Chia seeds are among the most trendy ‘superfoods’ which are consumed by many health-conscious people all around the world. But do these tiny bird-food like seeds give a real bang for your buck or are they just one of the many hypes around modern day eating?
I started using Chia seeds about 6 months ago after reading the first Deliciously Ella cook book, a hugely popular cult starter in the camp of healthy eaters. I have to admit that before picking up this book, I had no idea Chia seeds even existed!
However, apparently, Chia seeds, which are related to mint, have been around since 3500 B.C – they were an important staple in the Aztec diet. These ancient South-American civilisations used these seeds for making medicine, drinks, flour and oil – the list goes on. They valued them so much that they even offered them to their gods during their religious ceremonies.
I can’t claim that Chia seeds alone have revolutionized my life, and I think I would attract a few strange looks if I was to make an offering of these at church Mass. However, I use them quite regularly, because according to food scientists, these tiny black seeds are one of the healthiest foods you can get on earth and the evidence seems quite conclusive.
So here is 5 compelling reasons why I think you should make some room in your kitchen cupboard for these tiny black seeds:-
- They pack a powerful nutritional punch with very few calories– about two tablespoons are loaded with fibre, fat, protein and bone minerals such as Calcium, Manganese, Magnesium and Phosphorus (gram for gram, this is higher than most dairy products!); and also some Zinc, Vitamin B3, Potassium, Vitamin B1 and Vitamin B2. They are also loaded with more heart-friendly Omega-3s (gram for gram, this is more than salmon!)A study in type 2 diabetics showed that chia seeds can significantly lower blood pressure. Need I say more??
- They are also rich in age- and cancer fighting antioxidants –these fight the production of free radicals, which can damage molecules in your body cells.
- They can aid weight management due to their high content of good quality fibre and protein – when combined with a healthy whole foods based diet, of course. Chia seeds are known to increase fullness and reduce food cravings, also slow the absorption of your food and therefore help you automatically eat fewer calories.
- They are extremely easy to incorporate into your diet– due to their versatility and the fact that they don’t actually taste of anything. Unleash your imagination: add them to your morning porridge or smoothie, use it in baking or puddings, sprinkle them on top of yoghurt or your main meals. They are also great as a thickener for sauces as they can absorb up to 10-12 times their weight in liquid (!), forming a gel. (This explains why they increase your feelings of fullness once they expand in your tummy.)
- They are a valuable addition to any sports diet to fuel performance – The Aztecs and Mayans prized them for their ability to provide sustainable energy, in fact, did you know that ‘Chia’ is the ancient Mayan word for strength? One small study showed that Chia seeds can partly replace Gatorade as a way of carb loading for endurance athletes, but this needs to be studied more. At any rate, I am certainly not discounting them from my diet to fuel my runs and gym training.
The recommendation is to consume 20 grams (about 1.5 tablespoons) of Chia seeds, twice per day – so don’t worry, you do not need to grow feathers and turn yourself into a bird to reap the full benefits. If you are just starting to use these, make sure not to go overboard, especially if you’re not used to eating a lot of fibre, otherwise you may have to face some rather uncomfortable digestive side effects if you eat too much at a time ( I think I don’t need to go into too much detail here :-)) Another piece of advice I would give is to use these seeds mixed into something rather than eat them dry, to avoid any potential irritation to your aesophagus (but this may only be important for people with swallowing problems).
In light of the above, these clever little seeds appear to be one of the best sources of several important nutrients, calorie for calorie, and are actually worthy of the ‘superfood’ term. And they are definitely a great value for money!
Finally, and without much further ado, I have enlisted some help from my friend Anita from Ana y la passion to give you some ideas and inspiration about how you can use Chia seeds. Just reading these tastebud tantalising recipes feel like areal treat to me
I have prepared a couple of recipes – the first two can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days, but ideally not much longer to keep them fresh.
Chia Seed Pudding with Cherries (Vegan)
This can of course me made with cow’s milk, however, I have given up dairy lately based on my doctor’s recommendation. I quite like this pudding as it can be prepared the night before, and if you put it in a mason jar, you can have this sweet treat with you on the go. I found the original recipe in Sarah Wilson’s book ‘I Quit Sugar’, however, I have slightly changed it.
Ingredients (makes 2 portions)
- 2.5 cup rice milk
- 0.5 cup chia seeds
- a pinch of vanilla powder or extract
- 0.5 cup of frozen or fresh fruit (e.g. frozen cherries)
Mix the ingredients except the fruits in a bowl. I have not used any sweetener, but I would recommend either honey, or xylithol, but raw honey is also quite good. Place the mixture into the jars/mugs/bowls. Blend the fruit and pour te mixture onto the top. There you go!
Preparation time: approx. 10 minutes
Peach and Lemongrass Chia Seed Jam (Vegan)
Chia seeds have a jelly-like consistency when you add liquids, but surprisingly, they can also be used to make some jam! The lemongrass makes it quite refreshing, and with no added sugar it is a guilt free treat.
- 200 g fresh peaches
- 2 tablespoons of Chia seeds
- 4 pieces of fresh lemongrass (not the Asian type)
Wash, peel and then blend the peaches with the lemongrass. Add the Chia seeds, mix them well. Place the mixture in a jar and cool it for at least 15 minutes. It can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Coconut- Walnut Breakfast Granola with Chia Seeds (Vegan)
This could be your perfect breakfast especially if you don’t have time for a late morning snack until lunch time as the Chia seeds will keep you feel sated until noon. You can make it vegan by using non dairy yoghurt alternatives such as Alpro or CoYo coconut yoghurt.
Preparation time: approx. 10 minutes
Thank you, Anita, for the delicious recipes and I hope you all will enjoy these