Chia seeds have amazing properties, both culinary and health-wise. For one, they draw water like a sponge, making foods thick and creamy. Secondly, they excel at curbing hunger and promoting fullness. So, if you’d like to lose weight, chia can help you succeed. Moreover, dieticians regard chia as one of the healthiest foods you can eat!
This article acquaints you with these trending seeds, trustworthy brands, and how to use chia in meals. Plus, it reveals where to find chia in grocery stores, saving you time while shopping.
What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds come from a desert plant native to Mexico. The seeds are tiny and oval, sold in black and white varieties, or a mixture of both. Black seeds have fascinating mottling, adding visual interest to your meals.
A Bit of History
Ancient civilizations prized chia seeds for their nutritional and medicinal benefits. Due to the high value placed on the seeds, the Aztecs used them as currency! The Mayans relied on chia seeds for sustained energy. In fact, “chia” is the Mayan word for strength.
Do you jog or run for exercise? If so, this next anecdote will inspire you. Native Central and South Americans called chia “running food.” Their messengers and warriors ate the seeds to ward off dehydration and fatigue. Similarly, this food can build your running stamina.
Currently, South America supplies most of the chia sold, followed by Australia. Many farmers grow the crops organically, in which case they’re non-GMO. Furthermore, chia is gluten-free.
Chia Taste and Texture
Chia seeds are thirsty kernels. They absorb up to 10 times their weight in liquid! Plumping the seeds makes them soft and jelly-like.
Raw chia seeds taste like alfalfa sprouts or poppy seeds. Soaking dilutes their flavor. Still, plumped seeds give a dense, velvety texture to foods.
Chia Nutrition Facts
The dietary value of chia seeds is the same for both white and black varieties. Soaking or grinding them doesn’t change their stellar nutrition.
A serving of chia seeds is two tablespoons, having 138 calories, 5 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fat. Plus, you get 10 grams of fiber, a big leap toward meeting your daily quota.
Getting adequate fiber is vital for digestive health. The Institute of Medicine urges women to eat 25 grams of dietary fiber per day. For men, the daily goal is 38 grams.
Health Perks of Chia Seeds
The omega-3 fatty acids in chia can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. These healthy fats reduce high blood pressure and artery-clogging cholesterol. Omegas also improve skin health by calming inflammation and slowing skin aging.
Since chia swells in your stomach, it’s pleasantly filling. Meanwhile, its fiber makes constipation less likely, along with diabetes. The minerals in chia seeds help to counter bone loss, a common cause of fractures in postmenopausal women. Additionally, chia seeds give you energy without the jitters of caffeine.
This article explains why dieticians rave about chia seeds.
Why You Should Soak Chia Seeds
Note that you should never eat dry chia seeds by the mouthful! They can expand in your food pipe, forming a dangerous blockage.
Ideally, before ingesting chia seeds, soak them in a liquid first. Another option is pairing them with watery food, such as yogurt.
Plumping chia is simple. Just soak a quarter-cup of the seeds in four cups of lukewarm water for 30 minutes.
To save gelled seeds for later use, refrigerate them in a sealed container. When stored like this, they should keep for up to three days.
How to Use Chia Seeds in Meals
Yogurt – Mix one teaspoon of seeds with six ounces of yogurt. Then, top with a handful of nuts and some fruit, such as sweet cherries.
Cereal – When making oatmeal, add a teaspoon of ground or whole chia seeds. Before eating cold cereal with milk, stir in a tablespoon of chia.
Smoothies – Combine one teaspoon chia seeds with one cup of milk, such as hemp or almond. Allow to gel before adding to a smoothie. Otherwise, it can over-thicken your beverage, making it hard to swallow.
Condiments – Mix one teaspoon of chia seeds in eight ounces of salad dressing. Add a half-teaspoon to a cup of guacamole, relish, salsa, mustard, dip, ketchup, or mayonnaise. Allow to gel before eating. For richer condiment flavor, add sun-dried tomatoes, discussed here.
Garnishes – Sprinkle a teaspoon of seeds over soups and stews. Or, thicken broths with a smattering of chia seeds. You can also top a juicy fruit salad with a half-teaspoon of chia.
Whisk all the ingredients, place in a sealed container, and refrigerate overnight. Come morning, you’ll have four servings of pudding. For breakfast parfaits, layer them with granola and fresh fruit.
Egg Substitute – Whisk one tablespoon chia seeds with three tablespoons lukewarm water. Wait until the mixture gels, roughly 20 minutes. Then, use it as you would a large egg, such as when making pancakes, muffins, bread, cookies, and waffles.
Baking – Chia flour adds fluffiness to baked goods. In gluten-free recipes, swap milled chia for the same amount of gluten-free flour.
In wheat-based recipes, replace a quarter-cup of wheat flour with ground chia. Since it adds moisture to foods, you may need to increase the baking time by a few minutes.
Making Chia Flour – Grind chia seeds with a food processor or pepper mill. The oils in chia tend to spoil quickly. For this reason, grind the seeds just before use in recipes.
