What are Chia Seeds?
Salvia hispanica, or the chia plant, is a species in the mint family that is native to Central America. The seeds of this herb are known as chia seeds and they have gained popularity in recent years.
Not only are they gluten/grain free naturally, but a serving of Chia Seeds is have:
- as much calcium as a glass of milk
- more Omega-3s than a serving of walnuts
- as many antioxidants as blueberries.
They also give you tons of energy but also won’t keep you awake at night and are supposed to be great for weight loss. Because they can absorb many times their size/weight in liquid, they are great for avoiding dehydration during exercise or exposure to heat.
Benefits of Chia Seed
Small but mighty, chia seeds have a variety of benefits (and a few cautions!) and are considered by many to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
1. They Are A Great Source of Protein
Chia seeds are a great plant source of protein, contain 4.7 grams of protein per ounce.
2. Packed with Other Nutrients
Don’t let their tiny size fool you… chia seeds are a big source of many nutrients!
Just two tablespoons of chia seeds (about an ounce) contains 10 times the Omega-3s of an equal serving of walnuts, more iron than a cup of spinach and a host of other nutrients in smaller amounts. They are also a great source of beneficial fats, fiber and about as many antioxidants per serving as blueberries.
3. Chia Seeds Support Digestion
4. They Are A Natural Appetite Suppressant
Chia Seeds are often recommended for those who are trying to lose weight Their ability to expand and slow digestibility helps keep a person feeling fuller longer
5. Chia Seeds Promote Energy and Endurance
6. Versatile and Easy to Use
Chia seeds can be easily added to many foods and drinks. They can be used whole or ground and can even serve as an egg substitute in recipes. Unlike some “superfoods” like spirulina, chia seeds don’t have a strong flavor and can be easily used in recipes and added to smoothies without affecting flavor.
How to Use Chia Seeds
Chia seeds can be used in various ways in recipes and added to favorite foods. Depending on the texture you want to accomplish, there are several ways to use chia seeds:
Most sources recommend soaking chia seeds for the most benefit. Since they are hydrophilic, they will attract water in the body if not soaked or added to liquid, so if you choose not to soak them, it is best to drink a lot of liquids after consuming them. Additionally, at least one person has gotten chia seeds lodged in his throat after attempting to consume them dry, so it not recommended to consume them unsoaked (and they are difficult to chew!).
Another way to use them in recipes is to grind them up into a fine powder. This is especially helpful when you are using them as a thickener or want to get the benefits without changing the texture of a food. There is also some evidence that it may be easier for the body to absorb chia seeds when they are powdered before eating. See below for ways to incorporate ground chia seeds as an egg substitute or thickener.
If adding directly to foods or recipes that contain liquid, it isn’t necessary to soak or grind chia seeds first. They can be added directly to smoothies, soups, drinks, or even meat dishes to thicken without needing to soak first.