catchy annoying television ads for Chia Pets, the “pottery that grows”? If you didn’t partake in that phenomenon, don’t fret: there is an opportunity to say ch, ch, ch, chia once more. If you haven’t heard of the newest health food “it” item, chia seeds, you best keep reading. Chia seeds -grown primarily in Mexico and Bolivia – were revered by the Aztecs (and especially Aztec warriors) as a staple food, providing endurance and sustenance. Now, they are given a second chance in baked goods, yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies, to name a few. (Remember in Forest Gump when Bubba rattled off everything that could be made with shrimp? The same can be said for chia seed usage.) Why on earth would you put those seeds in perfectly good food? Well, it turns out, Chia seeds offer more than just a funny name, as they host a trifecta of good-for-you nutritional powerhouses! One glance at chia seeds and you may scoff, thinking, “How can such tiny seeds boast such a claim?”. There’s a trick to chia seeds that you must know: Exposure (about 30 minutes) to liquid gives the seeds a sticky, gelatinous coating, which is how they bond to the terra-cotta pets (NYTimes). So basically, don’t pour out a teaspoon of seeds into a bowl of yogurt and chow down: you defeat the whole purpose. Thirty minutes really isn’t that long: soak them while taking your shower, walking the dog, or getting dressed. The seeds themselves can be added to anything from oatmeal to dry cereals to baked goods! Here’s a link to 40 Ways to Use Chia Seeds!
1) Omega-3 fatty acids
Just like in fatty fish like salmon, omega-3 acids are sought-after “good” fats due to their anti-inflammatory properties and power to lower triglycerides. Comparatively, chia seeds blow flaxseeds out of the yogurt/smoothie/oatmeal. And even better? In order to make the fatty acids bio-available (aka work best in the body), chia seeds do not have to be ground like their flaxseed counterparts. The omega-3s in chia seeds and fatty fish are different, though: chia seeds omega-3s are in the form of ALA (alpha-linoleic acids), meanwhile fish omega-3s are in the form of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA and EPA omega-3s are considered more potent than ALA fatty acids. And, most research connecting the benefits of omega-3s center around DHA and EPA, thus omega-3s from fish oil are still considered the gold standard source (Livestrong). One Tablespoon will provide about 2.9g of omega-3 fatty acids.
2) Dietary fiber
The gelatinous nature of the chia seeds, once exposed to liquid, act the same way in your gut. “This means that they are really good for your digestive system, providing both a high amount of fiber, and also this action of forming a gel like solution moves through your body and cleans up as it goes. It’s also thought that this gel physically prevents the fast breaking down of carbohydrates in the body, by slowing down the action of the enzymes on the carbohydrates” (FoodMatters). The exterior of the chia seed is soluble fiber, which can absorb nine times the seeds’ weight in water. Soluble fiber, like in oats, helps lower cholesterol. The best part of adding chia seeds to any meal is that the fiber and gelatinous nature of soaked chia seeds just fills you up, making you less apt to a)overeat and b) feel hungry soon after. One Tablespoon will provide about 6g of dietary fiber.
Chia seeds are the perfect accompaniment to a breakfast dish because of their hunger-fighting protein contribution. And like the protein in soy or an egg, chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids, thus making it a complete protein. This is great for vegans and vegetarians who are always looking for a high-quality plant-based protein. One Tablespoon of chia seeds has 3g protein.
Chia seeds are rich in polyphenols, which are also found in blueberries, pomegranents, wine and tea. These antioxidants in chia seeds are what help it from going rancid on the shelf!
Here is a recipe I found on the package of the chia seeds I purchased from Trader Joes. If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out chia seeds posts on Pinterest!
Chia Seed Pudding
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 c coconut milk
1/4 c honey or agave syrup
Flavors of your choice: vanilla bean, cocoa powder, citrus, pureed fruit
Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours. Enjoy!