7):922. Published 2018 Jul 19. doi:10.3390/nu10070922