This week’s special ingredient is the chia seed. You may or may not have heard of these tiny quinoa lookalikes, as they’re still growing in popularity (though at a fast pace) in the US. As I’ll explain, chia seeds are little nutritional powerhouses which will add great health benefits to your yogurts, your drinks, or your baking.
History of chia seeds
Chia seeds go way back. They were grown as early as 3500 B.C. by the Aztec Empire, and were a major cash crop in Mexico. They were said to have been used by the Mayan and Aztec cultures for their “supernatural powers.” Today, they’re grown in Mexico, South America, and Australia, imported to the U.S., and find their way to healthy kitchens across the country.
You may have seen chia seed items on menus of healthy restaurants, either in smoothie blends, yogurt parfaits, or baked goods. Though they look like quinoa, chia seeds aren’t meant to be cooked like quinoa. Instead, they’re usually a topping or an extra ingredient included for nutritional purposes only, as they don’t have a remarkable (or even noticeable) taste. The flavor is somewhat nutty but rather mild, perhaps mild enough to be an ingredient that’s sneaked into a meal that needs a nutritional boost.
Benefits of chia
Though I wouldn’t necessarily say that chia is up there with quinoa in terms of health benefits, I think it’s worth writing about as such a small amount of the superfood provides so much nutritional value. These little seeds are 40% fiber by weight, and 14% protein by weight.
One 1oz (about 2tbsp) serving will provide you with the following:
- 11g Fiber
- 4g Protein
- 9g Fat (5g of which are omega-3s)
- 18% RDA of Calcium
- 30% RDA of Manganese
- 30% RDA of Magnesium
- 27% RDA of Phosphorus
It also has decent amounts of Zinc, Potassium, and B Vitamins.
With these high numbers of vitamins and nutrients comes a variety of health benefits. Here are a few:
- Being that chia seeds are 40% fiber by weight and 14% protein by weight, they can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Fiber and protein help make you feel full, and keep your digestive organs working properly. It’s sounds silly or hard to believe that these little seeds can actually make you feel full, but the numbers don’t lie!
- Chia seeds are great for bone health. They say milk helps build strong bones, because of its high percentage of calcium. Chia seeds contain 18% of the recommended daily amount of calcium. Try putting chia seeds in your yogurt and you’ll have a calcium-packed meal. Magnesium, phosphorus, and of course protein are great for bone health too; and are all abundant in chia seeds.
- Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants which can help protect your body from damaging and/or life threatening diseases, such as some cancers. They can also help fight aging.
How to eat chia seeds
As I’ve mentioned, chia seeds are a very versatile addition to your diet, because they don’t have much taste. You can add them to your oats in the morning, to your yogurt, to your smoothies or juices, or to your baked goods. Additionally, you can combine your seeds with water to make “chia gel”, which can be used to thicken sauces, or even act as a binding agent for veggie patties.
For my next recipe, I’ll make a morning meal with chia seeds that is sure to leave you with sufficient energy throughout the day. Stay tuned for my next creation!