When it comes to the superfood community, one seed that has certainly been getting its time in the spotlight is the chia seed. Mild and subtle in flavor, this versatile seed can be used in every sort of dish from sweet to savory.
It’s packed with health benefits and can be found easily making its way into bread, falafels, granolas, and more.
But what is the chia seed exactly? What does it do for our bodies? And how can we integrate it into our diets?
Let’s take a deeper dive into the world of all things chia and find out just what makes this seed so amazing.
What Is Chia?
Chia seed was a staple in the lives of ancient Aztecs and Mayans thousands of years ago. In fact, the word chia is actually derived from the Mayan language and means “strength.” Aztec warriors even looked to chia to give them stamina and energy.
Today, this power-packed seed remains to be a favorite among adventure enthusiasts, athletes, health nuts, and distance runners alike, as well as anyone else looking for a superfood that enhances endurance.
Chia is chock full of a whole bunch of health benefits and can be used in everything from baked goods to smoothies. Miraculously, it can even be used as an egg replacer! At a ratio of 1 to 6, chia seeds to water, you’ll have a gel that can be substituted by the tablespoon as a replacement for one egg. It’s gelling nature also makes it perfect to use as a substitute for pectin in a jam. Sound too good to be true? Check out our recipe for blueberry refrigerator jam.
And the good news doesn’t stop there—read on to see what kind of nutrition this little seed boasts.
Benefits of Chia Seeds
Though they may be small, chia seeds are amazing and bursting with nutrition. Within 1 tablespoon of chia seeds alone, there are 5 grams of fiber. When combined with water, it’s this fiber in chia that causes the seeds to swell and become gel-like in their consistency. Whether you choose to eat the chia seeds raw or in their gel-like form, chia seeds work to keep you full and sustained throughout the day (longer than many other seeds do, in fact).
They’re rich in antioxidants, which protect the nutrients in the seeds from spoiling and allows them to have a shelf life of up to two years. They’re also filled with protein: 14% of the weight of a chia seed is made up of protein and amino acids. They’re filled with vitamins and nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamin A (all essential for bone and tooth development). The seeds have anti-inflammatory properties, high amounts of fatty acids, and have been said to help with lowering blood pressure and regulating cholesterol.
The Taste and Texture of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor that works well to complement both sweet and savory dishes. They’re very subtle in their taste, though some find the taste to be similar to a poppy seed or an alfalfa sprout.
In raw form, the texture of the chia seed is crunchy and dense (much like a poppy seed as well). But in gel form, when the soaked chia seeds have absorbed liquid, they become soft like the pearls of tapioca.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of integrating chia into your diet, try experimenting with some of our recipes below. With a sprinkle of chia seeds, you can increase the nutritional value of every single recipe, including cakes!
Chia Recipes (On the Sweet Side)
Chia seeds can be used in everything from cakes to muffins to granolas of all sorts. Here are some of our favorite sweet ways to enjoy these nutritious seeds.
This Banana Blueberry Chia Seed Bundt Cake (with a coffee glaze) is perfect to pair with your morning cup of joe. This sweet treat is made with a combination of unbleached white all purpose flour and whole wheat flour as well as rolled oats, applesauce, plain Greek yogurt, sea salt, brown sugar, canola oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. As an added bonus, it’s filled with dried blueberries, ripe banana, and organic chia seed. The simple glaze is made with just powdered sugar and coffee but adds a decadent touch.
Inspired by lemon poppyseed muffins, the chia in this recipe offers a nutritious twist to the classic muffin flavor. It’s grain free and gluten free, flavored with fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, coconut oil, maple syrup, and honey. As a base, Bob’s Paleo Baking Flour is used alongside baking soda and salt. Combine it all with organic chia seed, and you have muffins fit for any brunch, breakfast, or snack.
Gluten free, vegan, and filled with protein, these peanut butter and jelly protein balls are a PB&J enthusiast’s dream. They’re made with natural creamy peanut butter, raw honey, Vanilla Protein Powder Nutritional Booster, flaxseed meal, shredded coconut, gluten free rolled oats, organic chia seeds, and finely diced dried strawberries. To create them, simply mix the peanut butter, honey, and vanilla in a large bowl, add the protein powder, coconut, flaxseed, oats, chia seeds, and strawberries, and mix until combined. Place them in the fridge and eat when you’re in need of a midday boost!
This fiber-rich version of a Polish-American favorite is both high fiber and soy free. The filling is made with milk, sugar, orange zest, organic chia seed, and vanilla extract. The dough is made with milk, sugar, unsalted butter, eggs, active dry yeast, whole wheat pastry flour (or organic whole wheat pastry flour), unbleached all purpose flour, and sea salt. Once combined with the chia seed filling, it makes for an incredible treat.
Chia seeds make a wonderful addition to granola, like in this recipe for cherry almond chia granola. Regular rolled oats are combined with buckwheat groats, organic quinoa grain, organic chia seeds, sliced almonds, ground cinnamon, sea salt, vanilla extract, maple syrup, oil, and dried tart cherries for the perfect start to any morning.
Chia Recipes (On the Savory Side)
In addition to all things sweet, chia can also be used when creating savory recipes. From falafel to popcorn, here are some chia ideas if you’re in the mood for something savory.
In this creative recipes for baked chia bagels, chia seeds are used in two ways: as a substitute for eggs and as a garnish. The chia is combined with water to form a gel (an egg replacement) and is then combined with grapeseed oil and mixed with dry ingredients like Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour, xanthan gum, sugar, and instant yeast. The bagels are then sprinkled with chia seeds before being baked. Spread with avocado and black pepper and enjoy!
If you’re looking for a gluten free, vegan, lactose-free option to take to your next cocktail party, these cauliflower chia baked falafels just might do the trick. Made with onion, chickpeas, quick-cooking rolled oats, turmeric, cauliflower, kosher salt, ground black pepper and of course—chia seeds—these balls are mixed, baked, and easy to eat. You can even wrap them in a piece of lettuce with sliced tomatoes and onions for a nutritious, high fiber and low-carb lunch.
This spicy and tangy popcorn will take your movie nights to the next level. Made with yellow popcorn, butter, hot sauce, lime zest, organic chia seed, and salt, it’s a simple-to-make snack that will have you happily munching all throughout the movie.
This recipe takes a classic favorite—ranch dressing—and gives it an entirely new twist. Made with mayo (or veganaise), lemon juice, coconut milk, organic chia seed, and flavored with fresh parsley, dill, garlic, chives, ground onion, and black pepper, throw this on all sorts of salads and side dishes for a unique and one-of-a-kind flavor.
This recipe was first created by a mom looking to get her teen boys to eat healthier and, as she says, they never asked for their white bread sandwiches anymore! It’s made with flax oil, golden flaxseed meal, chia seed, wheat germ, oat bran cereal, honey, whole wheat flour, vital wheat gluten, and active dry yeast. Bake it. Slice it. And make a sandwich (or a few).
If you’re looking to easily add a healthy seed to your diet that is packed full of nutrition, chia seeds just may be the way to go. Sprinkle them onto your morning yogurt, into your afternoon smoothie, or mix them into your baked goods to give your body a boost and make you feel energized all day long.
Have any favorite ways you like to eat your chia seeds? Feel free to share them with us in the comments below.
From all of us at Bob’s Red Mill, happy eating!