Did you know that the chia pet of your childhood can also be grown in your garden as an incredible superfood? Chia seeds are edible on their own or cooked, baked, or mixed into other delights. This seed comes from the desert plant, Salvia hispanica, which is a member of the mint family.
The sprouts became famous as the Chia Pet, but the seeds of the plant have always been the most sought after portion. Common in southern Mexico, the chia plant was an integral part of the ancient Aztec and Mayan diets. To give you an idea of this power food’s origins, “Chia” is the Mayan word for strength. It’s making a major comeback today, as people realize the incredible health benefits of this tiny, versatile seed.
So what can it do for you?
- According to ancient Mexican lore, one tablespoon of the chia seed was believed to sustain an individual for 24 hours. It was a big player amongst Aztec warriors. Chia seeds can boost energy and endurance.
- Chia is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (even more so than flax seeds) and omega-6. It’s actually the richest-plant source of omega-3, which is vital for heart and cholesterol health.
- Chia seeds are so rich in antioxidants that they deteriorate very slowly (kept at room temperature, they stay good to eat for over two years) and can be stored without going bad. If the seeds are virtually invincible, imagine what they can do for your body. Anti-oxidants help prevent free-radical damage in your body. This can prevent aging and promote healthy skin, nails, and teeth.
- Chia seeds also provide fiber (25 grams give you 6.9 grams of fiber) as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc.
- When added to water and allowed to sit for 30 minutes, chia forms a gel. This reaction also takes place in the stomach during digestion, slowing the process by which digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates and convert them into sugar. This means that chia seeds help balance your blood sugar. If you eat chia with a meal, it will help you turn your food into constant, steady energy rather than a series of ups and downs that wear you out.
- Unlike flax and other sources of omega-3, chia seeds don’t need to be ground down in order to release their nutrients.
- Helps with weight loss. Chia seeds absorb whatever flavor they’re cooked with. That gel we described will help you feel full for longer—fighting hunger and extra calorie intake.
- It’s gluten-free.
What can you do with it?
There are many simple ways to incorporate chia seeds into your diet. Alone, the seeds don’t have a strong flavor, and they can be used with salty or sweet dishes. You can eat the seeds by themselves, mix them into things you like to eat, or bake with them. Try some of these tips to amp up your chia intake:
- Mix the seeds into your favorite yogurt.
- Add to a soup and let the seeds thicken. They’ll add texture and absorb the flavor.
- Add whole seeds to cake batter to make a heavy poppy seed-like treat.
- They go great with lentils! Mix together and enjoy for extra fiber.
- Ground the seeds and add to ground beef.
- For dessert, mix seeds with Nutella or add whole or ground seeds to a cookie mix.
- Sprinkle over your salad.
- Add to your morning granola.
- Swirl seeds through your smoothie.
- Try toasting ground chia seeds and mix with honey to glaze on a scone.
For some more involved recipes involving chia, check out Shape Magazine’s ideas HERE.
So, your chia joy doesn’t have to stop with the pet. Now you know all the benefits and you have some fast and simple ways to add chia into your life—enjoy!
Weil, Andrew, M.D. Healthy Foods
Fox News: The Benefits of Chia Seeds