Chia seeds have recently been brought into the spotlight in the health enthusiasts circle as basically a “superfood”. And considering their high nutritional values and numerous health benefits, that status is well deserved.
However, those who are initially presented with a bag of these small black, inconsequent seeming seeds might not immediately know what to do with them. But they are actually pretty versatile, mostly due to their bland taste and water-absorbing qualities which allow them to be added in a large number of dishes.
But before we dive into how to eat chia seeds, here are a few quick background facts on them:
What are chia seeds?
Chia seeds come from the Salvia hispanica which is a plant in the mint family originally cultivated in central and southern Mexico and Guatemala, and which is so high in nutritional values that it used to be the third-most important crop in the Aztec culture and the word “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength”.
Chia seeds are high in fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, B Vitamins, and potassium, and only 28 grams (one ounce) provide 18% of the daily recommended intake of calcium, 30% of manganese and magnesium, and 27% of phosphorus. One ounce of chia seeds has about 137 calories.
The massive nutritional punch they contain brings with it a range of health benefits. Chia seeds were found useful in controlling blood sugar levels, lowering blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, reducing chronic inflammation, as well as improving bone health.
Many believe chia seeds can also help with weight loss due to their high fiber content as well as their expanding qualities (they can absorb up to 12 times their weight in water), both of which help increase satiety and lead to feeling fuller faster and for longer.
How to eat chia seeds?
Now that we know chia seeds are really good for you, it’s time to delve into the ways you could incorporate them into your diet, whether that is for weight-loss purposes or merely to reap its health benefits. As mentioned previously, chia seeds are rather bland in taste, so they can easily be incorporated in a lot of dishes and will provide additional texture and nutrition.
There are three main ways how you can eat chia seeds: whole, soaked, or ground.
- Whole chia seeds can be sprinkled on top of salads or other dishes, added to baked goods, incorporated into yogurts, smoothies, puddings, granola bars, soups, and even pancakes. You don’t have to grind them to reap their benefits, but they do provide more nutrition if they are soaked.
- Soaked chia seeds are not only easier to digest, but soaking them will maximize their benefits because it gets rid of the enzyme inhibitors that protect the seed. Sokaed seeds will expand and take on a gel-like texture.
- Ground chia seeds work well as a flour substitute in gluten-free recipes, like bread, pancakes, muffins and other baked goods.
Here are some ideas on how you can incorporate chia seeds into your diet:
Make chia water
Adding them to water is the easiest way to incorporate chia seeds into your diet. Just mix about a quarter cup of chia seeds with four cups of water and let them sit for at least 20 minutes before drinking it.
You can make it more flavorful by adding fruits or fruit juice – or simply add the seeds to fruit juice in the first place.
Make chia pudding
Making chia pudding is very similar to chia water or juice – simply soak three tablespoons of chia seeds into one cup of milk or another creamy or milk substitute. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, and you can also add flavoring like cocoa or vanilla and even sweeteners as desired.
Sprinkle them as toppings
If you don’t like the gelatinous texture that soaked chia seeds take, you can just sprinkle them on top of salads and other meals or add them to your smoothies, yogurts, or puddings just before you eat them.
Mix them into baked goods or pancakes
If you want to add some crunchy texture without changing the taste of your baked goods too much, then toss in a few nutritious chia seeds into your muffins, bread, cakes, cookies, and even pancake batter.
Use them as a substitute for eggs
Cha seeds also work great as an egg substitute in recipes, if for health or lifestyle reasons someone cannot consume eggs. Just soak one tablespoon of chia seeds in three tablespoons of water to substitute one egg.
Use them to thicken sauces
Add chia seeds instead of flour if you want to thicken a sauce. Just soak them in water previously so they take on the gelatinous texture, and mix them into your sauce.
Make chia seed jam
Since chia seeds expand and form a gel texture, you can add them to fruit jams and it will work perfectly as a substitute for pectin – and it’s faster! Also, because chia seeds have no strong taste and pectin is quite bitter, depending on the kind of berry you use, you could use far less sweetener.
To make chia jam, cook the berries on a stove as you would normally make jam, and then add the chia seeds. Measure so you’re using 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds for one cup of berries.
So, these were only some of the ways you could use chia seeds on your food and recipes, but there are countless other methods and you could experiment and find what you like.
However, there are some things you should keep in mind:
Chia seeds risks and side effects
Chia seeds don’t really have any major side effects and they’re generally safe for most people. However, as with everything, they have been known to pose some risks in rare cases.
One of them is chia seed allergy, which, although rare isn’t unheard of. If someone’s allergic to cha seeds they would experience the usual food allergy symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, itching of the lips and tongue or even difficulties breathing and chest and throat tightness.
The next is related to their expanding qualities, which may pose a choking threat, especially in people who have difficulties swallowing. In one instance, a man swallowed a spoonful of chia seeds and tried to wash it down with water, and they proceeded to expand and get lodged in his esophagus. Even though the man already had a history of swallowing problems and asthma, we should all take care and try not to eat them dry and in a large quantity.
Chia seeds are also high in fiber, which could potentially cause digestive problems, seeing as a large intake of fiber has been linked to problems such as abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas.
And finally, due to the Omega-3 in the seeds they can have a blood thinning effect, which means if you are already on blood-thinning medication, you need to consult with your doctor before consuming chia seeds as it may interfere with the medicine’s effect.