This potent ancient seed, once a staple of the Mayan, Incan and Aztec cultures, is becoming more and more popular for endurance athletes, dieters, and diabetics — just to name a few!
It is said that the ancient cultures used chia seeds as a high-energy food, specifically for their messengers who would run for days between villages with nothing but a pouch of chia seeds to fuel them. Not only are they a power-house of nutrients, the seeds prolong hydration and help the body retain electrolytes — another reason they’re well-loved by endurance athletes.
But even if ultra-marathons aren’t your thing, chia seeds are a great addition to any healthy diet.
Why Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are full of omega 3’s and 6’s — or as my five-year-old’s say, “the good fats that make your brain work”.
With high levels of phenolic compounds, chia seeds provide antioxidants that can fight against disease-causing toxins. In fact, they’ve been said to have three times the antioxidants than the impressive blueberry.
So don’t get me started on why people shouldn’t be drinking cow’s milk…but if you’re still in the camp of believers who think you need cow’s milk in order to get enough calcium, hear this: chia seeds have five times the calcium of milk, plus boron, the ever-important trace mineral which helps transfer that calcium into your bones. So moo to you.
Chia seeds are a complete source of protein, providing all the essential amino acids in an easily digestible form, with two times the protein of any other seed or grain.
Three times more iron than spinach?! Say what! This makes chia seeds a vegetarian and vegan diet staple.
Based on the recommended daily intake for a 2,000 calorie diet, one ounce of dried chia seeds contains 42% of your daily dietary fiber. Chia seeds absorb liquid once ingested and literally sweep through your intestinal tract, helping to dislodge and eliminate old accumulated waste in the intestines.
- Building Tissue
Due to its stellar nutrient profile and easy assimilation, chia is beneficial for us fit girls who are always re-forming muscle tissue after hard workouts but also for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Diabetic-Friendly Energy
Once the chia seeds expand into a gel in your system, they create a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break those carbs down — slowing down the digestive process. This then slows the conversion of carbs into sugar and provides a steady release of energy — perfect for diabetics. It’s also a natural stimulant for those needing sustained energy when endurance training.
And that’s not even all of it! I could actually add another ten bullet points to that list. So now that we’ve got the benefits covered, how do you eat these weird looking seeds? The good news is, they are tasteless so you can add them to anything without altering the taste of your food. You can grind them down to a flour-like consistency or use them in their unaltered state to lend some crunch and texture.
- A tablespoon on top of your cereal or granola.
- A tablespoon added to your smoothie.
- Add with the dry ingredients when baking pancakes, muffins, cookies, etc.
- Substitute chia for any recipe that calls for flax. You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder (for a “chia flour”) just like you do flax.
- Spread a few teaspoons on top of your peanut butter when making toast or pb+j sandwiches. It adds a bit of crunch and texture, similar to crunchy peanut butter.
- Although not my favorite way to eat them, my husband uses the gelatinous method for his pre-run energy drink: Leave seeds in a cup of water or apple juice for five minutes. Stir and leave for another five minutes. The seeds will absorb the liquid and create a jelly-like consistency that you then drink (I’m glad it works for my hubby but this method definitely makes me gag!).
The most nutrient-dense way to consume chia seeds is in that gel form. And by allowing the seeds even more time to expand and break down into a gel, you ensure that the power-house nutrients are more readily available to you. If you can’t handle downing it in some juice (as listed above), you can make a gel paste and add it to foods or drinks. You can even blend it into things and it completely disappears!
1/3 cup chia seeds
2 cups water
Stir the mixture well and place in a sealed jar. Although you can use it after just ten minutes, for the best nutrient access, leave for at least a few hours. This will stay good in the fridge for up to three weeks and can be added to smoothies, salad dressings, yogurt/granola, sauces, or if the consistency doesn’t weird you out, simply eat it by the spoonful.