Superfood Spotlight: Benefits of Chia Seeds

Superfood Spotlight: Benefits of Chia Seeds

superfood spotlight chia 2 Do you eat chia seeds? Here's why you should incorporate chia seeds into your diet, and some fun suggestions for where to sprinkle them. Chia seeds may be new to you, but they've been around for thousands of years. The word “chia” means “strength” in the ancient Mayan language, and chia seeds have been used for just that in ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures. Legend has it that the ancient Aztec warriors had a ritual of eating a spoonful of chia seeds before a battle to keep them full for over 24 hours, giving them strength for battle. Thankfully there are no daily battles that we need to consume chia seeds for (unless you count bedtime battles with your kids!), but there are still plenty of reasons to eat these nutritious seeds.

All the Omega 3’s:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are on the top of the list for nutrients you want to focus on; they may help lower the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia and arthritis symptoms. Your body cannot make Omega-3s and you therefore need to find ways to add them into your diet or though a supplement. Chia seeds are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3s. One ounce of chia seeds has more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon! These beautiful, tiny seeds are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 that can be found in any food.

Fiber & Nutrients:

Chia seeds are also a great source of antioxidants, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Just check out this snapshot of the chia seed’s nutritional info below: Chia seed nutrition Just one ounce has about 50% of your daily intake of fiber and 17% of your daily intake of calcium. Chia seeds are also very high in iron, making them a great source of nutrition for vegans and vegetarians. Chia seeds also make a great vegan egg replacement, which I’ll talk about later when we discuss how to use chia seeds.

Feel Fuller Longer (aka weight control):

Chia seeds expand in your stomach to help you feel full longer. By adding just an ounce of chia seeds to your diet you can reduce your overall daily caloric intake. For example, if you normally have ½ cup of dry oatmeal in the morning in the morning, try swapping it for 1/4 cup dry oatmeal and add in 1 ounce of chia seeds. You’ll notice once it’s cooked that you actually haven’t lost much of the quantity and will feel just as satisfied, but with fewer calories, more fiber and omega 3’s.

Chia Seed Color Variations:

Black and White Chia Seeds on Spoons Image via Women's Health
If you've seen chia seeds in stores you've probably noticed that you can buy either black chia seeds or white (which are actually light beige, cream or grey) chia seeds. Is there a difference in the nutrients? Chia seed researcher and University of Arizona Professor Emeritus Wayne Coates, who is quoted on Livestrong, says no, "there is no major difference" nutritionally between black and white chia seeds. According to The Chia Co, the black and white seeds are isolated purely for consumers’ aesthetic preferences. The only nutritional difference in chia seeds based on their color appears to be if the chia seeds are brown, which is an indication that the seeds are not mature. While there is no nutritional difference, darker seeds and lighter seeds do effect the appearance of your baked goods, so you may want to choose a color that goes best with your recipe. I use organic white chia seeds in the OatMEAL Chia Cups because the white seeds blend in better with the oats. When I make brownies with a chia seed egg I tend to use the black seeds if I have them in the house. I personally prefer the color of the lighter chia seeds because they're less noticeable in smoothies and other foods, which can be better for sneaking some added nutrition into kid food.

How to Eat Chia Seeds:

Chis seeds are so convenient to eat! Unlike flax seeds, you don’t need to grind chia seeds to reap the health benefits. However, it's best to soak your seeds prior to eating them or adding them to a recipe. Chia seeds attract water in the body if not soaked or added to liquid, so if you don’t soak them, it’s best to drink a lot of liquid when consuming chia seeds. I make chia seeds into a gel (using water and chia seeds and letting them sit) before I add them to my recipes and for use in my OatMEAL Chia Cups. That makes the nutrients in chia seeds more bio-available for our bodies as well.

Ways To Use Chia Seeds:

Chia Pudding

  • Chia seed pudding: Here is one of my favorite chia seed pudding recipes from The Minimalist Baker. It’s for chocolate chia seed pudding, but you could make it vanilla by just adding a touch of vanilla extract and leaving out the cacao.
  • Chia Seeds are a well-known egg replacement for vegans. To make a “chia egg,” add 1 TBSP of ground chia seeds with 3 TBSP of water (for one egg). Let sit for about 5-15min, stir and then voila! Your egg is ready to use.
  • Add to oatmeal. smoothies, or pretty much any baked item. A little bit works well in pancakes, brownies, muffins or any other baked good. Just replace about 1-2 TBSP of flour (or more depending on desired taste and size of the recipe) with chia seeds to make your baked items just a tad bit healthier. For smoothies and oatmeal I like to put in 1 TBSP of chia seeds.
  • Top your toast! I love to top a slice of gluten-free toast with preserves, a schmear of Salvatore’s ricotta and sprinkle of chia seeds on top. Chia seeds are also a great topping for toast with almond butter or avocado. If you want to add some crunch sprinkle them right before serving (and drink a lot of water while eating!), or let them sit on your toast topping for a few minutes to soften and absorb some of the moisture.
  • Make a jam: Since chia seeds turn liquid into a jelly-like consistency, all you need to do is mash up your favorite fruit and combine with chia seeds to make a simple homemade refrigerator jam. 1 TBSP of chia seeds to every 1 cup of mashed fruit will create the best consistency and you’ll get an awesome healthy jam without any of unnecessary additives you get with store-bought jam. My favorite it a mixed berry chia jam that I keep in the fridge and use a dollop as a topping for oatmeal.
There are a zillion ways you could use chia seeds and they would all probably be great! Some people will just take a spoonful straight in the morning like medicine (my office mate used to do that mid-day for an afternoon snack!). The important part is finding an easy way to include chia seeds into your diet that works for you because they are super nutritious and versatile! Do you have a favorite way to eat chia seeds? Share in the comments!

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