It's probably safe to assume that at least one person in your friend circle puts chia seeds in absolutely everything (and that friend might actually be you). From smoothies and puddings to crackers and salads, these little seeds can go into whatever you please. And while sprinkling them into a handful of your snacks might be a pretty nutritious touch, you might want to also consider the side effects chia seeds may have before you put them on everything that goes in your stomach.
"Chia seeds are a power-house of nutrition," says Erica Zellner, a certified nutrition specialist and health coach at Parsley Health. "They're a great source of fiber, protein, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and omega 3's." Since the little seeds are also full of antioxidants, they help fight off damage to the body's cells, she adds.
You don't need a lot to give yourself a whole host of benefits, says certified intuitive eating coach Carolina Guízar, MS, RDN, CDN. "Just two tablespoons contain five grams of the recommended 25-38 grams of fiber needed per day," she tells Bustle, so don't feel the need to load up. As with everything, though, chia seeds can have drawbacks. You may want to moderate your intake because of these five chia seed side effects.
1. Gastrointestinal Issues
In general, chia seeds are good for your digestive system because they've got so much fiber, Zellner says — but too much might upset your stomach. "Excessive fiber intake or concentrated fiber intake can for some cause symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, or gas," she explains. If you have Crohn's disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you might want to take extra care to moderate your chia seed intake, Zellner adds, especially during a flare-up.
"If you are looking to treat or prevent constipation, start with a half-tablespoon and work your way to a well-tolerated amount that helps with your bowel movements," Guízar advises. "Try to be thoughtful about your fluid intake because fibers need to be hydrated so they can pass easily through the gut."
2. Low Blood Pressure/Bleeding
Chia seeds have a load of omega 3's, which are fatty acids that can lower your risk of developing certain cancers or heart problems. A very excessive amount of omega-3's might cause your blood to thin out a bit, but Zellner says this is only likely to present an issue if you're already on blood thinning medication or experience low blood pressure.
3. Effect On Blood Sugar
"Fiber [in chia seeds] can slow digestion of food and absorption of macronutrients, including sugars (AKA glucose) contained in food," Guízar explains. "This can encourage gentler increases and decreases in blood sugars when it is paired alongside other proteins and fats."
This might usually be a good thing, but if you're on medication to control your blood sugar, Zellner advises talking with your doctor before adding these seeds to your next smoothie.
"Chia seeds are in the mint family, so people with known allergies to mint, sesame, or mustard seeds should be cautious about trying chia seeds," Zellner says. "Food allergy symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, itching of the lips or tongue, or anaphylaxis."
5. Potential Effects On Pregnant People
Guízar tells Bustle that chia seeds are considered safe for pregnancy, especially because (in moderation) they can relieve constipation. But if you're not used to consuming foods that are super rich in fiber, Zellner says to remember that being pregnant can come with some digestive system changes — so pregnancy may not be the best time to start experimenting with chia-powered smoothies.
If you're concerned about any of these side effects, Zellner advises chatting with your doctor and starting small. "One serving of chia seeds is approximately two tablespoons," she says, "but if you're unsure about how your body will respond, I'd recommend starting with a scant half tablespoon or less."
Erica Zellner, certified nutrition specialist, health coach at Parsley Health
Carolina Guízar, MS, RDN, CDN, certified intuitive eating coach, founder of Eathority
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