If you are hungry for change and in search of a nutritious alternative to flax seeds, consider chia seeds. Yes, Chia seeds are emerging as a popular rival for flax seeds. But, before integrating chia seeds into your diet to gain benefits, find out how to use chia seeds as well as chia seeds side effects, if any.
Glean up on chia seeds nutrition. Select from an array of easy chia seeds recipes to add variety and health to your diet.
What are chia seeds?
Chia is a member of the mint family. Chia seeds are from the Chia plant with purple or white flowers native to Mexico and Central America. The seeds are oval shaped and measure approximately 1.5 mm x 2 mm long. Chia seeds are black or white in color. Both types are highly nutritious as scientific study has shown that there is no significant nutritional difference between the two varieties.
The popularity of chia seeds can be attributed to chia seeds nutrition, in particular Omega 3 fatty acids and fiber content. Chia seed is an excellent source of fiber, packed with antioxidants, full of protein, loaded with vitamins and minerals.
Just like wheat in Europe and rice in most of East Asia, chia seeds were popular with Mayans (an ancient tribe of Central America) and Aztecs. In fact, the word chia is derived from the Aztec word Chian, which means 'oily'. The groups realized that chia seeds boost energy, immunity and endurance, treat prostate problems and constipation. Naturally, chia seeds were an important component in their food preparations. They pressed seeds and took out chia oil, mixed seeds with other foods, mixed in water and used as a beverage, ground into flour and stored it for many years, included in medicines etc.
Having understood the endurance power of chia seeds, the Aztec warriors depended on chia seeds as their main source of food fuel during wars. For instance, a tablespoon of chia seeds could sustain a person for 24 hours. Also, the medicinal properties of chia seeds were put to good use to treat gunshot wounds and other injuries. Chia seeds was used to treat constipation, sore throats, and colds and soon evolved to be a major component in religious rituals. The seed of Chia plant was worshipped for its health benefits. For the Mayans, Chia was a staple food.
Many crops including chia were banned by the Spanish when they conquered and repressed the natives. Chia thus was eliminated and survived in the regional area in Mexico for the last 500 years.
Of late, chia is being rediscovered and imbibed as a 'super food' amongst nutritionists and herbalists alike. Today, chia is grown in its native Mexico and in Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Australia and Guatemala. Australia is a major producer and exporter of chia seeds.
Nutrition and Versatility of Chia seeds
Check out why chia seeds are highly nutritious and what makes it so very versatile.
- Unit of chia seeds contains 525 kilo calories of energy (higher than flax seeds which give 482 kilo calories of energy).
- Chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids the body must obtain through food.
- Fat content in chia seeds is lower.
- Chia seeds are a rich source of plant based protein.
- Chia seeds contain more calcium and phosphorus.
- Chia seeds are high in manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin and zinc.
- Chia seeds are even richer in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Chia seeds have a soft seed coat, and don't need to be ground prior to consumption. Can be eaten whole or ground.
- Chia seeds won't get gummy and can be easily added to smoothies, pasta sauces, oatmeal, yogurt and cottage cheese.
- Chia seeds have a unique ability to swell in liquid and turn into a clear gelatin.
- Highly versatile chia seeds can be added ground or whole to cereals, salads, granola or baked goods.
- Gluten-free and neutral in taste, chia seeds are easily digestible and can be consumed in great many ways.
- Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds are without the estrogen and phytoestrogen elements.
Chia seeds benefits
Chia seeds with all the blocks of healthy diet like protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids are a natural food that can do wonders to your health. Chia seeds help fight against many diseases and keep the immune system strong by helping the body absorb fat soluble vitamins.
For weight loss: For weight loss as well as weight management purposes, Chia seeds are helpful. Chia seeds are even referred to as dieter's dream food. It is the hydrophilic structure or the water retention ability of chia seeds that plays a role. They are so filling, making you feel full faster thereby reducing hunger pangs, enhancing energy levels and bringing about a reduction in caloric intake. When added to sauces, drinks, yogurt, salad, dressings, cream cheese, jellies and preserves, salsa, hot/cold cereal, dips, puddings, soups etc chia seeds works well.
A great beauty food: Chia seeds contain 60% Omega 3 fatty acids which benefit the skin, nails and hair. It helps keep the body hydrated; the nutrients and vitamins assist in generating tissue and muscle in the body. The skin looks its best, the hair is well-moisturized and the nails are strengthened. Also, the easy digestible chia seeds support a healthy digestive system which is an essential part of living and looking healthy. For a rejuvenated soft and smooth skin, a much-followed easy method is to prepare a chia seed mixture and apply on the skin. After a minute, wash face with lukewarm water.
