Chia Seeds for Healthy Cholesterol Levels

A large wooden scoop filled with chia seeds.
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High levels of total or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in your blood can increase your risk for heart disease, but you may be able to maintain or achieve healthy numbers by modifying your diet. Some of the nutrients in chia seeds may lower your cholesterol, and they are most effective as part of an overall balanced diet. Talk to your doctor about additional steps you can take to lower your cholesterol.

Chia Seed Background

Chia seeds come from the chia plant, which is also known as Salvia columbariae Benth, according to the Department of Agriculture. They are native to the southwestern United States and the coast of California, and currently grow in parts of Nevada, California, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Native Americans on the Pacific coast have historically used chia for gastronomical and medicinal purposes, and the seeds provide protein and calcium. After roasting chia seeds, you can eat them plan, add them to porridge or soup or mix them with beverages to thicken them.

Dietary Overview

To lower your cholesterol, eat chia seeds as part of a diet which gets no more than 10 percent of calories from cholesterol-raising saturated fat, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Since fat has nine calories per gram, this means limiting your saturated fat intake to no more than 22 g per day on a 2,000-calorie diet. An ounce of chia seeds has only 0.9 g saturated fat. Dietary cholesterol may raise your LDL cholesterol, and chia seeds are cholesterol-free.

Dietary Fiber

Each ounce of chia seeds provides 10.7 g of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber comes from the parts of plant foods that your body cannot digest, and it lowers levels of total and LDL cholesterol in your blood, according to the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. A healthy diet includes at least 14 g dietary fiber per 1,000 calories that you eat, but the typical American diet includes less than half of that amount, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

An ounce of chia seeds supplies nearly 5 g of alpha-linolenic acid, and alpha-linolenic acid is an essential omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy fatty acids, and they may lower your total cholesterol levels, according to the University of Maryland. Walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil are other sources of alpha-linolenic acid, and fatty fish and shellfish provide other omega-3 fatty acids called docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, according to the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. The daily value for alpha-linolenic acid is at least 1.1 to 1.6 g per day, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

Other Information

Obesity increases your cholesterol levels, so eat chia seeds only in moderation to avoid unwanted weight gain because each ounce provides 139 calories. Some ways to include them in a nutrient-dense diet are as toppings for smoothies, yogurt or cereal. Many factors affect your cholesterol levels and risk for heart disease, and eating chia seeds as part of a healthy diet might not be enough to lower your cholesterol. Continue to follow your doctor's medical advice for staying healthy.

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