Long known as a television infomercial sensation, chia has outgrown its terracotta figurines to become a super food touted by the likes of Dr. Oz. As with many food fads before, much of chia’s benefits may be little more than marketing hype. Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica, a plant native to Mexico and Central America, and a staple food of the Aztec diet. Once an obscure plant, except for the occasional Chia Homer Simpson, chia seeds now show up in supermarkets and health food stores around the country. They can be eaten alone, or added to snacks, baked goods and drinks. Chia is especially high in certain nutrients. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 4 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber, as well as many minerals and high amounts of omega-3, 6, and 9 essential fatty acids. The highly concentrated nutrients of these small seeds has led to many of the wild health claims, such as aiding weight loss and helping with several diseases. So far, no scientific studies have supported chia’s reputation as a miracle food. A 12-week study in 2009 found that chia didn’t help people lose weight, and had no effect on their health. Two other clinical trials looked at the effects of chia. Neither showed any effect on weight loss, although one did show some beneficial effects on the heart. Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet and exercising more, will have even more significant effects on your health. There’s nothing wrong with adding chia to your diet, but don’t expect miracles. It should be eaten as a food, not a supplement. Or sprinkled on top of a Chia Guy for your next poker night.
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