Chia seeds have become a ubiquitous superfood and mainstay in many health food recipes. Recently they’ve also become the source of fear amongst those who’ve heard horror stories about the perils of overconsumption. Today, we set the record straight.
Why Chia Seeds Are Great
Chia seeds deliver heart-healthy omegas fats, protein, fiber and a plethora of key nutrients. Additionally, they are credited with helping reduce cardiovascular disease and are commonly used by vegans as an egg replacement.
One 2 tablespoon serving of chia seeds delivers:
- 140 calories
- 4 grams of protein
- 10+ grams fiber
- 7 grams of unsaturated fat
- Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and all nine amino acids that our body needs but cannot make itself.
- Essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, copper, potassium, and vitamins A, B, E and D.
Why People Are Freaked About Over Consumption
There are horror stories floating around about people who ate so many chia seeds they had to receive medical treatment for serious intestinal distress. While I could find no evidence of someone dying of a chia seed overdose, it is true that consuming too many seeds can causes digestive problems because the seeds expand so vastly in our bodies that our internal organs cannot keep up, thus getting blocked, rupturing or becoming highly irritated. A 2014 case report profiled a patient who ate dry chia seeds followed by a glass of water, which subsequently expanded in the esophagus and caused a blockage. Removing such a blockage has to be done via an endoscopic procedure – AKA, no thank you! Also validating the old saying, that yes, you can indeed have too much of a good thing…
Why you should be cautious
Because chia seeds can absorb over 12x their weight in liquid and expand so much, it is wise to be mindful about how many you eat in a day. The combination of the superfood’s high fiber content and water absorption creates a gel-like substance that, if too large, can strain the digestive system – leading to gas, bloat and sometimes abdominal distension or blockages. These symptoms are especially pronounced for folks with chronic digestive inflammation, ibs, crohn’s disease, etc.
How much you chia seed you can safely eat in a day
The nutrient rich nature of chia seeds means you that get great health benefits from one serving. And because there are moderate to severe risks associated with over-consumption, saying within a consumption range of 1-1.5 servings daily is wise.
This means: no more than 2 or 3 tablespoons/daily, with more severe restriction if you have problems swallowing or with digestion of high-fiber foods.
What this means for your beloved chia pudding
First and foremost, check the recipe! If making it yourself, opt for recipes that yield no more than 2 tablespoons of chia seed per serving. If eating a pudding prepared by others, limit consumption to 1/2 cup. Try substituting chia seeds with sesame, flax or poppy seeds for a similar crunch.
How to enjoy chia seeds with minimal discomfort
- Never eat them raw, always soak them before ingesting.
- Drink a lot of water with any chia meal, smoothing or snack to prevent a super dense gel from forming in your belly.
- Don’t eat food high in chia seeds for consecutive days, give your body a chance to work through what you consumed the day before.
Try these fit approved smoothies that are loaded with superfoods but no chia!