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We’ve Been Eating Chia Seeds Wrong — Study Says Grinding Them Boosts Gut Health Benefits

Unlock the full nutrient potential of this superfood.


Chia seeds are a proven superfood. Small in size but mighty in nutrition, these nutty-flavored seeds infuse yogurt, smoothies, and cereals with added crunch and fiber. But that’s not the only way to enjoy them. Recently, food researchers have revealed another — and potentially even more beneficial — way to add chia seeds to your diet: grinding them. According to the research, the body’s ability to absorb the seeds’ key nutrients improves when they are ground; and this, in turn, amplifies healthy gut cell growth. Keep reading to learn how ground chia seeds could improve your gut health when eaten as part of a balanced diet.

The Gut Health Benefits of Ground Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are packed with a soluble fiber called mucilage, which gives chia seeds their gelatinous texture when moistened. Soluble fiber is associated with aiding healthy gut bacteria growth, blood sugar control, and lowered cholesterol. However, mucilage is found on the outer layer of chia seeds, and isn’t activated until the seeds are wet or broken up. This unique quality led professor Rachel Burton of the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food, and Wine, to explore how the form chia seeds are consumed in correlates to their bioavailability. “Chia seeds contain healthy fats, antioxidants, and dietary fiber, but there isn’t a lot of research into how the composition of these seeds interact with gut microflora, which help to digest food,” Burton said in a statement.

The Study

For a recent study published in the journal Food & Function, researchers exposed gut microbes from pigs to different forms of chia seeds. These forms included whole chia seeds and ones that were ground into a meal. Next, the samples underwent a 70-hour incubation process. During this time, a machine measured the gas released from the samples to mimic the digestion process. Afterwards, researchers analyzed the samples, and discovered that crushed seeds fermented better in the gut than whole seeds.

“What we found was that when the seeds were ground down, they produced more beneficial metabolites or fuel that could then be used to renew gut cells,” co-author James Cowley, PhD, also from the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food, and Wine, explained. “This shows the benefits of eating chia seeds could be enhanced if the nutlets are ground, improving access to key nutrients such as dietary fiber.”

Although whole chia seeds are still healthy to consume, this study highlights how grinding them allows for maximum nutrient absorption. “There is a lot of emerging research that show gut microbes in the digestive system influence a huge range of conditions including depression and anxiety,” Dr. Cowley adds. “Consuming ground chia seeds may potentially shift populations of gut microbes and affect progression of these conditions, however more research needs to be conducted in this area.” 

How To Add Ground Chia Seeds To Your Diet

Great news: Ground chia seeds are more readily available than you think. Similar to whole chia seeds, you can find a ground version such as Nutiva Organic Ground Chia Seeds (Buy from Amazon, $7.99) in stores and online. Alternatively, make your own ground chia seeds by pulsing one to 2 tablespoons of whole seeds in a blender or food processor to your desired level of coarseness.

Ground chia seeds work well mixed into yogurt or oatmeal, blended in smoothies, or used as a base for pudding. For a tasty twist, Jessica Jones, MS, RD, CDE, Premier Protein Cereal Nutrition Consultant, suggests crushing chia seeds to liven up your favorite cereal. “You can sprinkle them over a bowl of Premier Protein cereal, which I love to recommend because it contains a whopping 20 grams of protein per [one cup] serving,” she tells FIRST for Women. “By adding chia seeds, that brings your protein intake to 24 grams [they provide 4 grams of plant-based protein per every 2-tablespoon serving], just with breakfast.” As you can see, incorporating ground chia seeds into your diet will pack a flavor and health punch with every bite.

The Bottom Line

Clearly, there’s more to chia seeds than meets the eye. These tiny black seeds are a nutrient powerhouse, especially when ground; grinding the seeds helps your body thoroughly digest their gut-friendly soluble fiber. Plus, breaking them up makes them easier to chew. It looks like chia seeds are here to stay!

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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