Prized by the Aztecs and Maya for their ability to provide long-lasting energy, chia seeds have long been used as a superfood. Native to Mexico and Guatemala, chia seeds are related to mint and come from the Salvia hispanica plant. Today, chia seeds have become a common ingredient in healthy recipes. This article will discuss the health benefits, how to use and store and downside of chia seeds.
While not a superfood, chia seeds are healthy. They are gluten-free and packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc. Also, they are full of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an anti-inflammatory, plant-based omega-3 fatty acid.
If you are wondering how much chia to eat in a day, stick to the 2-tablespoon serving. It is best to break this up throughout the day, adding a teaspoon or two to a smoothie, another teaspoon in a mid-morning yogurt, and the rest in recipes like chia pudding.
Chia and Hydration
The small seeds absorb up to 10 times their weight in water. This means that when you eat chia pudding or chia gel, you also get the liquid they absorbed. Chia’s hydration benefits mean that the ingredient is also beneficial for healthy, glowing skin. Because chia seeds include healthy fats, they’re also great for anyone dealing with dry skin.
When used properly, chia seeds are incredibly healthy. However, some TikTok influencers are promoting chia water (chia seeds mixed with water) for weight loss because it may make you feel full due to the expansion of the seeds in your stomach. While the fiber and protein in chia seeds may help you feel full, it is not recommended to quickly increase the amount of fiber you eat because it can cause abdominal pain, gas and bloating. Increase fiber gradually and drink adequate amounts of fluid to prevent this.
Chia water could also potentially cause problems for those with swallowing or digestive disorders. If chia seeds aren’t soaked before they are consumed, they may mix with saliva, form a gel and possibly block the esophagus. Because of this, it is recommended that you don’t eat chia seeds dry by the spoonful.
How to Use
Here are some popular ways to eat chia seeds:
• Sprinkle chia seeds over cereal and yogurt.
• Add to smoothies and soup.
• Mix in baked goods and homemade granola.
• Use in or as a coating for energy bites. (Simply roll the energy bite mixture into balls, then roll in chia seeds to coat.)
• Make a chia gel. (Combine ¼ cup of seeds with 2 cups of water, let stand for 15 to 30 minutes, then stir with a whisk.) Chia gel uses include:
• Thickener in creamy soups
• Egg replacement
• Mixed with mashed fresh fruit for jam, or with fruit juice or plant-milk for pudding
How to Store
Because of their fat content, store chia seeds in a sealed bag or container in the refrigerator or freezer to increase shelf life.