Now in everything from smoothies and puddings to chips and cereals, chia seeds have officially made their way into the mainstream. But what exactly are they and do they live up to their promise? Here’s what you need to know.
These tiny seeds, traditionally grown in Mexico, date back to the Mayan and Aztec cultures, where they were a staple food, thought to increase energy and stamina. The word chia actually comes from the Mayan word for “strength.”
They look kind of like poppy seeds and have a mild nutty flavor. Like other nuts and seeds, chia seeds work well in both sweet and savory recipes. You can add them to everything from muffins to meal loaf. But unlike other seeds they have the unique ability to gel when added to liquid, so they can help keep foods moist and act as a thickening agent.
I am sure you are wondering, and the answer is yes. These seeds are the same ones used in that novelty item “as seen on TV” with the catchy ch-ch-ch-chia jingle. I think I may have owned my very own Jerry Gar-chia at one point.
Chia seeds are certainly impressive nutritionally. They are the highest plant source of omega-3s and fiber and they are rich in protein and antioxidants. Almost all of the fiber in chia seeds is the soluble type, like that found in oatmeal, which is why they gel when mixed with liquid. Besides making them useful in recipes, that gel-able fiber is credited for chia’s ability to help control hunger, manage blood sugar levels and prevent heart disease. While further research still needs to be done to fully support these claims, there are plenty of healthy reasons to enjoy chia. With only 55 calories in each tablespoon plus 2g of protein and 6g of fiber, they are certainly worth a try.
Ways to Use
· Use as an egg replacement in many baked goods. For each egg, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let sit for 5 minutes.
· Sprinkle on salads or add to salad dressing for added thickness.
· Mix into smoothies or iced tea for additional body, protein and fiber.
· Sprinkle over oatmeal, yogurt or cold cereal for a healthy crunch.
· Make into delicious pudding-like overnight oats. GET THE RECIPE HERE.