These little chia seeds are one of my favorite superfoods because they are packed with nutrients and are so versatile and fun to eat! Lots of people still have never heard of them..or only associate them with chia pets (those collectible clay figurines that grow green hair when the seeds sprout – yes, I used to have one). But recently chia seeds have become increasingly popular for EATING and they are so easy to add to your daily diet with amazing health benefits.
Where do they come from?
Chia seeds come from the desert plant called Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. They originate in Central America and supposedly were used by the Aztecs for a variety of purposes: as a staple food in their diet, as nourishment to sustain warriors in battle, as valuable currency and tribute, and even as treatment for joint pain and skin conditions.
Why should you eat chia seeds?
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Chia seeds are one of the richest plant sources of omega-3s (in the ALA form, not DHA or EPA which are found in fish). Everyone needs more of this essential healthy fat (for brain, heart, skin health, prevention of disease, a better mood, less inflammation, and many other benefits). Chia seeds have an even higher omega-3 content than flaxseeds and you can eat them whole and still absorb all the nutrients (unlike flax, which has to be ground up and goes rancid more quickly).
- Dietary fiber: Chia seeds are high in fiber and are great for digestion. They contain soluble fiber, allowing them to absorb water – up to 10x their weight! This ability to expand and retain water makes them turn into a cool jelly-like substance when they are soaked. It also means they will make you feel fuller and stay hydrated. They slow down digestion of complex carbohydrates, stabilizing blood sugar and allowing for sustained energy.
- Antioxidants: Chia seeds have a high antioxidant content – similar to that of fresh blueberries. This also keeps the fatty acids from oxidizing and going rancid.
- Protein: Chia seeds are about 20% protein, and are a good way for vegetarians and vegans to obtain some high quality plant-based protein with all the essential amino acids (except for taurine).
- Gluten free
- Vitamins and minerals: Chia seeds contain a range of important nutrients, most notably calcium (5X as much as milk), potassium (2X as much as bananas), magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, B vitamins, and vitamin C
- Energizing and sustaining
- Improves brain function
- Stabilizes blood sugar
- Good for digestion
- Pre-workout fuel
- Maintaining hunger/weight
- Nourishes skin and hair
I discovered chia seeds about 1 year ago – I add them to my breakfast almost every day and they help me feel full until lunch. I also feel more energized for long runs if I eat chia a couple hours beforehand. Whenever I eat the little seeds I know I’m doing my body a favor
How can you add chia to your diet?
Chia seeds can be consumed in many different ways! Since they have a very mild taste, they can be easily added to normal foods and dishes without compromising the flavor. I sprinkle them in my Greek yogurt, mix them into oatmeal, blend them into smoothies, bake them into anything, make chia pudding, add them to drinking water, and the list goes on.. Here are some fun and easy ideas for eating more CHIA:
- Sprinkle! Keep chia seeds handy and add them raw to various meals and snacks throughout the day for a nutritional kick – yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, salads, soups
- Egg substitute: Chia gel can be used as a vegan substitute for eggs when baking (1 egg = 3 tbsp water + 1 tbsp white chia seed/powder, soaked until goopy)
- Chia pudding: When soaked in liquid, chia seeds can be made into a nutritious raw pudding, kind of similar to tapioca/rice pudding. They take on whatever flavors they are mixed with, so have fun experimenting with different spices, flavors, and add-ins. Chia pudding can be made into a breakfast, snack, or a sweet dessert depending on what you add. Here is my go-to chia pudding recipe:
»Chia mulberry spice pudding
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp dried mulberries (great for adding sweetness)
- ¼ – ⅓ cup unsweetened soymilk, almondmilk, or water
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
Stir well and let sit for 30 min – 1 hr at room temp or overnight in the fridge. Enjoy as-is, add toppings such as fresh fruit, or pour over warm oatmeal for a nice combination.
- There are so many different chia recipes out there – here are just a few that I have stumbled upon and want to try:
»Where to buy
Chia seeds can be found at any health food store, such as Whole Foods, and increasingly at major supermarkets. Of course you can easily find them online – here are some trusted brands:
The Chia Co – Chia shots – These come in cute little packages of black and white chia, great for traveling
»Chia products to try
- Greens+ Omega3 Chia Natural Energy Bar (Amazon) – These are my absolute favorite energy bar! Perfect for pre- or post- workout nourishment and for eating on the go in the rare case I miss actual breakfast, or just for a snack between meals.
- Mamma Chia – Chia Squeeze – My favorite is apple cinnamon. Great for kids, too!
- Chia/Vie smoothies – My favorite is Mango-J
- Navitas Naturals Cacao Goji Superfood snack – Energizing pre-workout snack
- Nuttzo Organic Omega-3 Seven Nut and Seed Butter (no peanuts) – Great healthier substitute for peanut butter and so addicting!
- New Earth Chipotle Chia Crackers – Amazing. Especially with hummus.
- Nature’s Path Q’ia Chia Buckwheat & Hemp Cereal
»Cookbooks / further reading
ReferencesChia seeds – health food or hype? – LifeExtension
“30 years after Chia Pets, seeds hit food isles” – NY Times
13 Awesome Reasons to Eat Chia Seeds Every Day – The Wellness Warrior Chia nutrition – BuiltLean Chia seed egg replacer – Veganbaking.net