Chia seeds have grown in popularity over the past several years, and there is plenty of research to back up their many health benenfits -- including chia seed benefits for skin!
This article looks some of the health benefits of chia seeds including the important role that chia seeds and chia seed oil play in skin health.
Try making Chia Seeds Overnight, an easy 4 ingredient chia pudding that only takes a couple minutes to throw together!
What are Chia Seeds and Where do They Come From?
First, let’s take a quick look at what chia seeds are and where they come from. Chia seeds are small round or oval seeds that come in a variety of black or white colors.
Chia seeds are from the Salvia Hispanica L plant, part of the mint family, native to Mexico and Guatemala. When chia seeds are in liquid, the seeds form a gel-like substance around them. This gives them a unique texture similar to boba or tapioca.
Chia seeds were a staple in the ancient Maya and Aztec diets for medicinal purposes and cosmetics. In particular, it is believed that the ancient Aztecs extracted oil from chia seeds and found it to be an effective way to moisturize their skin.
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are tiny seeds, but they're jam-packed with nutrition including dietary fiber, essential fatty acids, plant protein, antioxidants, and plenty of vitamins and minerals.
They have been shown to support a healthy gut and play a part in the prevention of chronic illnesses including heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and cancer. They can also help with weight loss and weight management.
As if that wasn’t enough, chia seeds play an important part in maintaining a healthy brain and regulating blood sugar levels. Plus, they contain essential nutrients important for muscle and bone health.
Needless to say, they are a nutritional powerhouse and pack quite a punch for their small size. It’s no wonder that the word “chia” means “strength” in Mayan!
Turns out, chia seeds in your diet or used topically may be a great addition for improving skin conditions, too. So whether you are looking to maintain a youthful appearance, reduce skin inflammation, or get a natural glow from the inside out, chia seeds might just be a great addition to your diet!
Chia Seed Nutrition
Looking at the nutrition in chia seeds gives us a great clue as to how they can help improve skin health. Below are some of the nutritional highlights of these little seeds:
Source of Dietary fiber - soluble fiber found in chia seeds aids in supporting gut health and the digestive system. Increasingly, research shows a connection between the health of the gut microbiome and overall health which includes healthy skin. As a bonus, the fiber in chia seeds can also contribute to lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and prevention of chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
High concentration of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALAs) - ALAs aids in cell health, including the health of skin cells. They also support brain health and hormone health, and can lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
Plant-protein including all 9 essential amino acids - protein helps support bones and muscles and the health of all cells in the body, including skin cells.
Excellent source of polyphenols and antioxidants - antioxidants help decrease oxidative stress in the body by neutralizing free radicals, substances that can be harmful when they build up in the body. Free radicals can contribute to aging and cancer. One of the powerful antioxidants found in chia seeds is a flavanoid called quercetin. Quercetin may reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Another antioxidant found in chia seeds, caffeic acid, can help decrease inflammation.
Vitamins/Minerals - chia seeds contain many other nutrients including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Below is the nutrition information for a serving of chia seeds:
1 oz, 2 tablespoon or 28 grams
- Calories: 138 calories
- Protein: 5 grams
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fiber: 10 grams
- Fats: 9 grams
- Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA): 5 grams
- Iron: 12% of the daily value
- Magnesium: 23% of the daily value
- Calcium: 14% of the daily value
- Phosphorus: 20% of the daily value
- Zinc: 12% of the daily value
- Thiamin (Vitamin B1): 15% of the daily value
- Niacin (Vitamin B3): 16% of the daily value
Chia Seed Benefits for Skin
It’s been said that the appearance of skin is reflective of a person’s overall health. By far the best way to get healthier skin from the inside is with good nutrition! There are nutrients that impact the aging process including certain vitamins, tocopherols, carotenoids, flavanoids, and plant extracts.
Components of foods that contain antioxidant properties in particular can help with anti-aging and have been used by dermatologists either topically or orally. Chia seeds just happen to be one of those foods.
According to dermatologists, there are two distinct aging processes:
- 1. Intrinsic: our skin ages in the same way as the rest of our body, including our internal organs.
