Chia seeds are way more than just your favorite household plant. They are this month’s Nutritional Powerhouse food! It seems like chia seeds and chia-products are popping up all over the grocery store shelves. You may see them in protein bars, beverages, puddings, and other snacks. While chia is quite the trend these days, their use dates back to the Aztecs and Mayans in 3500 BC. The name “chia” is derived from the Mayan word for “strength”. Chia is derived from the plant Salvia hispanica and is a relative of the mint family. Ancient civilizations used chia seeds for various foods and beverages in medicine and for religious ceremonies. Today chia is readily available and grown in Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, and Australia.
Most notable, by consuming just 2 tablespoons (1oz) of chia seeds you get:
- 138 calories
- 9 grams of healthy fat
- 10 grams of fiber
- 5 grams of protein
- 18% of the daily value for calcium
- 4,500 mg of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (plant based omega-3 fatty acids)
- All 9 essential amino acids (great plant based protein option)
- Good source of many minerals including manganese, phosphorus, copper, selenium, iron, and magnesium
- Good source of phytonutrients including:
- chlorogenic acid (an antioxidant)
- caffeic acid (anti-inflammatory)
- quercetin (antioxidant)
- kaempferol (antioxidant)
There are very few clinical trials regarding the health benefits of chia seeds. but some studies show promising results for weight loss, reductions in blood glucose and triglyceride levels, and increases in ALA levels.
Chia is extremely versatile and can be incorporated into your diet in various ways. Chia seeds do not have much flavor. Therefore, you can add them to most recipes without change the taste. Furthermore, keep in mind that chias, LOADED with fiber, swell like sponges when combined with fluid to give a very gelatinous consistency. Finally, I do not recommend eating chia seeds on their own unless you want a pretty embarrassing smile afterwards (*yes, they will get stuck in your pearly whites!)
- Try adding 1-2tbsp of chia seeds to breakfast cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothies.
- Mix chia seeds with dairy or non-dairy milks to make chia seed pudding. Soak for a few hours in the refrigerator.
- Combine 1tbsp of chia seeds to 3tbsp of water to make chia gel which can be used in a variety of recipes, or used as an egg-replacer
Store white or black chia seeds in an airtight container in a cool dry place. You may consume the seeds either whole or ground, raw or soaked. Chia seeds are readily available in major grocery store chains in addition to health food stores or for purchase online.
Here is one of my favorite chia recipes:
Vegan Chia Seed Pancakes
Serves 3-4 (~10 pancakes total)
1½ cups flour (any variety)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1½ cup milk (any variety)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, chia seeds, salt, and cinnamon) together in a bowl.
- Add the milk, vanilla, maple syrup and ACV and stir until “just mixed.”
- Let sit for 5-10 minutes so the chia can work it’s magic.
- Cook in approximately ¼ cup scoops over medium heat in a lightly oiled pan.
- Flip when bubbles appear in the middle of each pancake.
- Cook for another 3-5 minutes on the other side.