The small yet mighty chia seed is not a new player in the superfoods class. Meaning ‘strength’ in the Mayan language, chia seeds were prized by the Incans, Mayans and Aztecs for their ability to provide sustainable energy.
Here’s a quick rundown of the dense nutritional goodness of these pulses:
- A high antioxidant capacity that can stop up to 70% of free radical activity, and has three times the antioxidant activity compared to blueberries;
- Has two times the protein than most grains, and contain nine essential amino acids that the body requires but is unable to produce on its own naturally;
- Rich in essential vitamins and minerals such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, calcium, copper, phosphorus, zinc and potassium
- Able to prevent metabolic disorders like dyslipidemia (excessive fat in the blood) and insulin resistance, and great for diabetics as it stabilizes blood sugar levels
- Packed with fibre - 10 grams every two tablespoons, to be exact! It helps with feeling full while cleaning out the digestive tract, and regulating bowel movements at the same time.
However, although there’s a popular notion that chia seeds are able to aid in weight loss, the claims are unfounded – a study conducted by Nieman and Colleagues discovered that ingestion of 50g/d of chia seeds for 12 weeks did not influence body mass, composition, or disease risk factors in overweight/obese men and women. The belief that it amps up endurance still stands true, though!
Regardless, chia seeds still pack a nutritious punch and are incredibly versatile, as it can be added to a bevy of sweet or savoury meals as well.
(Buying tip: pick seeds which are naturally black or white in colour. Brown seeds are immature, providing less benefits belonging to its matured counterpart and having a bitter taste to them.)
1. Seed Up Your Drink
One of the easiest ways to incorporate chia seeds into your diet is simply by adding it into your drinking water. Chia seeds are very hydrophilic, and are able to absorb 12-14 times their weight in water. When soaked in water, a gelatinous coating is formed, making it easy to swallow. As it holds much water, it’s a great, fuss-free way of hydrating, while adding some texture too (the jelly-like globules then take on a consistency that is similar to tapioca pearls).
For those looking to satisfy their cravings for something sweet, the Mexicans have Chia Fresca – comprising of water, lemon or lime juice, sweetener and chia seeds. Chia Seeds can also be integrated into smoothie recipes – to add texture, to top it off, or to simply act as an all-natural, vegan thickener.
2. Add them to your greens
Dry chia seeds have a nice crunch to them, though they have a tendency to get stuck between your teeth as well. Add texture to salads by sprinkling chia seeds over them. Moreover, chia sprouts are also a good addition to the green mix as well.
3. Make dessert!
Chia puddings have gained prominence as one of the top ways of using chia seed in a recipe, with many flavour variations. Experiment to find combinations you like best! Here is an easy chia pudding breakfast jar recipe to get you started.
4. Use it for ‘breading'
Chia seeds by itself or mixed with almond flour and garlic powder make for a good coating for breading fish or chicken, as it toasts up well and gives it a nice crunch without the strong, nutty aftertaste.