- 2. Extrinsic: the result of external factors and exposure. This includes sun exposure, smoking, pollution, poor sleep, and poor nutrition.
Turns out, chia seeds can help with both! Below are 4 of the top skin benefits of chia seeds for skin.
1. Fight damage from free radicals
Free radicals are molecules that are unstable and highly reactive because they have one or more unpaired electron. They can build up in our bodies for many reasons. Some common causes of free radicals are environmental damage (pollution, sun damage from UV rays) and consumption of alcohol, tobacco and ultra-processed foods. Free radicals can steal electrons from other healthy cells in the body in a process called oxidation. When there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in your body, this can cause something called oxidative stress. Over time, oxidative stress leads to chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders, and inflammatory diseases. Oxidation also has an impact on the aging process.
Chia seeds have high levels of antioxidants and also contain Vitamin E which has antioxidant properties. These antioxidants can help protect against free radical damage and serve a skin barrier function slowing down the signs of aging including fine lines, dark spots, and wrinkles from UV damage in particular.
2. Reduction in Inflammation
Chia seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to decrease inflammation. These anti-inflammatory properties can help skin issues including acne, dry skin, and itchy skin.
3. Skin hydration and moisture
Although more studies are needed, the healthy fats in chia seeds can help with skin hydration and moisture by contributing to a healthy skin barrier. Chia seeds have a very high percentage of fatty acids present and the high presence of Omega-3s function as an important part of cell membranes. Healthy skin cells = healthy skin. So if you struggle with dehydrated skin during the winter months, it might be a good time to add chia seeds to your diet.
4. Chia seed oils used topically can offer benefits to all skin types including sensitive skin.
Have you ever considered adding chia oil to your skincare routine? Chia seeds have a significant percentage of fatty acids present. In fact, the seeds themselves contain 39% oil!
According to dermatologists, chia oil used topically even works well for oily skin to add moisture and protect against free radicals. It is noted that chia seeds are low in Vitamin C so it should be used in conjunction with a Vitamin C serum when being used to reduce the signs of aging. Many beauty brands add chia seed oil to their products so be sure to look at the label.
How to get more chia seeds in your diet
So now that you know the health benefits of chia seeds including benefits for your skin, you might be wondering how to get more of them in your diet!
Some popular recipes that use chia seeds are chia pudding, granola with chia seeds, or smoothie recipes with chia seeds added. You can also top bowls, salads, and even pastas with chia seeds. Chia seeds can absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid and can be used as a substitute for eggs and fats in recipes such as baked goods.
Since chia seeds are high in fiber, it’s important to be sure and drink enough water when consuming them. To give you an idea, 2 tablespoon serving of chia seeds contains 10 grams of fiber. To get that same amount you’d have to eat nearly 7 whole cucumbers or 16 ounces of baby spinach (over 3 small bags from the grocery store)!
And as for daily portions, the USDA recommends to ingest no more than 48g/day of chia seeds/day, which is about 3 ½ Tablespoons. Noting that chia seeds expand when added to fluid, there could be a risk of choking when consuming them dry (for example, sprinkled on top of a salad). So be careful if you have swallowing issues and always talk with your health care provider or dietitian if you have any concerns!
Chia seeds have many health benefits. They have been shown to lower the risk of chronic illness, support digestive health, and regulate blood glucose. They can also help with weight loss and support brain health, gut health, hormone health and bone health.
When it comes to chia seed benefits for skin, the high level of antioxidants in chia seeds help fight free radicals in the body which can help prevent UV damage that causes fine lines and wrinkles. The Omega-3s in chia seeds reduce inflammation and increase moisture and hydration of skin. And using chia seed oil topically can offer benefits to all skin types, too.
To get more chia seeds in your diet, try making this delicious Chia Seed Pudding!
I hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new! I would love to hear from you if so. Please leave me a comment below or find me on Instagram....I LOVE knowing there’s people out there reading my articles. 🙂 IG: @mallorythedietitian
References: Amino Acids Journal, USDA Food Data Central, Healthline, ancientgrains.com, Byrdie, Pharmacognosy Review Journal, Molecules, Lipids in Health and Disease, Mayo Clinic, Healthline, WebMD, Dermatoendocrinology
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