Chia Pets were all the rage in the 1980’s those very kitsch terracotta planters in the shape of animals that grew “Chia Hair”. Back then, Chia seeds seemed only good for decoration and as a novelty, there was little appreciation for the nutritional benefits of this amazing tiny seed.
Little did we know that Chia would emerge as the remarkable super food it is today ! Although you can still buy a Chia pet kit, in fact, I recently saw Barack Obama complete with a Chia Afro… now that’s tacky! I prefer to eat my Chia seeds!
What are Chia Seeds?
Chia (Salvia hispanica) is a species of flowering plant in the mint family, native to southern Mexico and Guatemala. In pre-Colombian times it was a part of the Mayan and Aztec diets, the word Chia meaning “strength” in Mayan. So valued were the seeds they were even used by the indigenous peoples of this region in religious ceremonies.
Chia Seed Nutrients
Omega 3 fats. They are one of the highest plant sources of omega-3 fats, which are essential for cardiovascular health, a healthy nervous system and brain and soft skin.
High in fibre. Chia seeds are an excellent source of dietary fibre , important for bowel and digestive health, regulating blood sugar levels and cholesterol , increasing fullness and helping with weight control.
Protein. Providing the body with essential amino acids for growth and repair.
Calcium. Just 100g of chia seeds contain as much calcium as two cups of milk, making them valuable for bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.
Other essential minerals and vitamins. Manganese, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Zinc, Potassium, Iron, B1, B2 & B3 which naturally boost energy levels in the body.
High in Antioxidants. Chia seeds are naturally high in antioxidants which allow them to be stored for long periods of time and not go rancid like other seeds such as flaxseeds.
How to use Chia Seeds
There are so many ways to incorporate Chia Seeds in your diet. They can be ground and sprinkled over muesli, porridge and other breakfast cereals. You can also add them to smoothies, salads and stir-fries, sprinkle them over vegetables or add to baking.
One of the most popular methods of using Chia Seeds is Chia Pudding. By soaking in a liquid such as water, coconut water or nut milks they “gel” then you can add any flavours such as fresh fruits, nuts, seeds cinnamon or cacao – your imagination can run wild! Kids love chia puddings. You can get a wonderful edible pudding that is both a filling and nutritious treat. (See below for Chia pudding recipe ideas)
Chia Seeds are wonderful for hydration as they soak up so much liquid as they expand and make a perfect hydrating energy drink. Just add 2 tablespoons of Chia Seeds to a cup of coconut water, let sit for 10 minutes and you’ve got a great hydration drink without the addition of artificial sweeteners, colours or chemicals.
Because of their ability to absorb both water and fat, they can be used to thicken sauces and even used as egg substitutes in recipes. I love that you can use them as an egg substitute and have used them many times when baking for friends that are vegan or have egg intolerances.
Chia Seeds as an Egg Substitute
Use 1 tablespoon of finely ground Chia Seeds (grind them dry in a blender, food processor or coffee grinder) and 3 tablespoons of water per egg in a baked recipe.
Chia Pudding Recipe
• 2 cups unsweetened almond milk you can also use soy or coconut or a mix. (I like the taste of unsweetened vanilla almond milk )
• 1/2 cup chia seeds
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or seeds of 1 vanilla bean (you don’t need to add if you are using vanilla flavoured milk unless you like it extra vanilla)
• 1-2 tablespoon pure maple syrup or 1 tablespoon of honey for a little sweetness, optional
Place liquid ingredients in container or bowl and mix well. Whisk in Chia Seeds. Place covered in the refrigerator and give a stir a few times in the first hour or the seeds will fall to the bottom of the container. Chill for 4- 5 hours or overnight. Stir before serving. Keep refrigerated, it will last up to 5 days. They can be put into individual cups, you can layer these with chopped fruit to make parfait.
Top with chopped fruit, berries/mango, nuts and seeds and a tablespoon of coconut yoghurt.
Try these variations:
Chocolate flavour – add ¼ cup of cocoa powder
Chai flavour – add 1 Tsp of cinnamon, a pinch of cloves & nutmeg
Strawberry- blend strawberries and mix them through in first stage
Blueberry – get my recipe here
Organic is best! Like all food we consume, if we can get a product that is organically grown of course this is superior to conventionally grown foods. The same principal applies to Chia Seeds – go organic!!
Finally, if you like the idea of a Chia Pet, go ahead and buy one or just sprout some! They are very much like alfalfa, so try sprouting some and adding them to your salads for some extra crunch and nutrition.