Chia Seeds: Nutritional Powerhouse
My first introduction to Chia seeds was from my mother-in-law about 6 years ago.
I was suffering from many health issues and she was sure that these would cure me. She claimed that they were the next “super food”—the “cure-all “and swore that she was going to make millions by selling them in bulk on Amazon. She had lofty goals. Though she never successfully sold a single package of chia seeds, she was correct about them being deemed a “super food.” Chia seeds didn’t heal me, but they did provide essential nutrients that my body needed as well as expanding the types of foods that I was able to eat.
Originally from South America, Chia seeds were first used by ancient Aztec and Mayans as early as 3500 BCE. Their scientific name is Salvia hispanica L. and they are a part of the mint family.
Chia seeds pack some pretty hefty nutritional benefits in their tiny shell. They are the highest plant-source of Omega 3 fatty acids, even surpassing flaxseeds. Omega-3s help to reduce inflammation and aid in recovery as well as improving cognitive function. In addition to being a complete protein source (containing all essential amino acids), they are an excellent source of fiber, phosphorous, manganese, calcium and potassium!
Here are the stats for a 2Tbsp (1 ounce or 28 grams) serving of Chia Seeds:
- Calories: 138
- Fiber:11 grams.
- Protein:4 grams.
- Fat:9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s)
- Calcium:18% of the RDA.
- Manganese:30% of the RDA.
- Magnesium:30% of the RDA.
- Phosphorus:27% of the RDA.
- They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.
These comparisons will help you put these nutritional benefits into perspective. They are pretty outstanding!
- 15x more magnesium than broccoli
- 6x more calcium than whole milk
- 30% more antioxidants than blueberries
- 2x more potassium than bananas
That’s pretty impressive!
So, what are chia seeds used for?
The ironman official website sings the praises of chia seeds as being an asset to athletes. Chia seeds have the ability to absorb 9 to 10 times their size in water. This is why you’ll sometimes find them mixed in beverages and used by endurance athletes for hydration. The ironman official website also claims that the gel-forming ability aids in better regulation of body fluid levels and electrolyte retention. I don’t like the consistency of gelatinous beverages—but if you do, you’re getting a lot of nutrients! There are many other ways to consume this powerful seed. Due to my egg allergy, I use them as an egg-alternative in baking. When combined with liquid, chia seeds swell and form a gel. Simply mix one part chia seeds to six parts water and let sit for 15-20 minutes (ex: 1 tbsp chia seeds to 6 tbsp water). About one tablespoon of this gel equals one large egg. Chia’s gelatinous quality also makes it great to use in jams and puddings. If you’re short on time and want to add some nutrients to your everyday meals and snacks, throw them into your morning smoothie or oatmeal, add them to yogurt, or sprinkle them in salads!
Here are a few creative recipes to experiment with:
Overnight Chocolate Chia Pudding from the Minimalist Baker
This is a much healthier alternative to your traditional chocolate pudding. It provides roughly 5 grams of protein per serving and 8 grams of fiber!
Author: Minimalist Baker
Recipe type: Dessert, Breakfast
Cuisine: Vegan, Gluten Free
- 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) unsweetened vanilla non-dairy milk (can sub regular milk)
- 1/3 cup (63 g) chia seeds
- 1/4 cup (24 g) cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2-5 Tbsp (30-75 ml) maple syrup if not blending (can sub 5-9 dates, pitted if blending)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- optional:1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Add all ingredients except sweetener to a mixing bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. If not blending (which I preferred!), sweeten to taste with maple syrup at this time. If blending, you can sweeten later with maple syrup or dates.
- Let rest covered in the fridge overnight or at least 3-5 hours (or until it’s achieved a pudding-like consistency).
- If blending, add to a blender and blend until completely smooth and creamy, scraping down sides as needed. Sweeten to taste.
- Leftovers keep covered in the fridge for 2-3 days, though best when fresh.
- Serve chilled with desired toppings, such as fruit, granola or coconut whipped cream.
*Prep time does not include chilling!
Easy Chia Jam from thekitchn.com
Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups
Serving Size: 1 tbsp
What You Need
2 cups chopped fruit
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons honey, agave, maple syrup, or sugar, to taste
2 tablespoons chia seeds, plus more if needed
Measuring cups and spoons
Potato masher, optional
Glass jars or other storage containers, for the finished jam
- Prepare the fruit as needed: Remove stems, pits, seeds, and skin, as needed. Chop large fruits into small pieces. Berries can be left whole.
- Cook the fruit until it starts to break down: Transfer the fruit to a saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook until the fruit breaks down and becomes syrupy, 5 to 10 minutes. Mash the fruit with the back of a spatula or a potato masher, leaving it as smooth or as lumpy as you like.
- Stir in the honey and lemon juice: Off the heat, stir in 1 tablespoon of the honey and lemon juice. Taste and add more honey or lemon juice to taste.
- Stir in the chia seeds.
- Let stand 5 minutes, until thickened: This won’t quite reach the firm consistency of regular jam, but it will noticeably thicken. If you’d like a thicker consistency, especially with very juicy fruits, stir in more chia seeds 1 teaspoon at a time.
- Transfer to a jar or other storage container: Once the jam has cooled to room temperature, transfer it to a jar or other storage container. Store in the fridge for about 2 weeks. The jam will thicken further and become more set once completely chilled. The jam can also be frozen for up to 3 months; thaw in the fridge before using.
- No-cook chia jam: Mash the fruit with a fork until pulpy and juicy, then stir in the rest of the ingredients. You can also combine all the ingredients in a blender, or use an immersion blender, and blend until the jam is completely smooth. Uncooked chia jam tends to be a bit looser and more sauce-like than the stovetop version; add extra chia seeds if you’d like a thicker consistency.
- Getting rid of visible chia seeds: If you’d prefer not to have visible chia seeds in your finished jam, puree the jam in a blender or with an immersion blender. If you’d like to keep a somewhat chunky texture, blend just a portion of the jam with the chia seeds, then stir it back in with the rest of the jam.
Chia Seed Smoothie Bowl from Peanut Butter Fingers.com
makes 1 serving
1 1/4 c. almond milk (or milk of choice)
1 scoop chocolate protein powder
1 c. frozen strawberries
1/2 frozen banana
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum (optional – adds thickness)
1 tbsp. chia seeds (plus more for garnish)
1 large handful fresh spinach
Pour almond milk into blender and top with remaining ingredients. Blend on high until smooth, thick texture is achieved. Pour into a bowl, garnish with chia seeds and enjoy.
If you haven’t already incorporated chia seeds into your diet, give them a try! With such a powerful nutrient-profile, your body will surely thank you.
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- Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives: Danielle, Registered Dietitian - February 17, 2017
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