I’ve just started eating chia seeds. Yum! Here’s a bunch of info I’ve gathered about them for my own reference, so I thought I’d share. Big thanks to my main sources of information, two online articles by Dr. Nancy Tice and Angela Stokes.
Chia seed is a member of the sage family (salvia hispanica). The little black and white seeds were once a staple of the Incan, Mayan, and Aztec cultures, along with the Native Americans of the southwest. “Chia” is the Mayan word for strength. The seeds were used by these ancient cultures as mega-energy food, especially for their running messengers, who would carry a small pouch of it with them. Chia has been called ‘Indian Running Food‘ and gives an incredibly ‘sustaining’ surge of energy. In Mexico they say that one tablespoon of chia seeds can sustain a person for 24 hours.
Nutritional profile of Chia Seeds
Easy & Healthy
Chia has no odor, doesn’t go rancid, is easy to store, easy to use, has very little flavor/taste, and is not contaminated with pesticides, chemicals or heavy metals. Chia seeds can easily be stored dry for 4-5 years without deterioration in flavour, odour or nutritional value.
How Much To Eat Daily?
My sources (see top of this post) recommend two daily doses of about 20 g each (1.5 ounces total).
Reasons To Eat Chia Seeds
- Help weight loss: Chia seeds reduce food cravings by preventing some of the food that you eat from getting absorbed into your system. This blockage of calorie absorption makes them a great diet helper. The gel-forming property of chia seed tends to slow digestion and sustain balanced blood sugar levels, which can be helpful in preventing or controlling diabetes, mood swings and food cravings. It works by forming a gel when becoming wet. This gel, when in our digestive systems, helps prevent some of the food that we eat from getting absorbed making the chia seed a great diet helper. Eating the seeds also helps curb your appetite by making you feel fuller faster.
- Feel fuller faster: This is because chai seeds absorb 10 times their weight in water, forming a bulky gel.
- Hydration for athletes: They are also great for athletes because the “chia gel” can hydrate the body. Built in Dehydration Prevention: Chia’s hydrophilic (water loving) structure holds water. The seed can soak up ten times its weight in water. This means when inside your body, the seeds help you stay hydrated longer. Athletes eat chia seeds to prolong hydration and retain electrolytes during exertion.
- Reduce blood pressure: There’s evidence to suggest they can reduce blood pressure.
- Benefits for diabetes: Because chia seeds slow down how fast our bodies convert carbohydrates into simple sugars, studies indicate they can control blood sugar. This leads scientists to believe chia seeds may have great benefits for diabetics.
- They are easier to digest than flax seeds, and don’t need to be ground up. Whole, water-soaked chia seeds are easily digested and absorbed. Their tiny shells break down quickly. They feel light in the body, yet energising. Their nutrients can be quickly assimilated into the body.
- Sugar Absorption: Chia, when eaten with sugars, slows the impact of sugars on the system. Chia gel creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, which slows the conversion of carbs into sugar. That means the energy from the food is released steadily, resulting in more endurance. This is clearly of great benefit to diabetics in particular. It also means that combining chia with super-sweet juices like apple juice won’t spike the sugar in your system.
- Intestinal Health: Chia seeds bulk up, then work like a digestive broom, sweeping through your intestinal tract, helping to dislodge and eliminate old accumulated waste in the intestines. Many people find they become more regular after starting to eat chia.
- Healing Support: In the traditional cultures that consumed chia, like the Aztecs, chia was also regarded as a medicine. It was considered extremely valuable for healing. Chia is reported to be beneficial for a vast range of issues, for example:
- weight loss/balance
- thyroid conditions
- celiac disease
- acid reflux
- lowering cholesterol
- relieving joint pain
- healing wounds: Chia aids rapid development of tissue, due to its incredible nutrient profile and easy assimilation. It can be very beneficial for those healing from injuries, people like bodybuilders who are always re-forming tissues and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
How to Eat Chia Seeds
Chia seeds make an incredibly healthy—and often unnoticeable—addition to many foods. There is no ‘right way’ to eat Chia, that’s the beauty of it. Chia seeds are very mild tasting which is why it’s so easy to mix it in with anything.
- Eat raw (a nice “nutty” flavor)
- Soak in fruit juice (in Mexico, they call this “chia fresca”)
- Addd to porridges and puddings.
- Add to baked goods, e.g. breads, cakes, biscuits, cookies, muffins, etc.
- Sprinkle them on your salad. Use them uncooked in salad dressings.
- Used to replace less-healthy fat in just about any recipe: spreads, fruit shakes, ice cream, and just about anything you want.
- Substitute chia in any recipe that calls for flax.
- Make a Chia gel and add the gel to foods. (See below.) You can add the gel to anything you wish for reducing calories, saturated fat, and sugar amounts without compromising sensory appeal.
One way to eat chia is to first soak the seeds. They can very rapidly absorb a large amount of liquid—between 9-12 times their volume in under 10 minutes.
How to make Chia Gel:
- (example recipe: 1/3 cup of seeds (2oz) to 2 cups of water will yield around 17oz of chia gel.)
- Put 9 parts liquid in a sealable plastic container. (Use water
or juice—chia offsets the sweetness and sugar-impact of the juice—or blended fruits; for example bananas and persimmons).
- Slowly pour one part seed into the water, then mix with a wire whisk or fork. This process will avoid any clumping of the seed.
- Wait a few minutes and stir again to break up any clumps.
- Let stand ten minutes, and stir again.
- Store up to three weeks in the refrigerator in a sealed jar.
You can begin to eat the gel almost immediately—just 10 minutes is enough time for the gel to be formed. More of the nutrients will be easily accessible after a few hours; the longer the seeds are left to soak, the more their nutrients will be readily available to you.
You can eat the Chia gel by the spoonful, or add the gel (50 to 70 percent by volume) to any of the following foods, mix well, and taste:
Fruit juices, smoothies, milk, shakes, jams, jellies, preserves, syrups, lemonade, yogurt, nut butters, hot cereal, cold cereal, polenta, grits, pancake and waffle mix (use 1 tablespoon per waffle), puddings, granola, mustard, barbeque sauce, dips, soups, mayonnaise, salad dressings, etc.
You can use the gel in baking instead of oil or shortening. It gives a very smooth texture, with the integrity of the flavor intact, but you have added 50-70% more volume to your food and have displaced calories and fat by incorporating an ingredient that is 90% water.