Chia seeds are one of the healthiest foods out there. Being an incredible source of fiber, protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients, they can promote heart health, reduce cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure, and aid weight loss.1
It turns out that these tiny seeds may also be highly beneficial for diabetics; however, more human studies are needed to understand the exact mechanism behind chia's health benefits for diabetes. As such, this Canadian trial tested the effects whole and ground chia seeds on blood sugar levels.
In this randomized crossover trial, 13 adults consumed nine different meals on nine separate occasions:
- Meals 1-3: white bread with 7, 15, or 24 grams of whole chia seeds
- Meals 4-6: white bread with 7, 15, or 24 grams of ground chia seeds
- Meals 7-9: white bread matched for energy and nutrients (control breads)
For the purpose of this trial, researchers used Salba, which is the trademarked name for the white seeds of the chia plant (Salvia hispanica L.).
Participants had their blood samples tested while fasting and 2 hours after meals. The results of this trial were published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers have found that chia seeds-containing breads (both whole and ground) reduced blood glucose iAUCs by 20% (white bread with 7g of chia seeds), 28% (white bread with 15g of chia seeds), and 35% (white bread with 24g of chia seeds).
iAUC, or incremental area under the curve, is used to calculate the glycemic response after meals as well as the Glycemic Index (GI) of food.
The intervention was well tolerated and did not register significant side effects.
What Does this Mean?
The results of this trial demonstrate that chia seeds have beneficial effects on blood glucose levels. Both whole and ground seeds are equally effective in reducing blood glucose iAUC, which makes it even easier to add them to one's everyday diet in a variety of ways and reap their health benefits.
Researchers point out that chia seeds' hypoglycemic properties are mainly attributed to their highly viscous fiber found in the seeds' mucilage. Since the authors of this trial received grant support from the manufacturer of Salba, other clinical trials are needed to validate these findings.
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Effect of whole and ground Salba seeds (Salvia Hispanica L.) on postprandial glycemia in healthy volunteers: a randomized controlled, dose-response trial, 2013
- Harvard T.H. Chan. (n.d.). Chia Seeds. Retrieved December 9, 2021 from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/chia-seeds/