Look: there are a lot of healthy and great foods out there, there’s no doubt about it.
But when it comes to supporting your thyroid, some are heads and shoulders above the rest.
Chia seeds fall into this category.
What are chia seeds?
Simply put they are an ultra-healthy seed that grows in Central America.
They were considered a staple part of the ancient Aztec diet and their common name, chia, is derived from the Spanish word chian in reference to their oily quality (1).
Like other seeds and nuts, they do contain plenty of healthy fats but their nutritious benefits don’t stop there.
They are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, plant-based protein, polyphenolic antioxidants, fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
And it is these special qualities that provide the benefits that make this plant a thyroid superfood.
On top of all of these benefits, chia seeds also have the unique ability to absorb roughly 12x their weight in water making them ideal for certain types of dishes.
We’ll talk more about how to incorporate them into your diet in a minute but, for now, let’s focus on why thyroid patients should consume them.
As a thyroid patient, adding chia seeds to your daily diet can provide you with multiple benefits:
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#1. Help control your appetite and support a healthy weight.
As a thyroid patient, you know that it can be a constant struggle to maintain a healthy weight.
Given that most thyroid patients are undertreated or being treated with the wrong types of thyroid hormones, they are often in a metabolic state which promotes weight gain and makes weight loss more difficult.
This is an unfortunate reality, but it doesn’t mean you are helpless.
Even though you can’t force your doctor to make changes to your thyroid medication, you still have complete control over your diet.
And when it comes to foods, some are just better at promoting weight loss than others.
Chia seeds are one of those foods.
Here’s how they can help:
Do you remember when I mentioned that chia seeds can absorb roughly 12x their weight in water?
This is more than just a cool trick, it happens to have a beneficial impact on your appetite.
When chia seeds are introduced to water and allowed to expand, they can fill up more space in your stomach.
The more space they fill up, the more full you will feel. The more full you feel the less likely you are to overeat.
It’s pretty simple and it’s the reason that you’ll find chia seeds in many smoothie recipes, pudding recipes, and even overnight oat recipes.
On top of their ability to impact your appetite, they are also a great source of soluble fiber (2).
Just how good of a source of fiber are they? Well, their fiber content per 100 grams is greater than macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, wild rice, and quinoa (3).
Soluble fiber is great for promoting gut health which is also necessary for managing your weight.
If you don’t believe me, check out this study which shows that the microbiome of obese patients results in the absorption of more calories from food (4).
Or perhaps this one, which shows that probiotics can help promote weight loss.
Believe me, I’m a big fan of probiotics, but it’s always ideal to heal and improve your gut naturally with foods if possible.
And chia seeds provide you with this benefit.
Even though chia seeds can help promote a healthy weight, it’s important not to get caught up in the weeds here.
Yes, they are great for your weight, but there’s no single food that’s suddenly or magically going to cause you to lose more weight.
Maintaining a normal weight, especially if you have a thyroid problem, is more about doing a lot of things right over a long period of time.
#2. Great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
No matter how you look at it, inflammation is at the heart of almost every chronic disease you can think of, including many types of thyroid diseases.
And even if you can’t directly link inflammation to the onset of every thyroid disease, we can still say that inflammation is negative for thyroid function due to its effects on T4 to T3 conversion.
So regardless of what type of thyroid problem you have, it’s never a bad idea to lower inflammation in your body.
Chia seeds may be helpful in this arena because they are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.
It’s theorized that one of the main reasons that people suffer from so many inflammatory conditions in our modern times is that they consume far more omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3 fatty acids.
The standard American diet is loaded with omega-6 fatty acids, which are commonly found in industrial seed oils, and devoid of omega-3 fatty acids.
And unless you are specifically picking your food for its omega-3 fatty acid content, it’s unlikely you are getting enough.
Outside of just a few plants, the majority of high omega-3 fatty acid foods are all marine-based (fish).
Eating foods that are high in omega 3 fatty acids helps to drive down inflammation by balancing out your omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio.
Reducing inflammation means your thyroid hormones will be actively converted into T3 more readily and it also means that you may reduce immune-mediated damage to your thyroid gland if you have Hashimoto’s.
How much omega 3 do chia seeds contain?
Quite a bit.
Each serving of chia seeds contains roughly 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids compared to 2 grams found in 1 serving of Salmon.
So if you don’t like fish, and you want to reduce inflammation in your body, take a long hard look at chia seeds.
#3. They are loaded with protein.
Beyond their highly beneficial fat content, they also contain another important macromolecule:
Chia seeds are 19% protein by weight, making them an excellent source of protein for a plant-based food.
This puts their protein content in line with other seeds and exceeds the protein content of cereals and grains.
Their amino acid profile is considered complete as they contain all nine essential amino acids and 8 non-essential amino acids.
