Chia Seed Hydration Title Tag
The Chia Seed really stands out among other types of seeds!
No other seed posesses such hydrophilic properties. (hydrophilic: attracted to water) The micro fibers on the outer coating of the seed allow it to absorb NINE times its own weight in water. This is extremely beneficial for anyone who eats the seed, for a number of reasons.
But how does it work?
See the diagram below for a closer look at a Chia seed. The seed in this image is many, many times larger than a real Chia seed. The actual Chia seed is about the size of a poppy seed, but it has no flavor.
With this "magnified" view you can see how the fibers of the seed are raised when exposed to water (or any other liquid) The gray area represents the rough size of the bead of gel that forms when liquid gets trapped by these unique fibers.
The Chia Seed's outer shell is always patterned, and can be either gray and tan or brown and black, depending on the type of chia plant. The shell is made of insoluble fiber, also known as 'roughage' and it acts as a sweeper in the digestive tract to promote regularity. As the seed is digested, the coating softens making it especially safe to eat.
The outside of the Chia seed is covered in tiny micro-fibers. When the seed is wet, these nearly-invisibly tiny fibers stand on end and begin trapping liquid. This property is so amazing, it can hold 9 times the weight of the seed in water! This action causes a bead of gel to form around the seed.
Hydrated Chia Seed Micro Illustration
When you wet a Chia seed and wait about 10 minutes you'll see
A bead of gel form. This has the consistancy of a gelatin snack, and is difficult to remove from the seed's outer surface. It's held there by the unique micro-fibers on the seed's outer shell. This liquid is only removed slowly by the digestive system, so it keeps the colon hydrated while releasing electrolytes and nutrients.
What do Chia Seeds look like in action?
Chia gel in a spoon Chia Gel in a Glass
Dry chia seeds in a spoon
And here they've been allowed to form a gel. What looks like a bead of water surrounding the seeds is actually attached to them. The seeds have absorbed the water and turned it into the clear gel you see in the spoon.
With this photo you can see the true size of the seeds, in a common spoon. Here, they're dry... This glass only has ONE teaspoon of chia seeds in it. Dry, they wouldn't even cover the bottom. But when gelled, see how much of the glass they fill? It's this amazing property that benefits you when you eat them!
Water retaining benefits of the Chia Seed for you:

1. Keep the entire digestive process hydrated:
Because the water absorbed by the seed is somewhat difficult to remove, it takes the digestive process a while to break down the soluble fiber and absorb the water. This means that as the seeds pass through the colon, they are slowly irrigating it on the way through. Keeping food moist is an important way to prevent maladies such as constipation and diverticulitus. The soluble and insoluble fibers act as a 'sweeper' to keep food moving easily. When digestion is flowing smoothly, bile-acid from the liver doesn't get a chance to be re-absorbed. Bile-acid is produced by using up your supply of cholesterol, so ushering it out of the system is a benefit to your cholesterol level as well.

2. Calorie Replacement:
Because Chia seeds have no flavor of their own, they distribute and take on the taste of whatever food or drink you add them to. If you want them to taste like your favorite flavored tea, just mix them in. They'll hydrate with the water and taste just like it. It's the same with any beverage of your choice that's not too acidic. (Chia won't gel in undiluted lemon, lime or grapefruit juice...but you can just add pre-gelled chia.)
Because of the dramatic increase in size, when you eat the hydrated seeds you feel full. However, you are replacing calories from food you'd normally eat with 0-calorie water, or lower calorie drinks! For example, if you mix 1 tbsp of chia seeds with 9 tbsp of water, you end up with 9 tbsp of filling, nutritious chia gel. This can then be used to displace the volume of foods, without altering their taste. You can find out more about adding chia to food on the Baking With Half the Fat: Just Add Chia Seeds! page.

3. Two kinds of fiber means better digestion for you
Your body cannot break down & get calories from soluble or insoluble fiber. However, the beneficial bacteria that live in your digestive system can. Soluble fiber is also called a "pre-biotic" it feeds "probiotic" bacteria, which in turn, help you. Feeding beneficial bacteria helps them kill off harmful bacteria, helps them break down certain nutrients into forms you can use & helps them out-populate less-desireable bacteria. Keeping the friendly bacteria hydrated helps too.

Want to learn more? Check out our Chia Seed Articles!
The Top 7 Chia Drinks Chia Seeds Home Page