“I had tried out several diet plans, combined with exercising, in a bid to lose weight. I stopped taking wheat products, meat and soda. However, the weight stayed put,” Petra Olimi, 28, narrates.
Olimi says it was until a friend introduced her to chia seeds that she lost weight. “The seeds work perfectly as a substitute for breakfast cereal. Besides, they keep me feeling satisfied for a while, so I do not have to snack unnecessarily,” Olimi says.
She says she soaks two tablespoonfuls of chia seeds in a glass of lukewarm water for about five minutes before consuming it. Olimi says adding chia seeds to her diet has helped her lose about 5kg of weight in the past one year.
Benefits of chia seeds
Shamim Mujomba, a nutritionist with Health U, a locally-based organisation, says chia seeds contain all the nutrients the body needs daily.
Expounding on the properties, she says the small oval-shaped brown, grey, black and white seeds of about 0.04mm size have a 6% water content. When soaked in water, the seeds bulge up to 10 times or more their size, thus creating a gel-like coating. Fausta Aketh, a nutritionist with Internal Rescue Committee, says the seeds are high in dietary fibre.
“Fibre is digested slowly and ensures a steady supply of blood sugar, which helps one to feel satisfied for a long time. This causes one to reduce the amount of food they eat, thus aiding weight loss,” she says. Aketh adds that fibre helps to improve digestion and prevents constipation.
“Fibre absorbs water when food gets to the intestines. This causes the stool to become loose,” she explains. Mujomba says by preventing constipation, chia seeds make the digestive tract healthy, which keeps one safe from ulcers, indigestion and haemorrhoids. Aketh says the concentration of vitamins A and C in the seeds slows the aging process.
“When one consumes the seeds regularly, their skin health improves, which delays the aging process of the skin,” she says. Andrew Sekitooleko, a clinical nutritionist at Mulago Hospital, describes chia seeds as ‘super spices’. He says they are rich in antioxidants and help in slowing down the growth of cancercausing cells. Mujomba says chia seeds have a protein content of up to 6%, which promotes building of muscles.
“To fight fat in the body, one must have sufficient protein to build and maintain lean muscle mass,” she explains. Mujomba adds that chia seeds also contain linoleic acid, which is unsaturated. This means it is healthier for the body than animalbased fat. Aketh says the linoleic acid in the seeds contains properties, which fight cervical and breast cancers. The seeds have significant levels of Omega-3, one of the essential fatty acids required by the body.
The concentration of Omega-3 in chia seeds is 10 times the amount found in fish, she explains. Sekitooleko says consumption of chia seeds helps in the formation of strong bones and teeth, while preventing diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis. “This is attributed to their richness in calcium and phosphorous. The seeds contain six times the calcium got in milk,” he says.
Sekitooleko explains that chia seeds also help to regulate hypertension and blood sugar. Mujomba says chia seeds are also a good source of B vitamins, for example, thiamin (vitamin B1) and niacin (vitamin B3), which is used to treat type II diabetes. “The seeds are ideal for a diabetic diet. They create a barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down. Consequently, carbohydrates cannot be converted into sugar.
“This enables the energy from food to be released steadily and a diabetes patient does not get a sugar spike after meals. This means chia seeds help to lower blood sugar levels,” she says. Mujomba says the many minerals and vitamins contained in chia seeds help to boost immunity and energy levels as well as improve metabolism. Aketh notes that chia seeds are a good source of copper, which helps in the transportation of enzymes in the body. “They are also a good sauce of magnesium, which is rich in antioxidants. The seeds are also rich in potassium, which helps the body cells to remain in shape,” she says.