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Chia Seeds: Health Benefits, Tips and Recipes

For years, chia seeds were almost exclusively associated with sprouting terracotta pets and heads. That is, until Chris McDougall published his novel, Born to Run in 2009.

Seemingly overnight, chia seeds became a hot commodity with runners, cyclists, triathletes and other athletes, seeking the secret to Tarahumara endurance.

But soon the trend also caught on with food bloggers, chefs, foodies, and generally health-conscious people. Now, chia seeds are commonly included in energy bars and drinks, added to kombucha, used to thicken puddings, and used as a binding agent in egg-free baking.

And for good reason! These little seeds are incredibly nutritious, with significant concentrations of protein, fiber and several essential minerals.

Health Benefits:

Chia is, appropriately, the Mayan word for strength. Chia seeds were an important energy source for Mayans, Incas and other ancient cultures, and remain a dietary staple in  many South and Central American countries. Some nutritional highlights:

  • Just 1 tablespoon of chia seeds contains 5 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, 2282 mg of Omega 3 and 752 mg of Omega 6 fatty acids!
  • A significant concentration of fiber combined with their ability to absorb 10 times their weight in water also makes chia seeds excellent for maintaining regularity.
  • This fiber content also helps normalize blood glucose levels by slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar.
  • Chia seeds contain respectable concentrations of potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and manganese.
  • Chia seeds are extremely nutrient-dense, with one of the highest antioxidant concentrations of any known food! (For more information about superfoods and nutrient density, check out What are Superfoods?)

Eat More Chia!

With an amazing nutritional profile, mild flavor, and impressive versatility, it’s hard to think of a reason NOT to incorporate more of these super seeds into your diet!

Smoothies and Drinks: Chia seeds make a great addition to smoothies and other drinks. Added whole, they impart a fun texture to frescas and even cocktails. Ground, they are great thickeners for smoothies and nogs.

  1. Chia Margarita
  2. Cranberry Coconut Smoothie
  3. Allergy-Friendly Holiday Nog

Raw Treats: With their amazing water-absorbing capacity (and no heat required), chia seeds are perfect thickeners raw puddings and sauces! These recipes are all must-try’s!

  1. Banana Chocolate Chia Pudding
  2. Raw Spring Power Applesauce
  3. Blueberry Chia Breakfast Pudding
  4. Chocolate Chia Breakfast Pudding
  5. Beautiful Berry Napoleons

Baking and Desserts: Chia seeds can be combined with water to make a “chia egg” (shown below) – a gel-like mixture that’s perfect for baking. Simply combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and wait about 10 minutes before adding to other ingredients.

Chia Egg

The recipes below use chia seeds for added texture, body and nutrition. Check them out!

  1. Iced Banana Pecan Cake
  2. Lemon-Coconut Breakfast Bars
  3. Probiotic Chocolate Bark

Final Notes:

Chia seeds are available in the bulk or baking section of most natural grocers. They are also widely available online.

Got a great chia recipe? Share it with us!

Image Credit (top): little blue hen/Flickr

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