At this point, how about a mini-break? Take a peek at these tempting chia recipes and dazzling photos.
And, here’s a video demo of luscious chia pudding:
Choosing High-Quality Chia Seeds
Only buy chia seeds that are white, black, or off-white. Brown seeds are immature and taste bitter. Plus, they lack the nutrition of ripe seeds. Organic chia is healthiest and widely available.
Here are five outstanding products, listed in weight order. The links take you to Amazon sellers.
- Navitas Organics Chia Seeds, 8 oz
- Spectrum Essentials Whole Chia Seeds, 12 oz
- Viva Naturals Organic Chia Seeds, 1 lb
- Nutiva Organic Chia Seed, 2 lbs
- Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Black Chia Seeds, 2.5 lbs
Where to Buy Chia Seeds
Currently, you’ll find chia seeds at Target, Whole Foods, Walgreens, Safeway, Kroger, Publix, and Walmart. Additionally, most natural food stores carry them. Amazon is ideal for comparison shopping.
Where to Find Chia Seeds at the Store
In supermarkets, the most likely spot for chia seeds is the health food department. Look for them near other specialty seeds, such as hemp. Another possible location is with gluten-free foods.
Some grocers stock chia seeds in the aisles for baking ingredients or spices. Scan the shelves for chia in plastic jugs, bags, and spice jars.
Slow and Steady
Since fiber abounds in chia seeds, eat no more than two tablespoons daily. Excess roughage is tough to digest. Signs of trouble include gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or cramping.
Let’s talk about your daily fiber intake. Is it generally what it should be for your gender? Meaning, are you getting 25 grams if you’re a woman or 38 grams if you’re a man? If not, start with one tablespoon of chia per day. The half-portion will help your intestines adapt to more fiber.
See how you feel with this chia dosage. If all is well, slowly increase the amount until you reach two tablespoons maximum per day.
Now, gauge how much water you drink daily. When increasing fiber, it’s important to stay hydrated, as this lowers the chance of digestive problems. To calculate the ideal volume of water to drink, divide your weight in half. The result is the number of ounces of water you should sip throughout each day. When perspiring or very active, drink even more.
As mentioned, never eat a mouthful of dry chia seeds. Furthermore, don’t chase them with a liquid, as they’ll expand on the way down, causing an esophageal blockage. Instead, gel the seeds first. Moreover, anyone who has trouble swallowing food should not eat chia seeds.
Before trying chia, those with inflammatory bowel disease should consult their doctors. Chia fiber can worsen symptoms of digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and diverticulitis.
Chia allergy is rare. Even so, don’t eat chia seeds if you’re allergic to sesame seeds, mustard, oregano, or thyme. All these foods belong to the same plant family. If you have a known allergy to one, you’ll likely react to their cousins, including chia. The potential for botanically-related plants to trigger allergies is termed “cross-reactivity.”
It’s imperative to recognize allergic reactions when they arise, as some require urgent professional care. Symptoms range from annoying to life-threatening, as follows.
- Mild – hives, rashes, teary eyes, and itching of the lips or tongue.
- Serious – diarrhea, vomiting, trouble breathing, dizziness, tongue swelling, and throat closure.
Typically, symptoms flare within two hours of eating allergenic food. For severe reactions, promptly call an ambulance.
Some retailers use the same equipment to process chia, nuts, and glutinous foods. Consequently, in those allergic to gluten or nuts, ingesting chia can launch allergy symptoms. That’s because when benign foods touch allergenic ones, they acquire the problematic residues. The term for this hazard is “cross-contamination.”
So, if you have a nut or gluten allergy, only buy chia seeds processed by an allergen-free facility, as stated on packaging.
Effects on Medications
Those with diabetes need a doctor’s guidance for safe chia consumption. Research shows that blood sugar levels can drop after ingesting chia. Its fiber slows sugar absorption, which can alter the effect of diabetic medicines.
Similarly, obtain physician consent for chia if you take blood pressure or blood-thinning medicine. The omegas in chia seeds lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots.
Add a little chia to your daily meals, whether for breakfast, lunch, snacks, or supper. The seeds will give your food a creamy mouthfeel. If you enjoy baking, swap chia flour for other types, yielding fluffier treats.
Just a small portion of chia will leave you nicely full. Plus, it can keep you regular, support your bones, and boost your energy. If you need help stabilizing your blood sugar or blood pressure, chia can play a role.
Remember — never eat a mouthful of dry chia seeds! Soak them in a liquid first. Also, don’t exceed the serving size of two tablespoons daily. This way, you’ll avoid digestive and swallowing difficulties.
Also, observe the precautions for:
- increasing fiber
- staying hydrated
- digestive diseases
- food allergies
- certain medications
The Mayan word for this food is fitting. Chia is a powerful seed!
NOTE – This content is solely educational and not intended as medical advice. For your safety, always heed professional counsel versus anything written here or posted on the Web.