To enhance energy levels: Highly nutritious chia seeds boost energy levels. Regular intake can ensure good stamina for sustained periods of time.
For the diabetic: Chia seeds are diabetic friendly. The soluble fiber in chia seeds helps control blood sugar levels by slowing down the transformation of carbohydrates into sugars. This reaction takes place in the stomach when chia seeds come in contact with water and forms a gel. Irrespective of the form, chia seeds form a type of barrier inside the stomach and help slow down the ingestion of sugar into the bloodstream which is helpful for diabetics who are unable to process sugars properly. The slowing down also helps to keep the glucose in the blood at proper levels. Further, chia seeds aid in digestion and slow down the absorption of Carbs thus controlling appetite, an important factor for diabetics. There is also a continued feeling of energy.
For good bones: Chia also contains boron which is needed to aid the metabolism of calcium, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus in bones and for muscle growth. Boron can increase the levels of natural estrogen.
To lower blood pressure: Studies show that consumption of chia seeds can lower blood pressure. This means a higher dosage may actually lower blood pressure to dangerous level. Those with low blood pressure should consult health care provider and obtain approval.
To check triglycerides and cholesterol: Eating chia seeds provide body with a healthy dose of ALA, alpha-linoleic acid, a substance that lowers the risk of heart disease, blurred vision and numbness. This fatty acid also helps prevent the deposit of cholesterol on the arteries, which can lead to atherosclerosis. Thus chia seeds lead to lesser amounts of fat accumulation in the body by keeping a check on the level of triglycerides.
An important fatty acid, linoleic is required for cell respiration (i.e. oxygen transported into cells), lubrication and resilience of cells. The body can't make it and has to be obtained from raw plant-source foods. Chia seeds are rich in this nutrient. The combination of chia seeds and cholesterol in the body form membrane to hold cells together and put cholesterol to good use.
To combat constipation: Most of the times, constipation is due to unhealthy eating habits. Though there are many methods to improve bowel movement, the safest and most ideal treatment is through intake of high dietary fiber. Increasing consumption of fiber can give immediate relief. Chia seeds are full of fiber making it highly effective to fight constipation, especially constipation associated with intake of medications. Chia seeds also support the gastrointestinal system. As the seeds have the ability to expand in water, they help cleanse and soothe the colon, removing toxins while strengthening gastrointestinal muscles. The high fiber content helps prevent constipation.
Benefits medical conditions: Besides weight loss, diabetes, lowering cholesterol, chia seeds are reported to be beneficial for a vast range of health issues like thyroid conditions, hypoglycemia, Irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease and acid reflux.
Chia seeds side effects
Before starting anything new, it is best to know the side effects, if any. As such, chia seeds have no negative toxicological side effects. Chia is approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Association) of the Unites States. The recommended dose for adults is 2 tablespoons (or about 15g) of chia seeds every day. Children can also use Chia seeds but with precaution. The AHA (American Heart Association) also recommended chia to be used on a regular basis in patients suffering from coronary heart disease but prior consultation with health care provided is necessary.
The recommended procedure is to take chia seeds for a short time, take a break, check for reactions and continue as there are chia users who have become addicted to chia seeds.
- Pregnant women and breast feeding mothers should avoid using chia seeds because they might not be safe for you or your child.
- Chia contains significant levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Though highly beneficial, omega-3 fatty acids are known to be natural blood thinners. Patients preparing for surgery ought to be cautions about excessive consumption of chia seeds.
- Excessive consumption can lower blood pressure to dangerous level, especially for older adults and those who have a history of low blood pressure (hypotension).
- Any skin reactions for a prolonged period during consumption of chia seeds should be discussed with health care provider.
- People allergic to mustard and mustard seeds must avoid being in the contact with chia seeds.
- Overdose can prove to be fatal.
How to eat chia seeds
As such chia seeds are very affordable and can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 years or more, the nutritional and physical intact. That means a bag full of chia seeds allows for enough time to try out the many different ways of eating chia seeds.
Eating plain chia seeds
You can eat dry chia seeds straight from the package. Chew few tablespoons for a quick breakfast on the go. But ensure you drink plenty of water. Even otherwise, the seeds absorb nine times their weight in water so they can soak up the water from your system and cause you to dehydrate. To prevent this, drink lots of water.
Using chia seeds
- Use 1 tablespoon finely ground chia seeds and 3 tablespoons of water per egg in a baked recipe.
- Substitute cornstarch or thickening agents with a few tablespoons of chia seeds.
