Chia seeds might remind you of a certain As-Seen-On-TV product from the late 90s—but aside from their penchant to growing on animal sculptures, chia seeds have a lot to offer those looking to improve their general nutrition.
Chia seeds are rich in nutrients and vitamins—far more so per volume than most other seeds and foods of this type. This is why chia seeds are held in high regard by nutritionists as a superfood. Learning how to implement chia seeds into your diet in the best possible manner can you get smarter about your dietary habits.
Not sure where to start? We’ll be covering the background, science, and qualities of chia seeds that you need to know. After that, we’ll be going over a few inventive ways you can implement chia into your diet and start reaping the benefits of chia seeds.
So, what is chia, anyway?
Hailing from southern Mexico, chia is widely regarded as a mint plant. The story goes that Aztecs and Mayans enjoyed the food as a way to sustain long hours of hunting and gathering before European settlement largely eliminated the practice.
Ever since then, chia and their seeds have been largely ignored by nutritionists until recently. Easy evidence of this fact can be drawn from the chia pets craze—which popularized the plant in the modern American nomenclature, but perhaps not for the right reasons.
Once people warmed up to the incredible value of the small seeds, however, chia quickly joined quinoa and other “superfoods” on a shortlist of ingredients vital to maintaining a healthy and happy body.
Chia seed benefits stem almost entirely from their laundry-list of ingredients and nutrients. For example, you’ll find lots of fiber, protein, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and more—all in a minuscule one-ounce serving.
However, it’s the omega-3 fatty acids that often carry the most clout for this menu item.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been lauded in recent years for their nutritional value. Clearing a diet of saturated fats and replacing them with polyunsaturated fats or omega-3 fatty acids allows for anyone to eat fatty foods without suffering from the ill-fated consequences we’re used to hearing about.
That level of nutritional value in a package that small makes the consumption of chia seeds easy and almost effortless. The more seeds you can mix into a meal or place onto a dinner table, the more benefits you can expect to gain.
There are many ways to cook with chia seeds—both to bring out the minty flavor and mask the taste in more eclectic foods. Since a little bit goes a long way both in flavor and in nutritional value, we’ll be going over both methods of preparation to suit most tastes.
Most recipes online that involve chia recipes tend to involve lots of pudding.
The reasoning behind this correlation is simple—food preparation behind chia pudding is as minimalistic as it gets. Beyond this, making chia pudding usually allows for large amounts of excess—allowing busy workers and travelers to make the meal in bulk and eat sparingly as a breakfast or snack food.
If you don’t mind the taste of chia and want a simple and foolproof way to keep your diet healthy in the morning, here’s a quick and simple chia pudding recipe:
The night before you plan to eat chia pudding, assemble milk, chia seeds, and sweeteners of your choice. Going for a vanilla extract is a popular option—although chocolate and other sugary treats could bring an extra kick to the meal at the expense of some of the nutritional value. Likewise, skim milk or coconut milk also assist in bringing out better nutritional habits.
Now that we’ve got the ingredients, the assembly process is simple—blend and refrigerate. Keep a 1:4 ratio of chia seeds to milk, and sweeten to taste. You can occasionally stir while your meal coagulates in the fridge, but leaving the meal alone for a few hours will help everything set right for the morning.
Unlike flax seeds and similar food types, chia seeds don’t have to be blended to reap the benefits located insider meal. However, if a crunchier pudding sounds more appealing, you can assemble your ingredients and blend minus the seeds instead. Mix in afterward but before refrigeration, and the same pudding will be achieved—seeds and all.
Since there are few meals as simple as chia pudding, most people stop here when implementing the seeds into their lives. However, if chia pudding is not exactly up your alley, we’ve got other ideas to get you started on this Mexican superfood.
Most of the time, anything you’ve heard of that can include seeds will gel nicely with chia seeds. The minty flavor of the seeds can bring out a unique taste in almost any meal, so experimenting around will likely reap the most beneficial results.
Instead of several recipes, we’ll be going over a few examples of meals primed for a chia addition:
Breakfast with chia seeds aren’t limited to pudding—and several items can benefit from integration with chia seeds. A popular option is to mix in either blended or whole chia seeds into pancake batter and serve with minimal syrup.
Like with the pudding option, this can add a heaping of protein to your diet and help you get caught up on your daily value before lunchtime rolls around.
Toast and bread is also another great place to start—and if you’re not much of a pancake either, try making a seedy and nutty bread that utilizes chia.
Making bread at home is an intensive yet rewarding process that gives you more control over the nutrients in this basic grain. Celiacs and those sensitive to gluten alike will also enjoy the benefits of making bread at home, and if you’re more of a nut person than a fruit person, there’s no reason you can’t make this meal with lots of the food you love as well.
Our last breakfast suggestion involves oatmeal. Merely mixing in ground seeds into cooking oatmeal should allow the contrasting flavors to blend nicely—and can be seasoned to taste or given a little bit of cheese to round things off.
Lunch brings less variation on chia seeds but allows you to use the ingredient as a seasoning rather than a base. For example, anyone going for a fruit salad at lunchtime can toss on a few seeds for an excellent contrast against all of the fruity flavors.
Snacks during work require no cooking whatsoever—and a handful of chia seeds works great for a crunchy aside from the latest work project or assignment.
Finally, we have dinnertime sweets to go over.
While we already covered the value of a breakfast pudding, adding a bit more sugar into one of these morning meals can make pudding double as a dessert item.
Cheesy bread and muffins are also great options for implementation. Making both from scratch may take a while, but cooking in bulk like with our pudding preparation methods will let you make enough for a week in just a few hours.
Integrations & Final Thoughts
Cooking with chia seeds usually involves a little bit of planning and ingenuity—so in the spirit of nutrition, feel free to take a few ideas above and add your unique spin to it.
Perhaps making cheesy grits infused with the seeds sounds more like a meal you’d like to have, or using alongside garnish to healthier meats like chicken or seafood will help you better integrate the ingredient into your life. Whatever works for you—do it. The extra creativity required to make a unique meal will only help you better enjoy the art of eating better.
The only real warning we have with chia seeds is to be a little careful about the addition in the beginning. Remember that chia seeds are rich in fiber—so if the fiber is not already a part of your diet, overeating in too short a span of time can yield a few unsavory side effects.
Once you’ve gotten accustomed to the occasional pudding or handful of chia seeds, you can start playing around with our more adventurous ideas and find a use for chia seeds that works best for your life.
Superfoods are only as super as you make them—so eating correctly and getting in enough exercise are paramount to a balanced and healthy lifestyle. We hope that we’ve given you a few clear ideas on what chia seeds are, how to cook with them, and what you need to know to start eating right as soon as possible.