Chia seeds have become one of the most popular super foods over the past couple of years. And rightly so...
Energy boosting chia seeds are a versatile and fun ingredient to work with and can be easily incorporated into many healthy recipes.
History of chia seeds
Originally grown in Mexico, Chia were highly valued for their medicinal properties and nutritional value. In fact, they were even used as currency! Aztec warriors ate chia seeds to give them high energy and endurance. They said just 1 spoonful could sustain them for 24 hours.
Chia means “strength” in the Mayan language, and they were known as “runners food” because runners and warriors would use them as fuel while running long distances or during battle.
Seasonality and availability
Salvia hispanica, commonly known as chia, is a species of flowering plant in the mint family, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala.
Due to their worldwide popularity and booming demand, Chia seeds are now cultivated all over the world from Australia to Uganda.
Read about the future of chia seed growing in Africa
Chia seeds are mainly sold in seed form. It is best to grind them yourself in a blender to make chia seed flour.
Chia seed oil is another great way to include them in your diet.
A one-ounce (28 grams) serving of chia contains (1):
- Fiber: 11 grams.
- Protein: 4 grams.
- Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are omega-3s).
- Calcium: 18% of the RDI.
- Manganese: 30% of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDI.
- Phosphorus: 27% of the RDI.
- They also contain a decent amount of zinc, vitamin B3, potassium, vitamin B1 and vitamin B2.
Health benefits of chia seeds
- Strengthens bones
- Improves digestive health
- Benefits skin health
- Builds muscles and sheds excess weight
- Boosts energy and metabolism
- Reverses inflammation
- Balances blood sugar
- Regulates cholesterol
How to Eat Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have a mild nutty taste and can easily be added to most dishes as a garnish, yet chewing small seeds like flax or chia generally doesn’t make the omega-3’s and other nutrients readily available for digestion and assimilation.
The best way to access their vitamins and minerals is to either grind or soak them.
Raw vs. Soaking
There seems to be much debate as to whether you need to soak chia before eating. It won’t hurt to eat them straight, but if you soak them, then you “sprout” them and it releases the “enzyme inhibitors” that are used to protect the seed.
One, this makes it much easier to digest, and two, your body can then access the dense nutrients inside the seeds. In my opinion, you always want to get the most nutrition out of any food that you eat, so I prefer soaking them before adding them to my recipe or smoothie.
How to Soak chia seeds
To soak chia, simply mix them in a 1:10 ratio chia to water. That’s about 1.5 tablespoons chia seeds in one cup of water. It does not have to be exact, but you do want it to gel all the way and not be too watery. Then let them sit for about 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Since chia seeds can hold up to 12 times its weight in water, they are wonderful to prevent dehydration. However, if you choose not to soak them, then they can also absorb water from you during digestion. So make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated.
Ground chia seeds
Another option is to grind chia in a coffee grinder or Vitamix to break down the hard outer shell before eating them. When pulverized, chia seed flour can be used in most gluten-free recipes like pancakes, muffins, breads and even pastas. When grinding omega-3 rich seeds, however, it is important to store them in a sealed, glass container in your refrigerator or freezer.
Whole chia seeds
Unlike flaxseeds, you do not have to grind chia to access their nutrition. You can eat them whole and still get their “energy-packed” punch. You can even just eat a spoonful straight – but beware – they do tend to stick in your teeth!
Occasionally some people may experience stomach discomfort when consuming chia, especially in large amounts due to the high fiber content. As with any food, eat in moderation and always soak before consuming.
There are so many reasons to eat chia and there’s no better time to start then now!
Chia works great in lots of recipes, they are a staple ingredients in my pantry.
- Breakfast dishes
- Energy balls
- Gluten-free baking
- Chia seed puddings
Vegan eggs made with chia seeds
Did you know? You can substitute eggs for chia seeds in vegan recipes and get very similiar results.
Chia eggs are very easy to make:
1 tablespoon chia seeds to 3 tablespoons water. Mix together and leave for 10 minutes to activate and there you have it... A vegan egg for all your baking recipes.
Chia seed facts
- Chia are from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family.
- Mexico and Guatemala were the birth place of chia.
- The Aztecs and Maya were big fans of chia, and consumed it as early as 3,000 BC for healing powers and strength.
- Chia is one of the most nutrient rich foods in the world, containing 25% more fiber than flax seed, 30% more antioxidants than blueberries, 2x more potassium than bananas and 6x more calcium than milk!
- You can even use chia as a face mask! Chia isn’t just good for you on the inside, but can be used as a skin-hydrating treatment too.
Where to buy
Chia seeds are very easy and inexpensive to source online or at any good health food store.
My favourite chia seed breakfast recipes
Chia seeds are one of my staple breakfast ingredients. They keep me full and nourished until lunch time.
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