You are probably familiar with chia seeds, which are often referred to as a “superfood,” a term used to describe foods that offer health benefits. Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica L., and were a major food crop in Guatemala and Mexico. Historically, these seeds were cultivated as early as 3500 BC, and were offered to Aztec gods in religious ceremonies. Read on to learn more about this nutritionally dense, naturally gluten free and versatile food.
Chia seeds are rich in minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus and zinc. They are also rich in nutrients such as polyunsaturated fat, specifically omega-3 fatty acids (hey are one of the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids), protein and (mainly soluble) fibre. There are claims that chia may help reduce appetite and weight, lower triglycerides, and improve blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, chia seeds are a complete protein, which means they contain all nine essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body. The fibre, good fat and protein in chia seeds help you feel satisfied and satiated. This may be linked to their association with healthy weight loss. They may contribute to disease prevention when incorporated into a diet that is rich in plant-based foods.
The impact on your health
Do not consume chia seeds dry as this can lead to choking—they need to be moistened in liquid, such as water or dairy-free milk before consumption. They are digested well in their whole form (and don’t need to be ground), unlike flax seeds. The goodness within chia seeds may help prevent the development of certain chronic diseases. They contain a high content of linoleic and alpha-linolenic (ALA) fatty acids. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty are associated with cardiovascular health, such as lower cholesterol, and blood pressure, decreased inflammation and blood clot prevention. The fibre in chia seeds may help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevent blood sugar spikes.
How to enjoy chia seeds
I love chia seeds because they are so nutritious and versatile. You can make a simple and delicious pudding or mock oatmeal in no time, without the use of your oven or stovetop. Have you used them in these ways?
- Egg Replacer: This is commonly used to replace whole eggs in baking. To replace one whole egg, mix one tablespoon of whole chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Allow the mixture to sit for about 5 minutes or until it thickens to the consistency of raw egg.
- Gelatin: Chia seeds absorb liquid quickly. In a mason jar, put ¼ cup of chia seeds into one cup of liquid; stir and cover. Allow the mixture to stand for about 15-20 minutes until you have a soft gelatin. Store in your refrigerator for 6-7 days. Add to smoothies, puddings, sauces and soups for a thicker consistency.
- Pudding: Mix ¼ cup of seeds with one cup of liquid such as dairy-free milk. Allow the mixture to sit in your fridge for about 15 minutes. Then create your favourite flavour by adding things like chopped fresh fruit, cocao, vanilla extract or cinnamon.
- Mock oatmeal: I make a mock oatmeal cereal (without cooking and without oats) using one tablespoon of chia seeds, one tablespoon of hemp hearts and one tablespoon of flaxseeds. I combine this with a half cup of dairy-free milk, a sprinkle of cinnamon and some sultana raisins.
- Sprinkle and Stir: As long as there is liquid in the recipe, you can sprinkle a few teaspoons into foods such as cereals, salads, sauces, soups, or stews. Stir chia seeds into your salad dressings, sauces, marinades, or batter for any sort of baked goods.
About the Author: Living with celiac disease, Lisa Cantkier is a writer and educator focused on nutrition and health.