Food

Chia Seeds – Benefits and How to Use

Chia has to be the prettiest seed going – they look like tiny speckled eggs of varying colours. When I decided to do a post on these I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist getting out my microscope and taking some photos and videos. The video shows what they look like dry, in water and blended.

These seeds are from south america where they have been a staple crop of the natives for thousands of years. They swell up in water to take 10x their original volume (and look a bit like mini frogspawn). The ancient Mayan word for strength is in fact chia. The Incas are said to have kept a pouch with soaked chia seeds and marched hundreds of miles on them. I can’t say they have given me enough energy for several marathons a day, but they are an essential food for me these days. They are known as a superfood, and actually unlike many others given this label I feel these tiny titans of nutrition are very worthy of the title.

Benefits

  1. A complete protein, containing all amino acids and this is rare for vegan foods.
  2. Highest amount of protein in a seed, with 14% protein.
  3. More calcium than milk, although admittedly it is harder to consume chia in high volume.
  4. Very high in fiber, this is great for your intestine – especially as the modern person doesn’t consume enough fiber.
  5. Help keep you hydrated and satisfied, as they absorb many times their own weight in fluid.
  6. High in manganese, magnesium, phosphorus – two tablespoons contains about a third of your RDA for these.
  7. Richest source of vegetarian omega 3. Gram for gram contain more omega 3 than salmon. They are however low in the DHA omega 3 fat so if your vegan its still recommended to supplement this.
  8. Weight loss, because of all of the above benefits especially keeping you satisfied and fuller for longer.

Uses

  • As a natural thickener; I like to blend just fresh strawberries and then add some chia for an instant and healthy jam. They are my go to ingredient for when I’ve added too much water in anything sweet or savory.
  • In bread; they give extra nutrition and texture when added to baked foods such as bread and muffins. In fact for many years in Europe they were only legally able to be sold as a bread additive.
  • In protein smoothies, I like to stir a few into a hemp protein and greens (wheat grass & spirulina usually) to give it a bit of bite and make it more filling.
  • Just in water, often when I’ve got a busy day out and about I chuck a few in water and sip them like a drink. If it was good enough for the Incas it’s good enough for me. I keep some in my bag for something instant and filling.
  • Mix in milk (I usually use a nut or seed based milk like hemp or almond) and stir every so often and in 10 mins your have a thick pudding. Often add berries and Cacao for a thick chocolaty berry pudding, but use what ever you fancy. See our Chocolate Hemp Chia Seed Pudding recipe.
  • Anything blended, as the video shows they lose their pretty appearance when blended but this is best for absorption. I often use them in fruit smoothies to give a thicker texture and to fortify.
  • Sprinkle on, any food from a salad to a pasta dish to add some crunch and boost the nutritional content.
  • Egg substitute, the gel that is formed when they mix with water can often be used in place of eggs. It’s important to grind the chia seeds first when using as an egg replacement, then add 3 parts of water to one part of chia seed and let soak for at least 10 minutes.
  • Body scrub, add them to water and they make a great body scrub.

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About the author

Eloise

I'm a former GP that left medicine to become a nutritionist and yoga teacher. I enjoy helping clients change their life through diet and exercise. I'm interested in the prevention of illness using natural methods.

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