What is it?
Some of us first heard of chia seeds in those TV commercials for chia pets….. ch-ch-ch chia! At the time, we had no idea that these seeds, soaked and spread on little clay figures to sprout, were actually a highly nutritious food.
Chia seeds are tiny black (or white) seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant, related to the mint family. They were eaten by the Aztecs and the Mayans centuries ago, though have only recently become popular in the modern Western world. In fact, the word “chia” is the Mayan word for “strength” – they prized the seeds as a source of energy.
Chia seeds can absorb 10-12 times their weight in liquid. They have a mild nutty flavour, and work in sweet as well as savoury dishes. In their dry form, are crunchy like poppyseeds, but once they have absorbed liquid, they take on a jelly-like texture, somewhat like tapioca.
dry seeds / soaked seeds
Chia seeds are very high in fiber, being 40% fiber by weight. They are 14% protein by weight (higher than most plant foods), and contain all 9 essential amino acids, making them a complete protein. They are also a decent source of ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid, and are high in mineral content, specifically calcium (formation of bones, nerve transmission), manganese (digestion of protein, glucose regulation, thyroid activity), magnesium (regulating muscle tone, energy production, prevention of tooth decay) and phosphorus (bone and tooth formation, energy production, cell and tissue repair).
There is no difference in nutritional content in the black seeds compared to the white seeds.
Key Health Benefits
· Because of their high fiber content, chia seeds are food for gut flora, making them beneficial to your digestive and immune systems (a healthy intestinal tract is needed for a healthy immune system).
· Their high fiber content means that they are highly nutritious without a lot of calories. And of course, high fiber content is important for colon health.
· They contain high amounts of antioxidants, which help protect against cell damage by counteracting free radicals, thereby reducing oxidative stress throughout the body.
· Because of their incredible ability to absorb liquid and their high fiber and protein content, eating chia seeds can help one feel fuller, longer, helping to control appetite for those trying to lose weight.
· Eating chia seeds can help maintain stable blood sugar levels.
How to Eat It
Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds do not need to be ground in order to be digested. Some ways to incorporate chia seeds into your diet:
· Sprinkle on top of cereal, yogurt, vegetables, soups, stews, or rice dishes
· Use raw, soaked in juice or milk of your choice, add to porridge, pudding, smoothies or baked goods
· Use to thicken sauces
· Use as an egg substitute in baking (1 T seeds, 3 T water)
· Sprout the seeds (just like on a chia pet) and use as microgreens in salads or sandwiches
A word of caution: due to their ability to absorb so much liquid, it is not recommend to eat a mouthful of dry seeds – they could absorb all the moisture in your mouth and throat, making it difficult to swallow them. Besides, there are so many more delicious ways to eat them, why would you?
Stored in a cool, dry place, chia seeds will last for 4 to 5 years. Their antioxidant content protects the fat in the seeds from deteriorating.
To get some recipes to try or more information on chia seeds, or have any other nutrition related questions, do reach out.