The only reason I knew what chia seeds were for most of my life was because of those dreaded "Chia Pets" that were constantly advertised throughout my entire childhood. You can watch one of the original commercials here. If the chia pet isn't good enough, there's always CHIA OBAMA - created in 2008 during his first presidential campaign, this has to be one of the most hilarious political pieces of all time.
All jokes aside, the chia seed itself is awesome. You've probably heard of it - it's popping up in supermarkets and is a popular foodie item that has made its way back into the mainstream for reasons other than growing green fur-hair on a ceramic animal (or president).
If you're interested in using the chia seed in your diet, but you aren't sure why or how, you're in the right place.
What's a Chia Seed?
Originating in Mexico, chia seeds were a staple in the Aztec diet. In ancient times, this seed was an essential part of one's diet for good reason. Chia seeds are loaded with nutrition. In one serving (about an ounce), chia seeds pack*:
- Essential fats: heart-healthy Omega 3's
- 11 grams of fiber
- 4 grams of protein
- 18% recommended daily intake of calcium
- 27% recommended daily intake of phosphorus
- 30% recommended daily intake of manganese
5 Ways to Use Chia Seeds:
- Sprinkle them on your smoothie. Chia seeds are flavorless so they make a great nutrition booster in any smoothie. They also absorb roughly 12x their weight in liquid so you'll want to be careful adding a ton of them to your smoothie unless you want it to turn into a hard gel-like consistency. If you have a high speed blender (like a Vitamix or a Blentec) you can throw a whole tablespoon in and it will incorporate nicely, but you'll find that stirring chia seeds into an already blended smoothie will yield clumps and lumps. If that's your thing, go for it - it won't hurt you, but you'll need a spoon as you won't be able to slurp your drink through a straw.
- Sprinkle them on a salad. You won't be able to taste them, and they'll add fiber to your salad helping you to stay full for a longer period of time. Salad is a great meal option, but unless it's packed with vegetables or meat, it can be tough to feel satiated until dinner. Stirring chia seeds into your salad at lunch will do the trick.
- Put them in your muffins, pancakes, and breads. Again with the nutrition thing: adding chia seeds to your baked goods just adds health benefits.
- Use them as a thickening agent. For soups, jams, sauces, etc, chia seeds are great for adding a little bit of thickness. This has also come in handy for me when baking - there are a lot of recipes that require egg, and eggs sadly do not sit well with me. To use as an egg replacer, mix one tablespoon of chia seed with three tablespoons of water. If you can have egg, however, choose egg (do it for me!).
- Mix them in yogurt, pudding, peanut butter, oatmeal, etc. I have already provided you with the nutrition benefits: these are just some foods that already provide a certain texture that would allow for incorporating some chia seeds for the nutritional benefits alone.
If you're going to enjoy chia seeds, please drink plenty of water. Many folks don't get enough fiber and suddenly adding chia seeds to your diet can be shocking to the digestive system. Ease into it and remember how much water chia seeds absorb. If there isn't enough water in your digestive tract and you over-consume, you'll definitely be uncomfortable. Drinking water is important anyway, but just a head's up from someone who has been there (and honestly was so filled up with air, felt like I could have attached my arm to a string and floated away...) Below is a visual showing how much chia seeds expand with water. It's pretty amazing:
There are so many great chia seed recipes out there! I've come across some great jam and sauce recipes lately that I want to tweak and re-create on my own. Look for those in posts to come! For now, share your favorite way to use chia seeds as well as any tips + tricks or do's + don'ts when using chia seeds in your diet.