The Health Benefits of Chia Seeds and How to Prepare Them
You’ve probably seen chia seeds consistently appear on lists of superfoods recently and it’s with good reason. These tiny black or white seeds are nutritional powerhouses and are also surprisingly versatile for use in recipes. So what is it about chia seeds that makes them so great?
Long before the days of FDA daily recommended allowances, the Aztec and Mayan people revered chia seeds for their medicinal and nutritional properties. They were one of the most important crops they cultivated second only to maize. The seeds were used as an energy-dense food much in the same way we eat energy bars or power gels when we need to refuel quickly. In fact, the word chia actually means “strength” in the Mayan language so they were certainly aware of how nourishing these unassuming little seeds actually are. Native Mexican people such as the Tarahumara, renowned for their superhuman running abilities and popularized in the book Born to Run, still consume chia seeds today as a source of energy for their endurance runs. The publication of the book brought much attention to the diet and lifestyle of the Tarahumara and is one of the reasons chia seeds have had so much attention as a superfood in the United States & United Kingdom in recent years.
The Nutritional Profile
One of the amazing things about chia seeds is how much nutrition is contained in so small a package. They are high in protein, fibre, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and a host of important minerals like manganese, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. It only takes two tablespoons to give you a major nutritional boost in your daily allowance, but that doesn’t mean you ought to make yourself swallow a couple of raw spoonfuls of them; chia seeds are a wonderful addition to everyday recipes.
Chia seeds are surprisingly easy to include in your diet. You can sprinkle them on salads, yogurt, cereal, fruit, or toss them into smoothies for a quick and healthy dose of nutrients. However, you’d be doing chia seeds a disservice if you didn’t take advantage of their most unusual quality; these little seeds are able to absorb up to twelve times their weight in water which causes them to gel. This makes them useful for everything from vegan puddings and parfaits to egg substitutes in baking recipes. While you can certainly just eat the seeds whole and raw and still reap the benefits, there are some arguments in favour of grinding the seeds (as some people do with flax seeds) or soaking them first in order to absorb more of their nutrients and to aid in the digestion of them.
If you are sold on the many nutritional benefits of this tiniest of superfoods, but need a little culinary inspiration to help you figure out where to start, here are a few easy recipes to help you start incorporating chia seeds into your diet:
- Chia fresca (iskiate). This traditional Mexican way of consuming chia seeds is very simple to prepare: just mix a spoonful of chia seeds in a glass of water and add lemon or lime juice with honey or agave nectar to taste. You can also get creative and experiment with other flavours that have health benefits like pomegranate, tart cherry, cucumber mint, or even coconut water; essential oils can be helpful here. Whatever flavours you choose, you’ll have a quick and refreshing drink that is loaded with a dose of vitamins, minerals, and protein to get you moving.
- Chocolate chia pudding. What better way to eat your superfoods than as a chocolatey dessert? This fantastically simple overnight chocolate pudding from Minimalist Baker is vegan and gluten-free and sweetened only with medjool dates. You just combine the seeds with cacao powder, almond milk, dates, and cinnamon and let it sit overnight to thicken. You can also throw some oats in to transform this into chocolate overnight oats that you can enjoy for breakfast.
- Chia açai bowl. You’ve probably seen açai berry bowls getting almost as much attention as chia seeds for their nutritional prowess. Why not combine the two into a beautiful, healthy pairing? This vanilla chia açai bowl is a perfect union of chia pudding with frozen blended açai. Just top it with fresh or dried fruit and you’ve got a nutritious breakfast ready to go.
- Coconut chia protein pancakes. These gluten-free pancakes get an extra protein punch from protein powder as well as the healthy dose of chia seeds in them and you can alter the recipe slightly to make many other flavour variations like lemon chia (instead of lemon poppyseed) or pumpkin spice.
There are countless other ways to incorporate chia seeds into your recipes and you can add them to cookies, cakes, jams, dressings, or even mix into breading for baked chicken tenders. Here are a few more ideas to spark your creativity.
Chia seeds are nutritious, versatile, and make a fun addition to your arsenal of healthy cooking ingredients, but adding one more healthy superfood to your diet is only a small part of taking care of your overall health. Contact us for more information on how good nutrition and dietary choices can help you feel healthier, revitalized, and set you on the right track for Hormone Success.
Since being advised by Dr. Alison I have taken chia seeds with many daily foods, particularly with my morning porridge and salads, soups and cereals.
This has had the effect of improving my general health ( I am a type 2 diabetic).
I have recently been able to reduce medication for heart failure and no longer take beta-blockers of which I was prescribed 7.5 mg/day when leaving hospital 18 months ago !
I feel so much better these days.
Thank you Alison for your advice.