Chia seeds were once a niche ingredient that you could only look for in food stores alongside flax seeds, hemp seeds, and spirulina. But there’s a good chance you can now find chia in your local grocery store, in everything from granola and cereal to yogurt and energy drinks. You can also find it in restaurants: Chia pudding has become a mainstay of trendy cafes and breakfasts from coast to coast, including NYC’s Dimes and L.A.’s Café Gratitude.
Want to enjoy it at home? Read on for everything you need to know about these high energy seeds (and yes, those are the same seeds that fueled the Chia Pets craze in the ’80s).
Where do chia seeds come from?
Chia seeds come from salvia hispanica, a mint-flowering plant native to parts of Guatemala and Mexico. Chia seeds have only become a commercially popular health food in the last decade or so, but they are actually one of the oldest forms of nutrition and were a staple of the Mayan and Aztec diets.
How to eat chia seeds
Chia seeds have an extremely subtle flavor and are therefore preferred for texture rather than taste. Their most obvious feature is that they absorb a shocking amount of fluid – up to 10 times their dry weight – swelling into miniature tapioca-like balls.
You can easily make chia seed pudding, one of the most popular ways to eat the seeds, by mixing a quarter cup of the seeds in a cup of liquid (almond milk and fruit juice are popular choices). Once the seeds have gelled and the mixture is no longer watery, the “pudding” is ready to eat. It can take as little as 15 minutes, although chia pudding keeps well in the refrigerator for several days. Since chia doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own, feel free to add spices, chopped fruit, nuts, and any other toppings you like.
Dried chia seeds can also be added whole or ground to smoothies and juices, mixed in yogurt and oatmeal, or sprinkled on a salad. If you add the seeds to a drink or a “wet” dish like porridge, they will swell slightly as you eat but still retain a slight crunch.
Chia seeds can also be used in tonics, jams, crackers, muffins, and cereal bowls.
And while these are some of the most common ways to eat chia, its mild flavor and compact size make it easy to slip a spoonful into just about anything – so experiment!
Since chia seeds are able to absorb a lot of fluid, it’s important to stay well hydrated when consuming them, especially in the dry form. But you don’t have to overdo it on the water – your eight 8 ounces a day. glasses will suffice.
Chia seeds: benefits and nutritional value
Chia seeds are often referred to as a superfood, which simply means that they are relatively more nutrient dense than other foods. The tiny seeds contain the holy trinity of nutrition – fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids – which promote slow digestion and a steady flow of energy afterward.
Chia seeds also contain main minerals like calcium and magnesium. They also contain all nine essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle-building proteins that our bodies need, but don’t produce them naturally – we have to get them through our diet.
Chia seeds contain around 140 calories per serving, or two tablespoons or 28 grams. Each serving contains 4 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber.
To get the nutritional benefits chia seeds don’t need to be ground before eating – eating them whole will have the same effect, and how you like to eat them is just a matter of personal preference. They are also naturally gluten free and vegan.
How to store chia seeds
Chia seeds have a long shelf life and can be stored for several years when stored in a cool, dry place. Easy