Top 5 Ways to Use Chia Seeds
Learn how to appreciate the mighty chia seed in this nutrition and cooking guide on the top 5 ways to use chia seeds in the kitchen.
Chia seeds are heating up on the superfood front. The seed known as the quirky sprout of Chia Pet fame has definitely made a comeback, showing up in everything from beverages and snack foods to desserts and nutrition bars. You may think that chia seeds are just an “it” food on shelves in the U.S., but these tiny seeds were actually an important dietary staple in the Americas dating back 3,000 years, when the Aztecs and Mayans used it for a “running food” because of its portable, nutrient-rich profile. This edible seed comes from the desert plant salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. In fact, I can harvest chia wild in my bioregion in Ojai, California!
It makes up for its tiny size with hefty nutrition, providing a healthy dose of protein (4 grams) in a one-ounce serving (about two tablespoons), as well as omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of alpha-linolenic acid). The chia seed is also rich in other heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and fiber (11 grams per serving), as well as key minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, manganese, and iron. Chia has compounds with antioxidant activity, linked with its rich red-brown color. Emerging research has shown health benefits, including reduced cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes.
They hold up to 10 times their weight in water, so they are perfect in refreshing beverages and desserts. Soaking chia seeds in water for a few hours or overnight causes them to develop a jelly-like shell similar to boba, but they are softer, chewy, and easy to digest. For example, a Mexican Chia Fresca is a tasty lemonade with chia seeds that is an excellent way to hydrate during the hot summer months, while also providing prebiotic fibers and omega-3 fatty acids.
Top 5 Ways to Use Chia Seeds
1. Mix Up a Chia Egg. Plant-based “eggs” are easy with chia seeds! Chia seeds have a unique ability to form a gel, thus the addition of water means chia seeds can take the place of eggs in baking. A general rule of thumb is to mix one tablespoon of chia seeds with three tablespoons of water to substitute for one egg in a recipe. I also add them to the liquid portion of recipes to create binding properties, such as in lentil patties, veggie burgers, and veggie balls, as well as breads, bars, and cookies. For more information on plant-based egg replacements, check out this blog on Three Natural Plant-Based Egg Replacements.
2. Add to Overnight Oats. Those protein-rich tiny pearls are the perfect addition to your morning cereal, such as oats, granola, muesli, breakfast flakes, and porridges. Try these Overnight Spiced Oats for a sweet and savory filling breakfast.
3. Whip Up Chia Pudding. This trend is picking up steam, thanks to the thickening qualities of chia. Just add them to your favorite plant-based milk with a few flavor additions, blend with chocolate, and top with fruit for this delicious dessert, Easy Chocolate Chia Pudding with Strawberries.
4. Soak up a Chia Tea. Add them to your favorite tea blend, such as this Iced Green Tea with Lemon and Cucumbers, and leave for at least 3 hours or overnight so that gel can develop around the chia seeds. What a perfect refreshing treat!
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