What is the Big Deal About Chia Seeds?

What is the Big Deal About Chia Seeds?

blueberry chia seed jam
Blueberry-Chia Seed Jam
(see recipe below)

You can’t walk into many grocery stores these days, even your mainstream ones, without seeing an end cap display for CHIA SEEDS.  These powerhouse edible seeds can be found in everything from simple baked goods and smoothies to puddings, and even kombucha drinks.

Those of us that were adults or grew up in the 70s or 80s surely remember or even had the “Ch Ch Ch Chia Pet” novelty planters which showcased the chia sprouts.  It is the seed, however, that has historically been the important part of the desert plant Salvia hispanica.  The seeds were a main component in both Aztec and Mayan diets and were the basic survival ration of Aztec warriors as a means to boost energy and increase stamina (the word “chia” is derived from the Mayan language and means “strength”).  Now we know why the modern popularity of chia seeds started with endurance athletes and has now found its way to us mere mainstream mortals 🙂

Here is the Clif Note version of why you should add these tiny black or white seeds to your daily diet:

  • chockful of fiber-5 grams in just one tablespoon.  It is the fiber that causes the seeds to swell when combined with water, creating chia gel.  Whether the seeds are raw or gelled this is what is keeping you full longer than most seeds (actually has a name for this process: hydrophilic action!)
  • very rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  Not as much as an animal-based source such as salmon or grass-fed beef, but for vegans or non meat eating individuals, it’s better than nothing 🙂
  • loaded in antioxidants which means the seeds don’t go rancid and can be stored for long periods (unlike flax seeds) and fight free redicals, which can damage us at the cellular level causing everything from heart disease to cancers.
  • high in minerals calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, niacin and zinc. Whew!  That’s a lot of minerals!
Here is any easy recipe to get you started.  My 10 year old picked up my current issue of Taste for Life and whipped up a batch of Blueberry-Chia Seed Jam an hour before she headed to bed.  It is not too sweet (hint: low in sugar-which is honey, a natural sweetener) so you really taste the in-season blueberries. The chia seeds stand in for pectin, a common thickening ingredient for jams.  We were all slathering it on a piece of gluten-free toast this morning;)
1 1/2 Tbsp chia seeds
3 Tbsp water
1 3/4 c blueberries
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract, optional
1. Combine chia seeds and water in a small bowl. Let soak for 10 minutes. 2. Mash blueberries in a small pan with a large spoon. Add lemon juice and honey and simmer mixture over a medium-high heat for 5 minutes. 3. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in vanilla extract, if using, and soaked chia seeds until mixture is well combined. 4. Transfer jam to an airtight container. Store in the fridge and enjoy within a week. The jam can also be frozen and stored in the freezer for up to one year.

You can also try Cranberry-Coconut Chia Pudding.  It’s one of the Featured recipes on The Whole Meal.  My family can not get enough!  It’s similar in taste and consistency to rice or tapioca pudding.

Once you get the hang of cooking with chia seeds, it’ll be easy to tweak these recipes, as well as create your own (think smoothies next).  You and your family’s health will thank you!

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