Chia seeds boast a host of benefits including being filling, hunger abating, energizing, and improving colon health all while being easy to consume. With recordings of use as long ago as 3500 B.C, chia originated with the Aztecs. In fact, it was both a main staple of their diet and considered sacred and given as a sacrifice to their gods. The word chia translates as “strength”. The Aztec warriors consumed it to give them strength and stamina. Many years later, it became a big part of the Mexican Tarahumara tribe. They believe it is how they are able to have super-human running endurance. The tribe is known for running very long distances and they believe this is made possible by their consumption of chia seeds.
Chia seeds are a whole-grain food with a very mild, nutty flavor. You can enjoy them whole or ground, raw or soaked. When soaked or used in liquid recipes, chia seeds absorb 10-12 times their weight in liquid, creating a natural thickener. About two tablespoons (28 grams) of raw chia seeds boast a full 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat (5 of which are omega-3s), 18% RDI of calcium, 30% RDI of magnesium, and 27% RDI of phosphorus, making them really good for your bones. And they provide all of this for only 136 calories!
Due to the high fiber content, chia seeds have many health benefits. They can increase fullness, slow the absorption of food (thereby helping to reduce hunger) and improve gut health by feeding gut flora and improving motility of the small and large intestines. Healthy gut bacteria and improved motility both work together to reduce the risk of colon cancer, to improve the absorption of nutrients and to strengthen the immune system. In addition to all this, the soluble fiber can help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol levels. Furthermore, studies also have shown that high-fiber foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
There are a number of ways to use them. For instance, they can be eaten raw by sprinkling them on cooked oatmeal, a salad, yogurt, or in stir-fry. They can be soaked and consumed in juice, water, pudding, smoothies, or overnight oats. Because of their ability to absorb both water and fat, they can be used to thicken sauces and as egg substitutes in recipes. See below for three simple, whole food/minimally processed recipes and begin enjoying them today.
No Sugar Added Chocolate Pudding
2 cups almond milk, plain, unsweetened
1 medium banana
¼ cup chia seeds
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
First, blend all ingredients on high speed until smooth. Then, place in refrigerator for at least two hours or up to 5 days. It will thicken as it sits.
Blueberry Overnight Oats
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2½ cups unsweetened almond milk
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey
1 cup fresh blueberries
top with almonds, pecans or coconut flakes for crunch, optional
First, place the oats, chia seeds, almond milk and maple syrup or honey in a large bowl and then stir together until combined. Then, cover and store in the fridge overnight. In the morning, stir in blueberries, leaving some for garnish, if desired, and divide into jars or bowls. Enjoy cold or heated.
Top with nuts or coconut flakes, if desired, serve and enjoy!
*Will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days
Chia Banana Pancakes
4 medium bananas
1 tablespoon butter, melted
3 tablespoons chia seeds
1/3 cup whole grain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup mashed strawberries
First, peel and mash bananas. Next, whisk in the rest of the ingredients, except strawberries. Then, heat a large skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking oil. Next, pour 2 tablespoons batter per pancake on the pan and cook until bubbly and firm. Finally, flip and cook another minute or so, until golden brown.
Serve warm with the mashed strawberries on top.