Chia Seeds: Healthy or Hype?
More than 30 years ago, the Chia Pet craze burst onto the scene as a fun tabletop plant. Now, chia seeds are being viewed in a different way: as a popular diet choice.
“While chia is certainly a unique food with a strong nutrient profile, its claim as the next superfood may be a bit premature,” says Susan Mills-Gray, nutrition and health specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
Chia is an unprocessed, whole-grain food that can be absorbed by the body as seeds (unlike flaxseeds). One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, plus calcium, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Their mild, nutty flavor makes chia seeds easy to add to foods and beverages.
Chia seeds are gluten-free and do not trigger a reaction for those allergic to nuts. However, Mills-Gray says, “If you have an allergy to sesame or mustard seeds or are on high blood pressure medications or blood thinners, you should ask your health-care provider before adding chia to your diet.”
Here are 32 tips for using chia seeds:
1. Soak one level tablespoon of chia seeds with a quarter cup of water to make an egg substitute for baking cakes and cookies.
2. Grind seeds and add to hot milk to make a “porridge.”
3. Add seeds to soup to thicken and add nutrition.
4. Grind seeds and mix into pancake batter, or into flour when making bread or biscuits.
5. Eat seeds whole and raw as a snack.
6. Make a “lassie” by blending chia seeds, yogurt and fruit juice.
7. Add seeds to beaten eggs, soak for 10 minutes and make an omelet.
8. Mix with Worcestershire or BBQ sauce and brush over barbecued meats.
9. Add whole chia seeds to a cake batter to make a heavy, poppy seed-like cake.
10. Add seeds to thicken stews.
11. Throw some seeds into a stir fry.
12. Make a thin batter of ground chia seeds and milk and cook in a 275 F to 300 F oven to make crackers. Sprinkle with salt.
13. Pureed fruit, chia seeds and a little fruit juice are a good topping for ice cream.
14. Stir whole seeds through cooked lentils.
15. Cook brown rice in vegetable stock and stir chia seeds through when rice is cooked.
16. Top a cheesecake with chia seeds soaked in fruit juice to make a gel topping.
17. Add whole or ground seeds to cookie mixes.
18. Mix ground seeds with ground beef to make meatballs.
19. Cook brown rice in apple juice, add grated apple and stir whole Chia seeds through the mixture for a tasty dessert.
20. Toasted ground chia seeds mixed with honey and cinnamon makes a wonderful cheesecake base.
21. Add whole seeds to granola.
22. Mix white chia seeds that have been soaked in milk with mashed potatoes.
23. Sprout the seeds and use in salads.
24. Mix ground seeds with butter or peanut butter for a nutritious spread.
25. Spread a mixture of honey, cinnamon, dried fruit and ground chia seeds on to filo or puff pastry, roll up and cook in a hot oven.
26. Mix seeds, whole or ground, through Nutella.
27. Add ground seeds soaked in an egg to bind a hamburger mix.
28. Soak chia seeds in milk and mix through hot oatmeal.
29. Don’t waste leftover liquid from a stew. Add chia seeds, allow to thicken, then heat and serve with toast, over rice, pasta or a plate of vegetables.
30. Whisk 2 teaspoons of chia seeds into coconut water. This is especially good on a hot day for keeping hydrated and an excellent idea for athletes.
31. Want a crunchy breakfast or salad? Add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of chia seeds to crunchy toasted muesli. Add milk, fruit juice, soy or nut milk and eat immediately. Or add chia seeds as a topping for salads or vegetable dishes. The chia seeds will retain their crunch.
32. Add ground chia seeds to your favorite fish-cake recipe. ••
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her website is www.divapro.com.