Anyone alive during the ’80s can probably sing the jingle for ch-ch-ch-Chia Pets—those terracotta figurines that grow fur- or hair-like sprouts when watered. Those same seeds responsible for that “animal magic” are now being gobbled up by healthy-eating enthusiasts, who praise the chia seed for its super-food powers. Packed with nutrients and low in calorie, chia seeds come from southern Mexico and were once a staple of the Aztec and Mayan diets. After their conquest of the region, the Spanish banned the cultivation of chia because of its association with Aztec religious properties.
Today, chia is praised for its nutritious benefits—it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, carbs, protein, fiber, calcium and antioxidants. Per ounce, chia seeds have 11 grams of fiber—42 percent of your recommended daily serving. Early research has shown that chia benefits the heart, may help regulate blood sugar and lower triglycerides and bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol. Author, cardiothoracic surgeon and talk show host Mehmet Oz is a big proponent of eating chia seeds to improve your health. Some people even say these tiny seeds can suppress the appetite since they expand in your stomach, make you feel fuller.
Mild-tasting chia seeds can be incorporated into your diet in a number of different ways—you should aim for 1-2T a day. Unlike its superfood cousin the flax seed, which need to be ground, chia seeds can be absorbed by the body. (They also have a better shelf-life than flax, which become rancid more quickly.)
Simple suggestions include:
- Sprinkling them over cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, and salads.
- Incorporating them in stews and soups as a thickener.
- As an egg replacement “gel” (1 egg equivalent = Soak 1 T ground chia seeds in 3 T water and let sit for 15 minutes)
- Eating the seeds straight, for a snack
- Grind them and mix them with flour when making baked goods or as a replacement for breadcrumbs for meatloaf, meatballs, or breaded chicken.
1/2 cup soy or regular milk
1/2 cup of old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup of yogurt
1 T chia seeds
Apples, raisins, currants, almonds, pomegranate seeds, or blueberries to top
Combine soy milk, oatmeal and yogurt ins a container, stir and seal and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, add chia seed and toppings of your choice and blend.