Chia seeds are little black seeds that come from the plant Salvia Hispanica that originates from South America. Salvia Hispanica is related to the mint family. Chia seeds are very nutritionally powerful and in just 2 tablespoons of the little seeds you may get 5 g of protein, 11 g of fibre, 9 g of fat (5g of the fat is in fact Omega-3s) and NO sugar. They are rich in magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3 (Niacin), and Zinc.
Chia seeds are considered a whole grain food that is naturally gluten free. They are usually organic and non-GMO in origin.
Chia seeds are good source of antioxidants, which our body produces in order to prevent damage caused by free radicals. As they are loaded with fibre that is not digested in our body we need to make sure we take chia seeds with plenty of water. Most people mix chia seeds with liquid (water, milk, juice) as they are able to expand in their weight up to 12 times, becoming gel-like substance that expands in our stomach. Fibre is great for our intestine as it feeds friendly bacteria, and prevents constipation if taken with plenty of water.
Protein in chia seeds is very high quality and therefore suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Most plants do not contain as much protein as chia seeds and studies have found that they may aid in weight loss as people that consume chia seeds in their diet tend to eat less as they become full sooner.
What is interesting to note is that chia seeds contain more Omega 3s than salmon, although those are mostly ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid) which does not have same benefits as EPA and DHA. In order for people to use ALA, it needs to be converted to EPA and DHA, which may be difficult; therefore fish is still the most recommended source of Omega 3 fatty acid.
Chia seeds appear to be very rich in calcium, magnesium, protein and phosphorus which are very important for our bone health. They contain about 18% of recommended daily intake of calcium in 2 tablespoons, which is more than most dairy products. For people that are on dairy free diet or lactose intolerant, chia seeds may be an excellent source of calcium.
Research has shown that chia seeds may reduce blood pressure as well which is significant for cardiovascular health.
As chia seeds have bland taste, they can be added to almost anything, i.e. yogurt, cereal, salads, rice etc. When stirred in the liquid they become gelatinous and lots of people prepare homemade pudding from them. They can be eaten raw and there is no need to grind them before eating. They can be used as sauce thickener instead of flour or cornstarch. Eggs can be substituted for chia seeds in recipes which is great for people that cannot eat eggs.
Keep in mind that in order to get full nutritional benefit of chia seeds they need to be soaked in liquid first; otherwise you can become constipated due to high fibre content. Small children should not be given chia seeds as they may become difficult to swallow if not mixed with another food or liquid first.
As with any other food, consume chia seeds in moderation, and focus on eating balanced diet that consists of variety of foods. Even though in today’s modern world, chia seeds are considered nutritional superfood, they should be used with caution especially by people that have problems with esophagus and may have issues with swallowing.
Green chia seeds smoothie recipe
- 2 cups of spinach
- 2 cups of water
- 2 tbsp of chia seeds
- 1 cup of frozen strawberries
- ½ cup of natural orange juice
- ½ banana
Chia seed pudding recipe
- 2 cups of almond, cashew or coconut milk
- 2 tbsp of chia seeds
- ½ tsp of vanilla extract
- 2 tsp of honey or maple sirup (optional)
- ¼ tsp cinnamon powder (optional)
All ingredients except chia seeds should be blended in the blender. Whisk in chia seeds and pour in jar or glass container. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight to let gel. They may be stirred or whisked few times during the first hour so they could gel evenly. Top up with a fruit of your choice.