There are so many chia seed benefits, but we’ve narrowed them down to our top favorite five! While many wellness articles focus solely on the nutritional benefits of chia seeds in your diet, we have a few special cooking tips that are amazing for baking and “leveling up” your healthy meals. Definitely a must try.
What are chia seeds?
Well if you’ve seen the ch-ch-ch-chia commercials back in the 90’s with terracotta chia pet plants that sprout little green buds, we’re talking about the same thing. WHA – WHAT? Yeaup. The same freakin thing.
Chia seeds are edible seeds that derive from the desert Salvia plant (a member of the mint family) and have been used for centuries in the Mayan and Aztec diet. Known to represent “strength,” Aztec warriors used it medicinally to hydrate, stimulate saliva production, and lubricate joints.
Are chia seeds safe to eat?
If the Mayans and Aztecs ate them, is it safe for you? The simple answer is YES, however, it’s important to remember that loading up on these Mexican-indigenous seeds may disagree with your biochemistry, specifically your stomach. Mayans and aztecs also ate corn as a staple in their diet – something that doesn’t work well with some folks’ digestive tract AT ALL! So – a great rule of thumb is to eat mindfully. Pay attention to how you feel when you do eat chia seeds and go from there.
Are chia seeds a superfood?
Yes, chia seeds have topped superfood (powerhouse foods full of nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals) lists in the last 3 years, and are known to be loaded with fiber (both soluble and insoluble), antioxidants, and omega-3 fats, however there are some discrepancies around whether or not we can actually absorb some of these nutrients.
We hate to get super technical about food – mostly because it really takes the “fun” out of enjoying healthy meals, but to give you the gist, the omega-3 fats in chia seeds are made up of ALA’s (short chain fatty acids found in plant-based oils), which are not the same as EPA and DHA omega-3’s (long chain fatty acids commonly found in marine oils like fish).
What you need to know is this:
- don’t get hooked on the marketing label hype on the front of your chia seed package.
- omega-3’s are not created equal
- the omega-3’s in chia seeds (ALA’s) must be converted into usable forms of omega-3’s (EPA and DHA’s) in order to reap the benefits
- the human body has a hard time converting these fats into usable forms (less than 5%, with women converting the fats slightly better than men)
- you’ll access WAY BETTER omega-3’s by cooking up a nice, fatty piece of wild salmon (Here’s how to make “A Perfect Piece of Salmon in under 10 Minutes”.)
5 Fave Chia Seed Benefits
If you haven’t caught on to our style of “healthy cooking” and “healthy recipe testing,” we don’t focus solely on the nutritional benefits. Food has to taste good, feel good in your mouth, look beautiful, and be fun to work with. Enjoy these top five fave chia seed benefits below:
HYDRATION – Chia seeds keep you hydrated. When you soak these babies in water, they absorb 12x it’s weight in water. We’ve heard great stories about endurance athletes eating them to keep them hydrated during long runs. Haven’t tried it, but we can see how it would work.
SATIETY – Chia seeds keep you satiated. They are loaded in fiber and when they touch liquid they expand – which helps you to understand why they would keep you fuller, longer.
NATURAL THICKENERS – Chia seeds are great thickeners for making simple fruit pies or tarts. Normally when you bake with fruit, recipes require cornstarch or flours to thicken up the juices. If we could skip on the excess starch, we would – so here’s a baking experiment that turned out DELISH: Lemon Meringue Pie in a Jar.
SMOOTHIE MAGIC – Chia seeds are great in smoothies and milkshakes. They add an extra bulk of fiber AND make the smoothie a tad bit thicker. Add a few cubes of ice or pre-freeze your fruit and you’ll have a tall glass of yummy goodness. We’ve added chia seeds to: Fit and Light Blueberry Protein Shake; and Chocolate Maca Milkshake.
GREAT FOR TRAVEL – Chia seeds travel great! You can easily throw them into your morning yogurt, into a smoothie, or mix them into a freestyle trail mix. Whaaa?
- What it tastes like: slightly nutty and bland
- Where to find it: your local natural food stores, Costco, Trader Joes, Sprouts, Whole Foods, (or Amazon.com will definitely have them)
- How to store it: store them in a sealed jar or container in the fridge or freezer
- NEW recipe idea: Check out the latest chia seed recipe for homemade blackberry jam (done in under 5 min).
Kale. All Day. Err Day.