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Get to Know: Chia Seeds

Let’s explore the world of special ingredients together! We’ll do the research and make some mistakes in the kitchen so you don’t have to. Today, experiment with chia, the tiny but mighty seed from Central and South America.

 

Whether you’ve been using chia for years in everything from salads to smoothies or have only heard of the infamous “pet” from the 1980s, here are some great tips and ways to incorporate these nutrient- packed seeds into your daily diet. I started experimenting with chia seeds a few years ago by stirring a tablespoon or two into fruit juices and smoothies. These tiny but mighty seeds are so nutritious and easy to use that everyone can find a way to enjoy their benefits.  

Chia Explained

Chia seeds date back to the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures, and are still grown in Mexico and several South American countries today.

These tiny seeds have a mild and neutral flavor, so they can be added to both sweet and savory foods. You can find black or white chia seeds, or a mixture of both sold by some companies, but they taste the same.

Sometimes called a “superfood,” chia contains high amounts of protein, antioxidants, fiber (just 2 tablespoons has almost 25% of the recommended daily amount), and is an excellent plant source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

When compared to its popular rival, the flax seed, chia is unique since it does not need to be ground up like flax in order for the body to absorb its nutrients.

Store chia seeds for several months in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, or in the freezer for extended shelf life. 

Enjoy Chia

A fun way to enjoy chia is by mixing it with water, juice, nondairy milks or other liquids to create a chia gel. Chia seeds expand when immersed in liquids, which creates a fun jelly-like consistency that appeals to both adults and kids! Once eaten, the chia seeds will expand in your stomach, which can keep you feeling full longer.

Try this easy, overnight chia seed breakfast pudding by blending 3/4 cup unsweetened almondmilk with 1/2 cup fresh or frozen and thawed berries (like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries) and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a small blender. Stir in 1/4 cup chia seeds and let sit overnight in the fridge. Top with more fresh fruit and sliced almonds for a satisfying breakfast.

Explore More

Great uses for chia seeds:

  • Sprinkle chia seeds onto yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, green salads and cooked grain salads.
  • Stir into nut butters and salad dressings. The seeds will not form a gel in oil-based foods like these, but will add a great pop of texture.
  • Whisk 1 tablespoon chia seeds into a breadcrumb coating for chicken or fish.
  • Add to your favorite homemade granola recipe for extra crunch and fiber.
  • Create a chia gel with a sprinkling of seeds and a few tablespoons of water to use as an egg replacer in vegan baking.
  • Mix in to the batters of your favorite quick breads, muffins or pancakes.
  • Blend 1 to 2 tablespoons into a morning smoothie.
  • Make your own almond butter chia bites with a few simple ingredients. Process 1 1/4 cups rolled oats until finely ground in a food processor. Add 1 cup dried apricots, 1/2 cup unsalted almond butter, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and 2 to 3 tablespoons water so the mixture sticks together. Pulse until the mixture is smooth, and then transfer to a medium bowl. Mix in 1/4 cup chia seeds. Roll heaping teaspoon-sized amounts into balls. Roll in more chia seeds and refrigerate until firm.

What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy chia seeds? Tell us about any creative or unusual ways you cook, bake or experiment with chia.