Our Favorite Ways to Use Chia Seeds
When most people think of chia seeds, they probably think of the terracotta figurine that you cover in a slimy gel and wait to see it spout green ‘hair’. But, for the past 10 years or so chia seeds have quietly been making a name for themselves in the superfood category. So what is with these little seeds, and what the best ways to eat them?
Chia Seeds and the plant they come from, salvia hispanica, are part of the mint family. They are native to Mexico and Guatemala, where they have been cultivated for hundreds of years. During the time of the Aztecs and the Mayans, chia seeds were held in high regard as a food source and offered as a tribute to the nobility and priests of the time. The Aztecs and Mayans regarded them as a source of strength, their warriors and messengers often traveled far distances on foot with nothing but chia seeds to fuel their journey.
Chia seeds began to get more and more recognition in the health and fitness circles after the release of Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run.” In the book, McDougall introduces us to the Tarahumara Indian tribe, who lives in Mexico and are known for running hundreds of miles at a time fueled by a chia seed drink made from water, chia seeds, lime juice, and honey or agave.
Chia seeds are hydrophilic, which means that they are able to absorb 10-12 times their weight in liquid. This helps to make you feel full longer and give the seeds a gel-like consistency when they are soaked in liquid. Chia seeds are a complete protein, meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids, this makes them one of the healthiest source of plant-based protein.
Now you can likely find chia seeds at a health food store, and they can be found on the ingredient list for everything from bread and cereal to pudding and chips. So what are some of our favorite ways to enjoy this tiny super-seed?
Possibly one of the most popular ways to enjoy chia seeds, chia pudding is filling, easy to make, and very versatile. To make chia pudding, mix ½ cup of the milk of your choice (we like almond or coconut milk in our chia pudding) with 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, add a bit of sweetener to taste and a pinch of salt. Transfer to a jar or dish that seals well and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight. You can add berries, cocoa powder, or nut butter if you want something with a little more flavor. Chia pudding can be topped with anything from granola to fresh fruit and whipped cream.
This easy recipe allows you to make delicious fruit jam without having to spend an entire afternoon over the stove. To make jam, clean and dice 1 pound of fresh, ripe fruit (such as strawberries, peaches or blueberries). Add the fruit to a saucepan along with 2 tablespoons of sweetener, honey, agave syrup, and maple syrup all work well here. Cook over medium heat until the fruit begins to break down, about 5-10 minutes depending on the fruit, and it becomes a little syrupy. Taste your jam for sweetness, add more if needed. At this point, you can mash the fruit a bit with the back of a wooden spoon, stir in the chia seeds and let cool to room temperature. Once the jam is cool, you can transfer it to an airtight jar or enjoy it spread on toast or mixed into yogurt right out of the pan.
Adding chia seeds is a great way to add extra protein and omega-3s to your morning smoothie. Make your smoothie as you normally would, adding 1-2 tablespoons to before you blend.
Just like with a smoothie, you can add a tablespoon of chia seeds to your oatmeal in the morning. Stir the seeds in right before you serve it, sprinkle them on top or use that delicious chia seed jam you just made as a topping for your oatmeal.
If you follow a vegan diet, chia seeds can be used to make a great egg replacement in baked goods. To make a ‘chia egg’ simply combine 1 tablespoon of ground chia seeds (you can buy them this way or use a coffee grinder to do it yourself) with 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Let sit for 15-20 minutes until it becomes a gel-like consistency. This can now be used in pancake or cookie recipes in place of 1 egg.
There are many delicious ways to use chia seeds, from adding them to your morning oatmeal to enjoying a delicious chia pudding for dessert. These tiny seeds are a great way to get a boost of protein and easy to incorporate into almost any meal.