Chia: More Than Just a Vintage Pet

The term “superfood” is quickly becoming a trendy buzz word but the label definitely applies to the mighty chia seed.

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?

    • Omega-3’s
      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”.
    • Antioxidants
      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.
    • Calcium
      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.
    • Protein
      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.
    • Iron
      Three times more iron than spinach?! Say what! This makes chia seeds a vegetarian and vegan diet staple.
    • Fiber
      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.

How to use chia seeds:

  • 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!

Chia Gel

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.

Domestically Yours,
Natasha Kay

17 thoughts on “Chia: More Than Just a Vintage Pet

  1. Teodora says:

    This is extremely interesting…I think I will buy some tomorrow. If i can decipher what they are called here in Basel:) But why not drink cow milk – I absolutely love it!!!

    • Natasha says:

      I read that chia seeds haven’t really made their way to Europe yet…maybe try the health food store near Barfusserplatz, though. 🙂

      And I won’t get into the whole milk debate — maybe a future post! But rest assured, the milk you drink in the EU is VERY different (and healthier) than the milk sold in NA.

      • Teodora says:

        ha-ha, thanks:) I knew there was something fishy in the milk I drank back in the States. It sure tasted different.
        I think a friend of mine told me that they sell chia seeds in the Indian stores here so I will try that:)
        But looking forward to the “Got milk?” post:)

      • Teodora says:

        Hey Natasha, bought chia seeds from the US (good old Amazon) and will give it a try today…I hope they taste better than they look:)

        • Natasha (Domestica) says:

          Great! Try putting them on things that need a bit of crunch! Like oatmeal or peanut butter and toast. I also put them in my baked goods. I don’t really enjoy them with liquid things — like smoothies — but everyone else in my family does.

  2. Liz says:

    There are a multitude of reasons not to drink milk, or eat dairy products.
    Cows milk is made for baby cows, and they don’t have the same digestive system as a human – imagine that!
    Cows milk also contains a protein called Casein which is great for calves, not so great for us.
    In the US you run the risk of having hormones, antibiotics and who knows what else incorporated into the milk supply (fortunately in Canada this is not the case because our dairy industry is actually monitored quite well – thank you Cdn Goverment!), and I don’t know about Europe.
    There is a reason we are weaned as infants from breast milk – because adults don’t actually require milk. I find it amusing that people I have spoken to about the perils of drinking cows milk think that is acceptable, but balk at the thought of drinking human breast milk as an adult. How funny is that?
    People really feel its acceptable to drink the milk of another mammal. Wow Dairy Industry are you doing your job right!
    We are the only mammals that drink milk into adulthood and the only ones that drink the milk of another species. I think that is weird.
    Milk and dairy products actually deplete our bones of minerals – including calcium. North Americans have the highest instances of osteoporosis, and yet we also consume the most dairy.

  3. Liz says:

    Check out these webpages:

    The Not Milk Homepage
    Save Our Bones

    You’ll have to do a search – can’t post the links here.

    Lots of info that the dairy industry doesn’t want us to know.

  4. Erin Philps says:

    Thanks Tasha, I’m excited to try these 🙂 I especially love the part about them being high in calcium and a perfect protein source. Since going off dairy myself…thanks to your mom 🙂 I’ve had to re-work my diet and re-think how to get what I need. My problem is that although I haven’t drank milk since that first fast back in gr. 12 I still get tempted by the rest of the dairy products.

    Note about drinking Milk: We produce the enzyme to digest dairy in our infant stage because we need it digest Mother’s milk but after that we are supposed to stop producing it. It’s actually a “mutation” for those who are still able to easily digest milk! So, I’m the normal one and my husband is the mutant – sweet! 🙂

    • Natasha says:

      What?! Someone was actually listening to my mother back then?! LOL! 😉

      I know milk is such a hot topic but even if people believe they should be drinking milk, I wish they would learn more about what pasteurization (a process of heating a food, usually liquid, to a specific temperature for a definite length of time, and then cooling it immediately) and the awful treatment of dairy cows is doing to the milk they drink. The truth is, it’s only been in the last 100 years that we’ve drank milk this way and it’s not even close to the milk that comes out of a healthy, grass-fed cow and goes straight to the table.

      Whenever I see someone with huge dark circles around their eyes and a lot of throat-clearing, I know without even asking that they drink milk every single day. Their body is literally revolting against them and they just don’t get it!!

  5. Liz says:

    The dairy industry has done their job very well, remember this: “Milk, it does a body good”
    Hard for people to believe it doesn’t do a body any good.

    • Natasha (Domestica) says:

      Hi Jane,

      You can get chia seeds at any health food store, including Whole Foods. You might be able to get them at grocery stores like Safeway but you’ll pay a higher price for them (as you do with most health foods in conventional stores).

      I actually buy mine in the bulk section of Whole Foods (because it’s cheaper than the bags in the supplement section). Even Sprouts has them in bulk. Not sure about TJ’s though!

      • Jane says:

        Thanks, Natasha. I’m trying the chia seeds to help with constipation. Do you know if it works better than flaxseed? I hope it works!

        • Natasha (Domestica) says:

          They have a super high insoluble fiber content so the seeds are known for promoting regularity. This page has some interesting facts about the seeds (http://www.mychiaseeds.com/Articles/ChiaSeedHydration.html) and goes on to say: “…as the seeds pass through the colon, they are slowly irrigating it on the way through. Keeping food moist is an important way to prevent maladies such as constipation and diverticulitus. The soluble and insoluble fibers act as a ‘sweeper’ to keep food moving easily.”

          Flax is a fantastic fiber source, as well. But just make sure you always use GROUND flax as our digestive systems are unable to break down the flax seed and so it really doesn’t do any good when it just simply passes through your system!

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