Many of you may not have known much about chia until it became a household word about a decade ago when chia “pets” were everywhere. Remember those terra-cotta plant holders in the shape of an animal that grew chia plants out the top of the head? Chia seeds have actually been around since the days of the Aztec civilization when they were used for food, medicine, and currency and were highly valued. Modern health researchers have found that those same chia seeds have a lot of health benefits. They can also have a few health drawbacks so I’d like to tell you about the pros and cons of adding chia seeds to your diet.
Chia seeds are currently enjoying a popularity boost, but this time as health promoting products instead of goofy house plants. It’s true that chia seeds do have a lot going for them nutritionally and have some significant health benefits such as the following:
Now, even though chia seeds have some great health benefits, they do have a few potential health hazards which you should be aware of. Chia seeds come from the herb Salvia hispanica. Like many specific herbs, not everyone can, or should, use them. Here are some possible reasons why:
Overall, I think chia seeds have many healthy properties and offer multiple health benefits. Some people swear by how great they feel while using them but I would still recommend just a few cautions. First, be sure the chia seed product you buy is certified pure chia seed and is not processed in China.
Second, like starting any new herb or vitamin, or eating new foods, start in very small amounts to ensure that you don’t have an allergy to the substance. If you notice any rashes, tingling or itching around your lips, after taking chia seeds the first time, stop taking them immediately. If you experience swelling of your lips, or feel a tightening sensation in your throat, get to an emergency room immediately as you may be having a serious allergic reaction.
Third, if you find you have no allergies to chia, watch for any dizziness (from low blood pressure) or excessive bleeding if you cut yourself. Keep in mind that your digestive system may need to adjust to the new type and amount of fiber and you may experience some increased bloating or gas. This should resolve itself, but if it doesn’t stop taking the product. Also, do let your doctor know that you use chia seeds and keep an eye out for possible signs of side effects.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.