Why does their protein intake matter for thyroid patients?
For several reasons:
The first is because most thyroid patients are undereating on protein.
Protein is the single most important macromolecule for managing muscle mass and muscle tissue happens to be a very thyroid-responsive tissue.
The more muscle mass you have, the more active your thyroid will be.
The second has to do with weight.
Weight gain is a big problem for thyroid patients and one way to fight this weight is by increasing muscle mass.
Each serving of chia seeds provides roughly 5 grams of protein which is decent for a plant, but pretty low compared to your daily needs.
For this reason, I wouldn’t count on chia seeds as a primary source of protein, but it’s great for boosting the protein content of recipes.
#4. Highly nutritious and packed with vitamins and minerals.
Not all foods are created equal in terms of their nutrient profile.
Some, like chia seeds, just provide way more than other foods.
To give you an example of what I’m talking about, just take a look at what you’ll find in each serving (2.5 tablespoons) of chia seeds (7):
- 140 calories
- 5 grams of protein
- 10 grams of fiber
- 12 grams of carbohydrate
- 9 grams of fat
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
On top of these vitamins, nutrients, healthy fats, and protein, you’ll also get an incredibly impressive polyphenolic complex that includes:
- Chlorogenic acid
- Ferulic acid
- P-coumaric acid
And small amounts of isoflavones including:
There are few foods out there that provide an ingredient profile this diverse.
#5. Easy to incorporate into your diet.
It’s not always the case that a super healthy food is easy to consume, but, surprisingly, that is the case with chia seeds.
Not only can you purchase chia seeds in bulk and store them for up to 2 years, but you can also fit them into just about any recipe you can think of.
Here are a few clever ways that you can incorporate this superfood into your diet:
- Put them in water
- Make chia pudding
- Put them in smoothies
- Use them as a topping for salads
- Bake with them
- Put them in breakfast bars or pancakes
- Put them in a jam
- Add them to cookies
- Add them to oatmeal
Because of their relatively mild taste, they can go well with savory or sweet dishes.
They can also be eaten raw or after they’ve been soaked.
No matter your preferences, you should be able to find a way to incorporate this food into your diet.
My personal favorite way to eat chia seeds is in my morning smoothie.
#6. Help Keep Your Cholesterol Level Normal.
Another reason you may want to consider adding chia seeds to your diet is because of their beneficial impact on cholesterol.
Thyroid patients frequently have high cholesterol related to a combination of their weight, metabolic dysfunction, and thyroid dysfunction.
The most common treatment for high cholesterol is the use of cholesterol-lowering medications like statins.
But there may be a way to manage your cholesterol with the use of diet.
And one such food to consider to manage your cholesterol is chia seeds.
Studies in both animals and humans have shown that daily chia seed consumption seems to have a positive impact on HDL and total cholesterol (8).
Before you accept that you have to take cholesterol-lowering medication for the rest of your life, give changing your diet a try first.
The Best Way To Eat Chia Seeds
Ready to incorporate chia seeds into your diet to obtain these benefits?
It’s easier than you might think.
Here’s how to do it:
In order to really get the most out of chia seeds you’ll need to make sure you are eating enough.
The amount that you’ll want to aim for is around 3 tablespoons per day.
This equates to around 30 grams if you like to measure your food.
It’s a fairly sizeable amount which means you’ll most likely want to combine it with some other food.
Here are my two favorite ways to get chia seeds into your diet:
A chia seed pudding bowl.
This super simple method allows you to take full advantage of chia seeds and it’s so easy to make.
A simple recipe might look like this:
- 3 tablespoons of chia seeds
- ¾ cup of non-dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon of honey (or your preferred sweetener)
Put all of the ingredients together and let them stand for a few hours in the fridge.
After a few hours the chia seeds will have absorbed your non-dairy milk and the contents will have turned into a pudding-like substance.
From here you can top it with your favorite fruit like blueberries or strawberries, you can add desiccated coconut, top with nuts and seeds, or leave it as is.
There are so many combinations that you can create so feel free to play around with the recipe to find what works best for you.
As I mentioned before, my personal favorite way to eat chia seeds is by throwing them in my morning smoothie.
I don’t like the consistency of pudding so I prefer to just blend them up and eat them quickly.
You can find a list of healthy thyroid-friendly smoothie recipes here for some inspiration.
No matter how you slice it, chia seeds have the potential to provide a lot of benefits to thyroid patients.
The key to obtaining their benefits is to use them daily and, preferably, use them in place of some other less healthy food that you would otherwise eat.
Now I want to hear from you:
Were you aware of the benefits of chia seeds?
Are you already eating them consistently?
If so, what’s your favorite way to eat them?
Are you planning on adding them to your diet after reading this?
Leave your questions or comments below!