- Instead of breadcrumbs to thicken meat-loafs, batters etc, use few tablespoons of chia seeds.
- Make chia seeds sprouts. Put some chia seeds in water, drain water and leave aside for a couple of hours. Change water after 12 hours. After 2 days chia sprouts are ready for use in salads.
- For chia seeds energy gel, add a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds to a cup of coconut water. In ten minutes, chia seeds energy gel is ready.
- Sprinkle chia seeds to yogurt, cereal, oatmeal or vegetable salads for an extra crunch.
- Grind chia seeds and add to pasta sauces, salad dressings, or to garnish steamed vegetables. Mix with hot milk (porridge), add to dried fruits or granola mix.
Chia milk is a healthy alternative for those looking for lactose free non-diary origin milk. Chia milk has a unique flavor and can be added to recipes that require regular milk. Due to its non-dairy origin, the milk remains fresh in the refrigerator up to a week. Chia seeds milk is made by soaking chia seeds and walnuts in water for at least 12 hours. The soaked seeds are blended together until smooth.
The most common way to eat chia is to first soak the seeds in water. The seeds absorb water, expand and simultaneously release their amazing nutrients. The seeds and water form a gel. Making the gel softens the seeds and makes it easier to eat and more versatile to use in recipes. The gel can be used for baking as well.
The ratio of chia seeds to water should be 1 or 2 tablespoons of chia seeds with 1 cup of water. Whisk well with a fork. In less than 10 minutes, soaked chia seeds will appear to contain not seeds or water, but an almost solid gelatin. The consistency would be like that of pudding or custard. Prepared chia gel will keep up to 2 weeks.
Other liquid alternatives include flavored water, milk, nut milk, fruit juice, stock, gravies, eggs, vegetable juice etc. The ratio remains the same.
Fruits and chia gel:Mix up fruits like sliced banana, apples or pears, peaches, strawberries, blueberries or raspberries to chia gel. Whisk together and leave it to stand. Ensure there isn't any clumping.
Adding chia gel to granola bars makes for a nutritious mid-day snack. Stir well and refrigerate in a sealed jar for at least 10 minutes.
Bake with chia gel: Cookie dough, pizza dough, cakes, muffins, brownies, quick breads or any recipe that involves baking, substitute chia gel for oil or butter. When chia gel is replaced for oil or butter in baking recipes, there is a substantial increase (three times the original amount) of omega-3 fatty acids in the final recipe. Replace ¼ of the oil or butter in a baking recipe with chia gel or 2 tablespoons of ground chia seeds for every cup of flour. There would be no change in the taste or texture. Any increase beyond the ¼ ratio is likely to bring about marked changes in taste as well as flavor.
Chia gel as topping: Add chia gel to salad dressings or puddings or granola, over cheesecake, ice-cream.
Chia seeds recipes
Chia seed chocolate cake
Chia seeds 4 tablespoons
Raw cocoa ½ cup or
Cocoa powder 2 tablespoon
Softened butter 125 grams
Almond meal 1 cup
Sugar 1 cup
Salt a pinch
Bicarb 1 teaspoon
Preheat oven to 180 c. Choose the right container and stack with non-stick baking paper. Soak chia seeds in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Break the eggs and whisk well and keep aside. Transfer all ingredients in a bowl. Whisk well. Prevent clumping. Pour into the container. Bake for ½ hour. Allow the cake to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Chia seed porridge
Chia seeds 3 tablespoon
Unsweetened milk 1 cup
Maple syrup or honey 1/8 cup
Vanilla extract few drops
Cinnamon 1 pinch
Fruits, few slices to garnish
Pour milk into a small bowl. Add all the ingredients. Whisk well. Garnish with sliced fruits. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Chia seed mixed salad
Finely cut spinach 1 cup
Chopped carrot, tomatoes, onion & bell pepper 1 cup
Chick peas or tofu 1/ 2 cup
Olive oil 2 tablespoon
Lemon juice 2 tsp
Chia seeds (whole) 2 tsp
Transfer all ingredients one-by-one into a large bowl. Mix it up well.
Chia seed apple juice
Chia seeds 1 tablespoon
Apple juice 1 cup
Lime juice 2 tsp
Combine chia seeds with apple juice. Wait for ½ hour until the seeds swell and the juice thickens. Add lemon juice and ice just before serving.
Chia seed banana smoothie
Bananas 3 nos
Chia seeds 1 tablespoon
Honey 2 tablespoon
Chop bananas. Soak chia seeds in water for ½ hour. Transfer ingredients into a blender. Blend in high speed for a second. Transfer into tall glasses and serve.