Chia seeds are definitely a hot item lately. They are popping into healthy recipes everywhere including some right here on my site. So what exactly are chia seeds? What are the claimed health benefits and what research is there to support those claims? You just know I’ll explain it all here…
What are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are little black or white seeds that are actually part of the mint family.
And while chia seeds may seem like a new item, they are definitely old news. In fact, the use of chia seeds dates back to use in Mayan and Aztec cultures, where they were thought to have supernatural powers. Chia seeds are grown largely in Mexico and South America and have been a part of their diet for many years.
The first time they were brought around to North America we used them for this…
Now they have started to make a comeback but this time we are eating them instead of making them into terribly tacky house plants.
Chia seeds are high in fibre, omega-3, protein & calcium.
1 Tablespoon contains 60 calories, 4.5g fat, 3 g protein, 5g fibre
There are many claimed benefits of chia seeds including weight loss, increased energy, stabilized blood sugar, decreased cholesterol and increased digestion. However, the evidence to back these claims is very limited. Most studies have used very small human participants or have been conducted in rats.
But I wouldn’t let the lack of evidence deter your from eating them. Their dietary profile of high fibre suggests that they should increase satiety (fullness) which could aid in weight loss. Additionally, they contain more omega-3-s than flaxseed making them an excellent choice.
My only caution would be, while they are a healthy little seed, use them in moderation. They still contain calories and are a fat source. Therefore, use them accordingly. Loading tablespoons into every food you eat may not help you with your nutrition goals as you are heaping on added calories and fats to every food.
How To Use Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are very versatile, they can be eaten both whole or ground up. They also form a gel when added into liquid, therefore they can also be used as thickeners or replacements in recipes. I’ll list a few different ways you can add them to your diet:
- Add into your smoothies
- Add into your baking such as pancakes, waffles, muffins
- Sprinkle onto salads, cereal or yogurt
- Use in gravies and sauces to thicken in place or cornstarch or flour
- Use as binding agent in meatballs, meatloaf, hamburgers in place of bread crumbs
- Use as replacement for egg in baking recipes – Add 1 Tablespoon chia seed to 3 Tablespoon water and let sit 10-15 minutes until it forms a gel (replaces 1 egg)
So are Chia Seeds a superfood? I don’t think there’s enough research done on the health effects of chia to answer that question. But they certainly are packed with nutrients. They may very well be a fad, soon to be replaced with the next big thing but for now, I’m hopping on the chia seed bandwagon!
Have you tried Chia Seeds? What’s your favourite way to use them?