Original image by Stacy Spensley via Flickr CC
Chia seeds are bursting onto the trendy scene in all their fashionable glory. I saw a box of breakfast cereal the other day at the grocery store (the kind marketing itself as “healthy”) that boasted the inclusion of chia seeds.
But are they a passing fad? Just the flavour of the month in a long line of highly marketable and slightly exotic-sounding ingredients? Some people get excited about every new supposed ‘superfood’ that comes down the pipeline, but me – I tend to be wary of anything embraced by mainstream marketing.
This article asks the question, “Are chia seeds a superfood?”, and explains the answer in this way: “There is no actual definition for a ‘superfood’, this is really just a marketing term, but foods mentioned in this category often contain above average amounts of health promoting nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and especially phytonutrients (plant based nutrients). Based on this definition, chia seeds would certainly qualify.”
Chia seeds have been used medicinally and as a valuable diet component for centuries. They grow like crazy in Guatemala and Mexico, and were historically loved by the Azteks and Mayans. They are currently trending once again, and for good reason.
Pros and Cons
Given the recent trend in our culture toward processed junk comprising a significant portion (if not all) of our diets, the ratio of Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s is massively out of proportion. We’re getting way, way too much Omega-6, and not enough Omega-3. I’ve seen estimates saying we’re getting 25 times too much O-6. Crazy, eh? This is being linked to all sorts of serious health concerns, including cancer, arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel disease, and more.
So that’s why lots of people talk up the amazing Omega-3 content of chia seeds. And it’s true – they are indeed high in beneficial Omega-3’s. Nonetheless, they are still a seed, and as such should not play too large a role in any traditional foods diet. Plant-based sources of Omega-3’s are not as usable by our bodies (in converting to DHA and APA, which are the long-chain fatty acids our bodies need) as animal sources of them, especially from seafood.
An interesting note: I personally do not follow a paleo/primal diet (for many reasons) but even Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple agrees that they can be considered primal-approved, but cautions against treating them as a superfood at the expense of traditional superfoods like grassfed liver and butter.
Why I Love Chia Seeds
With all of this knowledge, I’ve started using chia seeds in my regular diet, and I am LOVING them. Here are a few reasons why:
1. They are virtually tasteless
They do have a definite texture thing going on, but the taste is relatively neutral, and easily blends with all sorts of dishes.
2. They are high in protein
I’m constantly throwing them in to things like oatmeal, baking, etc. to help up the protein content of an otherwise starchy or grain-based dish.
3. They have a ton of Omega-3’s
While they may not be as helpful in my body as other sources, they are still better than nothing, and providing a little nutritional boost.
4. They are seriously impressive in their nutritional profile
They are a fantastic source of fiber, with 11 grams per ounce! They are also a great source of manganese, as well as boasting four times as much antioxidants as blueberries, and twice the potassium as a banana. They have five times the calcium as milk, seven times more vitamin C than oranges, and three times more iron than spinach! (according to this source).
5. They are mucilaginous
This means they absorb HUGE amounts of liquid, which is pretty darn cool. Also – handy as a thickener and binder for gluten/grain-free cooking.
In addition to the below recipes (I haven’t tried them all, but the ingredients are all real-food), I use chia seeds quite often in my recently released breakfast ebook, “The Breakfast Revolution”, which you can grab HERE.
25 Recipes That Use Chia Seeds
Raspberry-Banana Oat and Chia Seed Smoothie // Food and Spice
Chia-Aid Sports Drink // The Nourishing Home
Chia Seed Kefir or Kombucha // Real Food Outlaws
Chai Bubble Tea with Chia Seed Boba // The Greenbacks Gal
Beet, Honey, and Yogurt Smoothie // So Let’s Hang Out (photo above)
Key Lime Pie Smoothie // Homegrown & Healthy
Perfect Banana-Pecan Bread // Red & Honey
20-Minute Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies // Red & Honey
Rice Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies // Gutsy
Summer Muesli w/ Soaked Oats and Chia Seeds // Recipes to Nourish
Banana-Nut Granola with Quinoa // So Let’s Hang Out (photo above)
Chia-Blueberry Porridge // Common Sense Homesteading
Breakfast Pudding // Nourishing Simplicity
Breakfast in a Jar // All Things Health
Cinnamon Crackers // Sweet Kisses and Dirty Dishes
Blueberry Mousse Slice // Strands of Life (photo above)
Dairy-Free Berry Mousse // Whole New Mom
Fudge Pops // Nourishing Treasures
Blueberry Jam (no added sugar, no pectin) // Health Extremist
Honey-Sweetened Strawberry Chia Seed Jam // Red & Honey
Chia Pumpkin Pudding // Health Starts in the Kitchen (photo above)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pudding // Keeper of the Home
Chocolate or Carob Chia Pudding (stevia sweetened) // Whole New Mom
Chocolate and Chia Pudding (maple syrup sweetened) // So Let’s Hang Out
Easy Coconut-Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding // Real Food Whole Health
Blended Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding // Red & Honey
Chia Seeds // Dr. Weil
They are also often used as an egg replacer (a very nutritious one, at that) because of their gelling properties. Katie has instructions for how to do that, tucked in at the bottom of this gluten-free pumpkin muffin post.
4 Great Ways to Use Chia Seeds // Canadian Living