Cheer for Chia!
Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant, a relative in the mint family. They’re whole-grain, gluten-free, and usually grown organically. They are thought to have originated with the Aztecs and the Mayas. “Chia” is actually the Maya word for “strength.” Chia seeds are being touted as a “super food” because they contain all kinds of important nutrients that are beneficial for the body and brain. Let’s look at why these tiny little seeds are good for us, and a some ways to incorporate them into our meals.
– Just one ounce of chia seeds (about 2 Tablespoons) contains 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat (5 grams of which are omega-3s!), plus generous servings of calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus, and a good amount of zinc, potassium, and Vitamins B 1, 2, and 3. And all this for just 137 calories.
– In a one ounce serving (28 grams) chia seeds have 12 grams of carbs. But 11 of those grams are fiber, and not digested by the body. Just 1 gram is digestible carbs. Fiber is in the carb family, but because it doesn’t raise blood sugar or require insulin to dispose of it, fiber’s health effects are entirely different than carbs that come from starch or sugar.
– Chia seeds, with their highly soluble fiber content, expand in water – they can absorb 10-12 times their weight, expanding in the stomach and becoming gel-like. Because of this we feel more full and eat less. Fiber also helps with the good bacteria in the intestine, essential for good gut health.
– If you’re vegan, or concerned about getting enough protein in your diet, chia seeds definitely help as they contain 14% protein by weight, high compared to other plant foods.
– Because chia seeds are high in fiber, protein and omega-3s, they can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Of course, this is only possible when accompanied by a healthy lifestyle and diet.
– Chia seeds fit easily into any diet. They have a bland, neutral taste, so they don’t change the flavor of other foods. Unlike flax seeds, they don’t need to be ground up to be eaten. They can be sprinkled onto salads, veggies, cereal, yogurt or rice. They can also be used to thicken sauces, and many people use them as an egg substitute in baking recipes.
CHIA SEED PUDDING RECIPE
The basis for this recipe is the proportion of seeds to almond milk. for every 2 cups of liquid, use 1/2 cup of chia seeds. From there you can improvise and add whatever you like!
2 cups almond milk (or rice, oat, or coconut milk)
1/2 cup chia seeds
2-3 tablespoons sweetener: honey, sucanat, brown sugar, whatever you like (optional – if you are using sweetened milk you don’t need any sweetener)
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
7-8 strands saffron, broken up
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds
Put all the ingredients into a large jar, put the lid on tightly and shake it up vigorously. Make sure the chia seeds separate and there aren’t any visible lumps.
CHOCOLATE CHIA PUDDING
2 cups almond milk (or substitute)
1/3 cup chia seeds
2 teaspoons cacao powder
2-3 Tablespoons sweetener
1/4 teaspoon ground dardamom
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pour everything into a jar, and shake vigorously.
Serves 4. Top with whipped cream and shaved chocolate for a lovely presentation!