So you stumbled across these exotic looking seeds on your Instagram feed and now you’re wondering what’s so special about them?
Don’t be fooled by their small size. Chia seeds are the superfoods that have taken the health community by storm thanks to their amazing nutritional benefits.Packed with unsaturated fats, proteins and vitamins, chia seeds could be your go-to breakfast buddy once you give it a shot!
The seeds itself come from a plant named Salvia hispanica, belonging to the mint family. They can absorb up to 12 times of their weight when soaked in liquid and make for a satisfying meal packed with fibre, nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and fatty acids.
While its growing popularity can be seen amongst health bloggers and fitness gurus, chia seeds have been around since ancient times. Because of their power-packed properties, chia seeds were a predominant part of the Aztec diet and provided strength and stamina to the Mayan warriors while in battle. The word “chia” in fact translates to “strength” in the Mayan language and now it’s clear to see why!
Why chia seeds are good for your health
Chia seeds have become one of the most consumed foods among people who are striving towards a healthier lifestyle. Packed with nutrients that boost the body and the brain, a 28-gram or one-ounce serving of chia seeds contains:
- 131 calories
- 9 grams of fat
- 13 grams of carbohydrate
- 11 grams of fibre
- 5 grams of protein
- No sugar
Apart from this, here are some of the amazing benefits that chia seeds bring with it.
High on nutrients, low on calories:
Being an abundant source of fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, proteins and vitamins, you’d expect chia seeds to have a high calorific value but that’s just not the case.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds which is roughly an ounce only has 137 calories! The rest of it is calcium, saturated fat, fibre, protein and omega-3 fatty acids along with vitamins and minerals!
Full of antioxidants:
Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of the chia seeds is that it is packed with antioxidants.The free radicals present in these antioxidants help in repairing cell damage and even reduceinflammation. In fact, consuming chia seeds is great for the skin and can even prevent premature skin aging.
If you’re looking for a superfood that aids in cell regeneration and repair, load up on chia seeds and watch your body thank you!
Fibre, fibre and more fibre:
Though including 20-30 grams of fibre in our daily diet is necessary for good health, not a lot of us manage to do so. The best way to include more fibre would be by eating nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. OR you could simply load up on chia seeds!
Since chia seeds contain 10 grams of fibre per ounce, it’s an easy way to getting the much-needed fibre in your diet. Being super-high in fibre, chia seedsalso promotea healthy bowel movement and prevent constipation.
14% of chia seeds by weight is all protein which makes it higher than most of the plants that we rely on for protein intake. Incredible isn’t it? And that’s not all, the amino acids present in chia seeds make it easier for your body to use these proteins.
All in all, having a protein-rich diet will definitely lower your appetite and also put a stop to food cravings by 60% so no more night time snacking!
Reduce the risk of heart disease:
Increased fibre intake has been shown to lower both cholesterol levels as well as high blood pressure. Dietary fibre plays a major role in regulating the immune system and inflammation. In this way, chia seeds decrease the risk of many inflammation-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
Shed the extra pounds:
Struggling to lose weight? Chia seeds have got you covered! Its soluble fibre absorbs large amounts of water and expands the stomach, which increases fullness and slow the absorption of food. The proteins present in chia seeds satisfy your appetite and thereby reduce food intake. This super seed is great to consume for those trying to put on lean muscle, burn fat and balance blood sugar levels.
With an abundance of calcium, phosphorous and magnesium, chia seeds have everything you need for maintaining healthy bones. The calcium content itself is impressive since a single ounce of chia seeds contain 18% of the RDI. In comparison to dairy products that we consume, chia seeds provide much more calcium.
And as an added bonus, for all those who are lactose-intolerant or simply don’t consume dairy- chia seeds make for the best alternative.
Chia seeds are also a rich source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which are essential in the development of the baby’s brain. Chia seeds are said to contain more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon, for every gram.
And since pregnancy can get to be taxing to the body, chia seeds help in replacing lost nutrients like calcium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and copper.
Since these seeds are packed with calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A and zinc, they work wonders on the teeth. Calcium is the building block of the teeth and a necessity for tooth health.
Zinc prevents tartar by keeping plaque from mineralizing onto the teeth and has an antibacterial effect that keeps bad breath and germs away.
Chia seeds and weight loss
Amongst the many benefits of chia seeds, weight loss seems to be the most sought after and it’s no surprise why.
Chia seeds contain no cholesterol. In fact, adding them to your daily diet is all you need to do to ensure weight loss. This is all thanks to the fact that chia seeds are rich in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linoleic acid, all of which will aid you in shedding those extra pounds.
Since chia seeds are loaded up on fibre, they’re perfect for those who don’t want to make any major changes in their diet. All you need to do is include chia seeds into your current diet plan. When used in moderation, they may help you feel more satisfied and less likely to eat too much. But remember to limit your ‘eating’ throughout the day or you many exceeds the daily calorie limit.
They are also a good source of several minerals, likecalcium, phosphorous, manganese, zinc andcopper. By adding a serving of chia seeds a day, you can boost your metabolism and burn belly fat as well.
Do chia seeds need to be soaked? And for how long?
Chia seeds need to be soaked so that they can absorb water and the only time they are eaten dry is to combat acid-reflux since they absorb the acid and provide relief. That being said, one should be careful while consuming them dry as it is quite possible to choke on them in their dry state.
