Chia Seeds Are High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Like flaxseeds, chia seeds are very high in omega-3 fatty acids.
In fact, chia seeds contain more omega-3s than salmon, gram for gram.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the omega-3s in them are mostly ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is not as beneficial as you may think.
ALA needs to be converted into the active forms eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) before your body can use it.
Unfortunately, humans are inefficient at converting ALA into these active forms.
Therefore, plant omega-3s tend to be vastly inferior to animal sources like fish oil (21Trusted Source).
Studies have shown that chia seeds — especially if they’re milled — can increase blood levels of ALA and EPA but not DHA (19Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
This can be a problem.
Because they don’t supply any DHA, which is the most important omega-3 fat, most experts consider chia seeds a lower-quality omega-3 source.
To get the DHA your body and brain needs, either eat fatty fish regularly or take fish oil or — if you are vegan or vegetarian — a plant-sourced DHA supplement.
Chia Seeds May Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
Given that chia seeds are high in fiber, protein and omega-3s, they may reduce your risk of heart disease.
Their benefits have been examined in several studies, but the results have been inconclusive.
Rat studies have shown that chia seeds can lower certain risk factors, including triglycerides, inflammation, insulin resistance and belly fat. They may also raise “good “ HDL cholesterol (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).
However, one human study did not detect any improvements in risk factors (19Trusted Source).
A few studies show that chia seeds significantly reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension, which is a strong risk factor for heart disease (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).
Overall, it’s possible that chia seeds may benefit heart health, but they probably won’t have a major effect unless accompanied by other beneficial lifestyle and dietary changes.
Studies on the effects of chia seeds on heart disease risk factors are inconclusive. Some studies suggest benefits, others do not.