The popularity of chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) in Western diets has soared over the last several years.
The tiny, nutrition-packed “superseeds” are now a staple in many health-conscious households. Thanks to their small size, mild taste, and versatility, it’s easy to incorporate chia seeds into your diet.
Nutrition Benefits of Chia Seeds
According to the American Society for Nutrition, chia seeds provide insoluble fiber which helps keep you fuller longer and bulks up stool to prevent constipation. They also deliver healthy fats, protein, and cell-protecting antioxidants. Chia seeds are a good source of minerals, such as:
Chia seeds may help control blood sugar. A randomized controlled trial published in Diabetes Care determined that adding chia seeds to normal type 2 diabetes treatments improves cardiovascular disease risk and helps maintain good glucose and lipid control.
No negative side effects were reported.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil on his website, chia seeds have more omega-3 fatty acids than flaxseeds. Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce your risk of coronary artery disease and improve cholesterol levels. Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds are rich in antioxidants and have a longer shelf life.
Ways to Eat Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have a mild taste and take on the flavor of whatever food or beverage they are added to. When added to liquid, they plump up several times their size and form a gelatinous coating which is easy to swallow and digest.
You may add chia seeds straight to products that have liquid, like juice or yogurt. Eating with Purpose suggests making chia gel. You can make chia gel by stirring 1/3 cup of chia seeds into 2 cups warm water and letting the mixture thicken. The longer the gel sits, the thicker it gets. Chia seeds may also be ground.
There is no need to shy away from eating chia seeds because you’ve never prepared them. It’s easy to harness their health benefits throughout the day.
A popular way to use chia seeds is in smoothies. A tablespoon or less of fresh seeds or chia gel is all you need to add texture and nutrients to your fruit and veggie smoothies.
This decadent chocolate almond chia seed smoothie is surprisingly healthy. Almonds give it a punch of protein and medjool dates and banana add a healthy dose of potassium. Try using dark cocoa powder for added richness.
2. Salad Dressings
Chia seeds blend well with salad dressing ingredients such as olive oil, vinegars, honey, and lemon juice. Add about a tablespoon of seeds to most any salad dressing recipe. The more seeds you add, the thicker the dressing.
Avoid the artificial ingredients and monosodium glutamate (MSG) found in many salad dressings by making this chia seed vinaigrette. It combines chia seeds with honey, Dijon mustard, and apple cider vinegar.
You may find chia pudding on the menu at organic cafes and health food stores, but it’s simple to make your own versions at home. Chia pudding is similar in consistency to tapioca. It’s simple enough to make for breakfast yet elegant enough to serve for dessert at your next dinner party.
All you need to make vanilla bean chia pudding is almond milk, chia seeds, and vanilla beans. Top this versatile dish with a dash of cinnamon, chocolate shavings, lemon zest, or a drizzle of maple syrup. You may also layer the pudding with fresh fruit to create a tasty parfait.
4. Baked Goods
If you’re not a fan of chia seeds’ gelatin-like texture, try adding them to baked goods. Chia gel helps keep baked goods moist and may be used in place of eggs or as a thickener. You may also top muffins or quick breads with chia seeds before baking. Substitute one whole egg in a recipe for 1 tablespoon of chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water.
Banana chia breakfast muffins are made with oat flour, Greek yogurt, chia seeds, maple syrup, bananas, and dates. Try them for a portable breakfast or after-school snack for your kids.
5. Granola, Protein Bars, or Energy Bars
Chia seeds give homemade granola, energy, or protein bars a fiber boost. Try making chia seed energy bars made from dates, coconut oil, chia seeds, vanilla, and any add-ins you choose such as dark chocolate, coconut, and dried fruit.
6. Chia Drinks
Expensive chia drinks are all the rage in health food stores and juice bars. Save money and make your own by adding 2 to 3 tablespoons chia seeds to 2 cups water or coconut water and 1 cup fruit juice or pureed fresh fruit. Let the mixture sit until thickened, and stir before drinking.
Chia fresca, also known as “Mexican lemonade,” is a refreshing way to use chia seeds. This natural energy drink is made of water or coconut water, lemon or lime juice, chia seeds, and sweetener. For extra flavor, add a few sprigs of mint.
If you’re looking for a way to sneak nutrients to picky eaters, add chia seeds to homemade popsicles. Most store-bought popsicles are loaded with sugar, artificial colors, and artificial flavorings, so creating your own is a healthier choice.
Grab your ice pop molds and make blueberry chia popsicles from almond milk, chia seeds, avocado, and frozen blueberries. Your kids will never guess they are eating healthy!
Chia seeds make a great low-carb substitute in recipes that use breadcrumbs as a binder. You will typically need to use less chia than breadcrumbs. For most recipes, 1 to 2 tablespoons is all it takes.
This healthy, grain-free meatloaf recipe features ground beef (or ground turkey or ground chicken), chia seeds, onions, Worcestershire, and chopped veggies.
Chia seeds and jam may seem like an odd combination, but the seeds serve as a natural gel thickener. Chia seed jam is thinner than traditional jam, but easy to spread on toast and muffins, or drizzle over yogurt, hot cereal, and ice cream.
To make a simple chia seed jam, add 2 tablespoons chia seeds to about 2 cups of mashed fresh fruit. Add sweetener like honey or agave as desired, and let the mixture sit for at least 10 minutes. As the mixture sits, it will take on a jam-like consistency.
For a thicker jam, cook the mashed fruit and sweetener over low to medium heat for about five minutes before adding the chia seeds. This strawberry chia jam recipe contains only strawberries, chia seeds, water, and natural sweetener.
Chia seeds deserve a place on any superfood list. They are high in fiber, provide healthy fat, and are a source of antioxidants. Eating chia seeds is a simple way to boost the nutrition in your diet.
According to Cleveland Clinic Wellness, chia seeds are safe to eat, but may cause an allergic reaction in some people. They caution that the seeds may interact with blood thinning medications such as Coumadin and warfarin. People on blood pressure medications should eat chia seeds with caution. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.