I grew up in the 80s, and I remember when chia seeds were the rage because that was how you grew hair on your Chia Pet.
Remember those? I can still hear the “cha-cha-cha-chia!” jingle in my head.
Anyway. When chia seeds made the super food list, I actually didn’t make the connect. Not until a good friend pointed out that my chia seeds were the same ones I’d asked for every Christmas for 5 years.
Crazy how that works. I’m still obsessed with them, not so much for their ability to give a terra cotta gnome a beard, but because they’re naturally gluten free, and have as much calcium as a glass of milk.
Did you know that chia seeds are actually the seed of a plant in the mint family? Me either!
Salvia Hispania is a species in the mint family that is native to Central America. The seeds of this herb are known as chia seeds.
Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are an excellent source of essential fatty acids, protein, vitamins (specifically A, B, E, and D), calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, niacin, thiamine, and a number of powerful antioxidants.
They’re little teeny tiny seed powerhouses.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 10 times the Omega-3s of an equal serving of walnuts, and more iron than a cup of spinach. I actually looked to see if there was another plant-based food that was higher in Omega-3s, and I could not find a single one.
Chia seeds are also a great source of good-for-you fats and fiber
Plus, they have as many antioxidants per serving as blueberries.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber with a whopping 11 grams of fiber per ounce.
And, if you’re watching carbs, consider that there are only 12 grams of carbohydrates found in chia seeds. Of those, 11 are from fiber.
So really, there’s only 1 gram of digestible carbohydrates per ounce. That’s pretty awesome. Fiber is necessary for healthy digestion, and the fiber found in chia seeds provides the recommended daily allowance of fiber.
Fiber works in your digestive system as a prebiotic, which means that it feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut.
How to Use Chia Seeds
Chia has a unique ability to “gel” due to the high soluble fiber content and their hydrophilic outer shell. Plus, chia seeds have the ability to absorb more than 10 times their weight in liquid.
These features make them both filling and satisfying. I prefer to make a chia seed gel ahead of time to avoid the time (usually around 15 minutes) it takes for them to fully expand and absorb liquid.
Chia Seed Gel
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 cup filtered water
After about 15 minutes the gel should have thickened. Your homemade chia gel will keep refrigerated for about two weeks.
Now that you have more than a cup of chia seed gel, you need to use it!
I generally use chia seed gel in place of thickeners or binders, like eggs.
Use 1/4 cup chia seed gel per egg for a 1:1 egg replacer in any recipe.
I’m not a fan of thin smoothies. To prevent this, I’ll add a tablespoon or two of my chia seed gel to the blender. Yes, I could toss in dried chia seeds, but if you’ve done this, then you know that it doesn’t really thicken right away, and the seeds usually end up sticking to your teeth or the side of your blender cup.
I know that this is not the extent of how you can use chia seed gel, but it’s how I’m currently using it. I usually blow through my whole batch in a week because we are an egg-free house right now while I’m focusing on autoimmune paleo.
If you haven’t used chia seeds before, trying them in a gel or even using a chia seed meal instead of the whole seed is a good way to make the transition.
How do you use chia seeds?