The best way to consume chia seeds is by soaking them before adding them to your smoothies, salads or breakfast bowls. Soaking chia seeds make them easier to digest and the body can use up all their nutrients in a better way. Apart from this, as they soak up a lot of water, chia seeds help you stay hydrated and are a great pre-workout snack!
While there are many ways of preparing chia seeds, soaking them overnight seems to be the most popular method. Though this is not necessary, it has some added benefits.
Pre-soaking chia seeds
Since chia seeds are ideally soaked in water overnight, all you need is a container to store them. Place your seeds in a mason jar, pour water and swirl them around for a few minutes. You can then refrigerate them and let them sit overnight. This will give you a good chia gel consistency which is when the outer membrane of the chia seed develops the gelatinous texture.
But if you’re in a hurry and forget to soak them the night before, don’t worry. Simply take the chia seeds in a container, pour water and shake them around for a few minutes. After this is done, let them rest for about 10 minutes.
Alternatives to soaking them in water
While soaking them in water is the most common way to prepare them, you can experiment with other alternatives too!
Almond milk, soya milk, coconut milk or even your favourite juice works as a great base to soak chia seeds in. This further infuses the taste into the chia seeds making them even more tasty. Yogurt is another great alternative which adds on added health benefits.
Ways to eat chia seeds
Now that you know everything about pre-soaking chia seeds, it’s time to make some delicious chia recipes. Since chia seeds are flavourless you can add them easily to many foods and recipes.
From blending them in smoothies to sprinkling them on salads as a topping, there’s a lot you can do with chia seeds! Let’s take a look:
Hands down, one of the most loved ways of eating chia seeds is by turning it into a scrumptious pudding. And the best part? You won’t feel guilty for indulging!
Start by mixing a quarter cup of chia seeds in a milk of your choice. You can stir them in for about 10 minutes till the seeds are gel like in consistency and the mixture is no longer runny. Add some cocoa, spices, fruits and nuts and other toppings of your choice. And your pudding is ready to eat!
For those that don’t like the texture of seeds in their pudding, you can blend the chia seeds till you get a creamy consistency
Starting off your day with chia seeds for breakfast is going to give you the much-needed health boost. All you need to do is add it to your morning oatmeal or muesli bowl.
Stir a spoonful of chia seeds into your oatmeal as it cooks, adding water as needed to get the consistency you like. You can even substitute the water for almond or coconut milk and add a dash of cinnamon and other spices. The chia seeds will provide a thick texture and keep you full through the day. You can even top off your morning cereal with pre-soaked chia seeds and mix them in for extra nutrition.
Just when you thought your smoothies and protein shakes couldn’t get any healthier! To make your smoothies more filling, all you to do is add a tablespoon of chia seeds which works great as a base.
After this, go ahead and add bananas, apple or mangoes to your smoothie to give it that extra taste.The gel like consistency of the chia seeds will also help in digestion!
Another easy yet delicious way to add chia to your every day meals. All you need to do is toss in your chia seeds while mixing up your salad leaves and other ingredients.
Since salads aren’t always very filling, chia seeds will satisfy your hunger and add a nutritional twist.
Baking Chia goodies
If baking is something you love, why not throw in some chia seeds into your cakes and breads the next time round? Since baked items are high in calories, chia seeds add a nutritional value and provides an added texture.Adding them to your cake mix will definitely boost fibre, protein and the omega-3 contents.
You can even add them to your cookie batter to make some chia cookies and muffins as well.
Be it sweet or savoury, chia yoghurt is a great health snack for when you feel like giving into your cravings. Stir in two tablespoons of soaked chia into your yoghurt and top it off with fruits and nuts of your choice.
If you’re tired of chewing on chia seeds, you’ll be surprised to know that they can even be added to evening tea. Simply add one teaspoon of chia seeds while brewing your tea and let it sit for 2 minutes till they are well soaked. At first, the chia seeds may float, but once they sink, your tea is ready to drink
Similarly, you can toss in some chia seeds while preparing lemonades, juices and even iced-teas. Take 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds in 2 cups of water and let them soak for half an hour. You can then squeeze in the juice of one lemon and add some honey for a healthy twist.
If you are looking to make your soups thicker, then adding chia seeds can do the trick. They also work as a great substitute to flour when it comes to thickening stews or gravies. Pre-soak the seeds so that they form a gel and mix it to your soup to add thickness. You can blend them in for a creamy consistency.
Due to their hydrophilic nature, chia seeds can absorb almost ten times of their weight in water. And so, when it comes to making jams, chia seeds are a great alternative to pectin which is quite bitter in taste.
This means your jams will be so much healthier as you won’t require all that extra sugar to balance out the pectin. Apart from this, making chia jams are easier than your traditional jams too.
Since chia seeds are so versatile you can throw them on as toppings on pretty much anything. From deserts and smoothies to savoury items, all you need is a handful of pre-soaked chia seeds to make any recipe a healthier choice.
Add them to your morning breakfast bowls or evening snacks or simply eat them with your favourite fruits.
Last but not least, the easiest way to include chia seeds into your diet is simply by making some chia water.
All you need to make it, is to soak 1/4 cup (40 grams) of chia seeds in 4 cups of water for 20–30 minutes. If you want some flavour, you can add your favourite fruit juice or just squeeze in some lime, orange or lemon.
So try these out and make your own chia recipes!
With all its amazing health benefits and million ways to eat them- chia seeds are the superfoods that beat all other superfoods.