Should You Grind Your Chia Seeds for Better Absorption?

chia seed
Photo Illustration by Amelia Manley for Verywell Health; Getty Images.

Key Takeaways

  • Chia seeds are touted as a superfood since they provide a good source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants.
  • A new study suggests that ground chia seeds offer more nutritional benefits than whole chia seeds.
  • Experts say whole chia seeds are still easy to digest because the external layer of the seeds breaks down when combined with liquid.

Chia seeds are a popular superfood packed with fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. TikTok has also been obsessed with chia pudding, made by mixing milk and fruit with whole chia seeds.

But a new study suggests that you might need to grind the seeds first for the most nutritional benefits. While whole chia seeds are a good source of fiber, grinding the seeds may make provide better access to the protein and omega-3s inside the seeds, according to the study.

The research was conducted using gut microbes from pigs so more studies are needed to confirm the findings in humans. However, a pig’s digestive system is similar to a human’s, and these microbes are used in similar experiments around the world, according to James Cowley, PhD, a co-author of the study and a food product development fellow at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

But “people who eat chia seed pudding certainly haven’t been wasting them by eating them whole,” Cowley told Verywell via an email. Whole chia seeds can support digestive health, he explained, but the external fiber can shield other nutrients from being released and absorbed.

If you do want to grind the seeds, Cowley added, only grind them right before eating them. “A second or two in a spice or coffee grinder is enough to break open the seeds,” he said. “Exposure to oxygen causes rancidity so grinding them in bulk and leaving them exposed to oxygen for prolonged amounts of time before using will result in rancid smells and flavors.”

Both ground and whole chia seeds offer nutritional benefits. Whole chia seeds are also easy for the body to digest because the surface of the seeds breaks down when it’s exposed to liquid, according to Melissa Majumdar, MS, RD, CSOWM, LDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics based in Decatur, Georgia.

“Go ahead and use it in its whole form or ground form—whatever is easiest for you to incorporate,” Majumdar said.

What Are the Health Benefits of Chia Seeds?

Chia seeds come from the Salvia hispanica plant and were used historically by the Aztec and Mayan communities for food and medicines. These seeds are now often labeled as a type of “superfood” because of their rich nutritional properties.

A 2021 review highlighted that chia seeds contain polyphenols, a compound in some plant products with antioxidant properties. They’re also a good source of fiber, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Some animal studies also suggested that chia seeds can help improve intestinal function and encourage the growth of healthy gut bacteria.

But a well-balanced diet is still important despite the health benefits offered by chia seeds, said Bradley Bolling, PhD, an associate professor in food science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison who co-authored the 2021 review.

“There’s some exciting and promising research about their health effects, but we don’t want to overstate them,” Bolling told Verywell. “We should be eating chia seeds, other seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to have the best shot at reducing chronic disease risk.”

Do Chia Seeds Help With Weight Loss?

Some TikTokers have also claimed that chia seed water promotes fullness and weight loss, but there isn’t enough research to support these claims.

A small randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of the American Nutrition Association concluded that chia flour did not contribute to weight loss, but it may offer positive benefits on systolic blood pressure. The study only included 20 women and lasted 90 days so the evidence may not be conclusive.

Chia seeds take on a gel-like consistency when combined with water, which can slow digestion and help people stay full for longer, according to Majumdar, who is a bariatric coordinator and has expertise in weight management.

“We don’t want to give the chia a halo, we can just know that it’s a very balanced food that can provide lots of different nutrients that very well could help us with that overall and preventative health,” she said.

What This Means For You

Chia seeds are a good source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. While ground chia seeds might allow for better absorption, more studies on humans would be needed to confirm the benefit. Whole chia seeds are still easy for the body to digest.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Alasalvar C, Chang SK, Bolling B, Oh WY, Shahidi F. Specialty seeds: nutrients, bioactives, bioavailability, and health benefits: a comprehensive review. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2021;20(3):2382-2427. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12730

  4. Tamargo A, Cueva C, Laguna L, Moreno-Arribas MV, Munoz LA. Understanding the impact of chia seed mucilage on human gut microbiota by using the dynamic gastrointestinal model simgiJ Funct Foods. 2018;50:104-111. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2018.09.028

  5. da Silva BP, Dias DM, de Castro Moreira ME, et al. Chia seed shows good protein quality, hypoglycemic effect and improves the lipid profile and liver and intestinal morphology of Wistar ratsPlant Foods Hum Nutr. 2016;71(3):225-230. doi:10.1007/s11130-016-0543-8

  6. Quaresma LS, de Oliveira Siais L, Grangeiro ÉD, Rosado EL. Chia flour (Salvia hispanica L.) intake does not affect weight loss and lipid profile but improve systolic blood pressure control in obesityJ Am Nutr Assoc. 2023;42(4):403-410. doi:10.1080/07315724.2022.2056773