Chia seeds are perhaps some of the most sought after seeds in the supermarket right now. Ardent fans of chia seeds claim they do everything from helping you control your never-satieted appetite to curing diabetes, but is this just hype?
Hailing from South America, these little black and white seeds were first cultivated and used by the Aztecs back in the day and is currently still a coveted food source in parts of the continent. Over the past couple of years, chia seeds have also become the darling seed of the health-conscious crowd across the world.
Probably because chia seeds are loaded with nutrients. So even a small serving packs a punch. According to the USDA, a 28g (2 tablespoons) serving of chia seeds comes with :
- 11g dietary fibre
This makes up about 1/3 of your recommended daily intake, and is super important for healthy digestion.
- 4g protein
Chia is a great plant source for protein, and contains much higher amounts of protein than other plants. A high-protein diet is known to help reduce appetite .
- 18% of RDI of calcium (177mg)
This is important for your bones, so you don’t get on your way towards osteoporosis.
- 27% RDI of phosphorus (265mg)
This nutrient is also important for healthy bones.
- 30% manganese (0.6mg)
Not the most famous of nutrients, but manganese helps your body keep your bones strong and properly use nutrients like biotin and thiamin.
- 9g fat
5g of the 9 is made up of omega-3 fatty acids, which is great. However these are mostly short-chain omega-3 fatty acids Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA), which needs to be converted to long-chain forms EPA, and DHA before your body can use it. However, our bodies aren’t very good at converting them (efficiency below 5%), so you shouldn’t rely only on chia seeds for your omega-3 intake .
Chia Seeds and Type 2 Diabetes
Besides being rich in nutrients, there’s been emerging research showing how chia seeds could help improve Type 2 diabetes. In a study conducted by the University of Toronto, 20 diabetics were given either 37g of chia seeds or wheat bran per day for 12 weeks. Results showed that those on the chia seed diet experienced improvements in blood pressure and other health markers .
Chia Seeds, Right Up There with Other Superfoods
Even if you don’t have Type 2 diabetes, chia reigns as one of the health food superstars, with higher amounts of antioxidants than even the world-renowned blueberries . Gram-to-gram, chia has 22 times more magnesium than broccoli, 10 times more phosphorus than milk, 5.6 times more calcium than whole milk and twice the amount of iron than spinach .
Could Chia Seeds Help You Lose Weight?
Rich in protein and high in fibre, chia seeds are in theory, able to help you control your appetite. And while there are plenty of anecdotes out there that claim this, science hasn’t backed it up. However, eating chia seeds not as a replacement, but as an addition to a wholesome diet can definitely have positive effects on your general wellbeing.
What Can I Do with Chia Seeds?
If you’re picturing yourself wolfing down spoonfuls of dry, icky chia seeds, you can stop now. The best thing about chia seeds is their versatility. They are pretty much tasteless and can be added to almost everything.
Chia seeds absorb up to 10 times their weight in water and is great for bulking up foods and drinks. Here are some ideas on how you can use chia seeds:
1. Blend them in with smoothies
2. Sprinkle them over salads
3. Make puddings with them. Try this recipe
4. Use them in salad dressings
5. Mix them into curries and stews to thicken them up
6. Add them to meatballs and burger patties for extra bulk instead of breadcrumbs
7. Sprinkle them over your breakfast muesli / cereal
8. Add chia seeds to juices to make “sago”
9. Use as an egg substitute when baking
10. Grind seeds to mix into wholegrain pancake mixes (or even just sprinkle over cooked pancakes)
11. Sprinkle some over your stir-fries
12. Mix them into cookie dough
13. Sprout your chia seeds for some yummy greens to add to sandwiches and salads
14. Stir into your spaghetti sauce
15. Grind chia seeds and mix with hot milk for a chia oatmeal. Alternatively, add apples in to make it an apple chia oatmeal
16. Make homemade energy gel, just add a few tablespoons of chia seeds to some coconut water and let it soak till gel-like
17. Make jam! Like this yummilicious strawberry chia seed jam
18. Use them to bread fish and other meats for toasting in the oven
19. Stir them into yoghurt
20. Sprinkle them over roasted veggies
Have fun exploring what you can do with chia seeds and remember to report back to us on your experimentations!