Chia seeds seem to be the big health food of the moment, and have been granted “superfood” status alongside the likes of blueberries, goji berries, chocolate and green tea. But, last time I checked, pretty much all seeds carry some great health benefits… pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds etc. So what is it that makes chia seeds so special?
What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are no new thing. Harvested from the salvia hispanica plant, a member of the mint family, the plants were cultivated by the Aztecs and the seeds used as a source of food, were mixed with water to drink, used in medicines and also for oil. The Mayan people used chia for energy, carrying them with them on long trips, which could be a reason for name “Chia”, meaning “strength” in Mayan.
The seeds, about the size of poppy seeds, seem to have a multitude of uses.
Perhaps the most interesting property of chia seeds is their ability to absorb moisture. Soak a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds in water or milk and see them expand into a soft gel-like substance. This can be used as a thickener, for baking, straight up as a “pudding” or even soaked in fruit juice and used as a coulis over yoghurt.
What Makes Them a Superfood?
It doesn’t take much digging to see why chia seeds are so popular…
Each serving of chia seeds (approx 1tbsp) provides 15% of your recommended fibre intake for the day. They also contain impressive amounts of calcium, iron and magnesium – important minerals in bone and heart health.
Chia seeds also pack a whopping 42g of carbohydrate per 100g. That’s more than both rice and potatoes in equal quantities. Of course, you’d have to eat a lot of chia seeds to get anywhere near this, but the slow release of carbohydrate along with omegas, vitamins and minerals is a boost to any person’s diet for very little effort.
How I’ve Used Chia
I was lucky enough to receive a sample of The Chia Co’s chia seeds, both as “chia shots” (quick and convenient ways to add chia to any of your meals), and as a pouch of seeds.
The seeds can be black or white – though this colour comes purely from the coating of the seed and makes no difference in terms of nutrition or taste. Personally I prefer the white seeds for puddings as they look m ore subtle and, well, pudding like. The black or white seeds are equally great for adding to salads and baking, but the black ones would look lovely in a rustic cake – e.g. as a replacement for poppy seeds in a lemon loaf.
The Chia Co have loads of recipe ideas on their website; one which I couldn’t wait to try was the lemon and chia crusted salmon, which went down a treat in the Fitcetera household.
I even made this wonderful Cocoa Chai Chia Tart, a super simple, gluten-, dairy- and egg-free, paleo, no bake dessert. Check out the recipe here.
Next for me… a chia loaf or cake. I’ll let you know how I get on!
Try Chia For Yourself
For the ultimate in versatile superfoods, chia seeds definitely take top spot. Try them:
- Sprinkled on salads, yoghurt or porridge
- Soaked with overnight oats
- Thickened as pudding (check out these fantastic pudding recipes from Fitness On Toast!)
- Instead of egg as a binding ingredient
- Baked dry in bread or cakes
- Added to stir fries, pasta dishes or as a crust on fish
- With fruit for a protein and good fats boost
And many many more ways here. You can buy a pack of 10 Chia Shots (5 servings) or a 150g pouch for £4.95*, or you can buy 500g and 1kg pouches, or even boxes of 100 Chia Shots to really stock up, all from The Chia Co, or you can pick them up in Tesco stores.
* Price correct at time of writing.