Açai berries, wheat grass, flaxseeds, it seems with every year there is a growing list of health food trends. Yet, if you’ve taken a stroll along the beverage aisle or health food section of a natural foods grocery store lately, you may have noticed new products labeled with chia seeds. Raved about for their exceptional nutritional value, chia seeds have gained quite a lot of attention. But what is a chia seed and what makes it so special from the rest of these superfoods?
Chia has a long history, where it used to be a staple food for Mayans and Aztecs. It is an edible seed that comes from a plant called Salvia hispanica. Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds do not have to be ground for the body to absorb its benefits. It can be eaten whole, ground, raw, and cooked. Chia seeds are not a supplement or replacement, but can be eaten as an addition to a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes fresh and wholesome foods like veggies, fruits, proteins and grains.
What are the health benefits of eating chia seeds?
Chia seeds contain a high level of soluble fiber, which helps slow down digestion and regulates blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce risk for cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Just three tablespoons of these seeds can provide 37-44% of the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of fiber per day.
Rich in protein, chia seeds are an ideal food for vegans and vegetarians who may want an alternative to soy products. It provides a complete source of protein, containing all essential amino acids. One ounce, which is about 2 tablespoons, contains 4 grams of protein.
Chia seeds are an great source of omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 fatty acids. As both fatty acids are essential to our health, the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 is important.
Do chia seeds really help promote weight loss?
While chia seeds are high in fiber and protein, and can thus help keep you feeling fuller for longer, studies have shown that chia seeds do not actually promote weight loss.
If you’re looking to boost your fiber, protein, omega-3 intake, here are 7 delicious ways to incorporate chia seeds into your daily meal:
Blend or stir 2 tablespoons of chia seeds into your smoothies for fiber and crunchy texture.
- Baked Goods
Add whole or ground seeds to homemade muffins, breads or pancakes. You can even mix 3/4 tablespoon of chia seeds for every 1/4 cup of water, and you’ve got yourself an egg substitution.
- Yogurts and Parfaits
For a nutrient boost, kick your favorite greek or soy yogurts up a notch by sprinkling chia seeds in layers, or sprinkle on top. Not a fan of the texture but still want to reap the benefits? Simply grind the chia seeds before adding it in.
- Soups, Spreads, and Dressings
Combined with liquid, chia seeds can act as a natural thickener. Add chia seeds to any liquid recipe, like soups or vinaigrettes and it will help thicken the mixture. For a tasty breakfast spread, add ground chia to peanut butter or almond butter.
- Meatballs and Burgers
Grind chia seeds in a blender or coffee grinder before forming your meatballs and burgers and it can transform lean meatballs and burgers into a more nutritious meal.
The ability of chia seeds to form a gel-like consistency make it an excellent ingredient for creating rich, yet healthy desserts. One of my favorite recipes is vanilla chia pudding, topped with fresh berries.