Benefits of Chia Seeds
Should you be filling up on this superfood?
The force of the chia seed is still going strong and if you’re not a fan, you might want to give them another try. First rising to popularity in 1980s infomercials for their ability to quickly sprout a hair-like houseplant, nowadays they’ve morphed into a superfood!
With chia craze at an all-time high, it’s worth taking a look at all the nutrients, recipes and other things these tiny seeds have to offer.
Chia seeds pack a huge nutritional punch. One quarter cup of chia seeds contains 180 calories, 11 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat and no cholesterol. That same portion also contains 16 grams of carbohydrates, which includes a whopping 14 grams of hunger-fighting fiber! If you want to add more to your diet, increase your intake in small increments to prevent any undesired gastrointestinal side effects. Chia seeds also boast 6 grams of protein and 15 percent of the daily recommendation for both calcium and iron per serving. A large portion of the fat in chia seeds comes from heart healthy and inflammation fighting ALA omega-3 fats, nearly 5,000 milligrams per ounce.
Healthy or Hype?
Chia seeds have a lot going for them and do deserve superfood status. But to really reap the benefits of chia you need to eat them — in fairly large portions — regularly. Chia seeds aren't cheap either. While the supply and price has come down in recent years, stocking up on chia can be an investment with packages costing anywhere from $0.21 to $1.00 per ounce.
Ways to Enjoy Chia Seeds
Those tiny chia seeds are extremely crunchy, but add a little liquid and they have the unique quality of swelling (AKA gelatinization). Let them sit for a few minutes and they begin to swell and take on a slippery quality, which helps them thicken and bind various recipes.
When it comes to recipes, chia pudding is just the beginning! Add chia seeds to energy bites and they will actually help those balls and bites stay together. Speaking of a binder, create an egg substitute by mixing 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water, allow to sit for about 10 minutes to “gel” before combining.
To help get your daily quota of chia, whirl them into your daily smoothie or sprinkle on your morning bowl of oatmeal (or batch of overnight oats). Fruit and spreadable chia jam can be made with little or no sugar – just combine mashed fruit chia seeds, cook down briefly and allow to set up in the fridge. Chia seeds can also be used to thicken salad dressings and as a crust for fish or tofu. Want to make baked goodies with an added element of nuttiness? Toss chia into recipe for muffins, homemade granola and snack bars.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. She is the author of four cookbooks First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, The Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook and Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.