Chia seeds -Tiny but Mighty & 10 Ways to Use Them in Snacks and Cooking

 

 

by Christine Hunt

 

When I was younger I remember seeing television ads for chia pets – usually in the form of a clay sheep with grooves on its back into which you pressed chia seeds.  The clay pet was filled with water and within days it sprouted hundreds of tiny plants which you could then harvest and put on salads, sandwiches or whatever.

 

Chia pets

These days a quick search on the internet can reveal any form of chia pet imaginable – cats, pigs, Mickey Mouse, Sponge Bob, Gnomes, even Kung Fu Panda.  And they are collectable!

 

I don’t remember the advertisers of years gone by ever talking about the health benefits of these little seeds.  They were just supposed to be the greatest gift one could give, or get.  I was never so fortunate.

 

More recently I’ve heard more about the health benefits of chia seeds and I dutifully bought the little powerhouses to have in my “healthy food arsenal”.  The problem is I only knew how to use them in smoothies – and even then had to be careful of how much and when I added them because they would gel up so quickly that my blender would, well, stop blending.

 

So, I decided to set out on a quest to learn more about these tiny seeds AND a variety of ways of how to use them.  Which is what I am sharing with you today.

 

Salvia hispanica, the botaical name for Chia seed is an ancient energy food originally used by the Aztecs, Mayans and Incans.  Chia means “strength” in the Mayan language and because runners and warriors would use them for sustenance during battle or while running long distances, they were known as the “Indian Running Food”.

 

Chia seeds and ruler.Chia seeds are even tinier than sesame seeds.  Commercially they can usually be found in white or black – which is handy based on whether you want the color to blend into your recipe undetected or make a poppy seed like statement.

 

 They can absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked.  It usually takes 15-30 minutes for this to happen, with a quick stir halfway through, but the mucilaginous gel-like coating is what makes chia seeds so unique and versatile.  More about that later.

 

For those of you who like to make their culinary decisions based on scientific findings, here are the nutritional facts of one ounce (28 g) of chia seeds:

 

Calories:                              137

Calories from fat:             72 (essential fatty acids, alpha-linolenic and linoleic acids)

Total fat:                              9g / 13%

Saturated fat:                    1g / 4%

Cholesterol:                       0 / 0%

Sodium:                               5mg / 0%

Total Carbohydrate:        12g / 4%

Dietary Fiber:                     11g / 2%

Protein:                                4g

Calcium:                               18%

Phosphorus:                      27%

Potassium:                          1%

Zinc:                                       7%

Copper:                                3%

Manganese:                       30%

 

They also contain sulphur, iron, iodine, magnesium, niacin, thiamine, silicon and anti-oxidants.  So much for the boring stuff.  The reasons to get excited about chia seeds is how all of the above properties add up to health benefits for you!

 

Because they contain water soluble fiber a little goes a long way to fill you up and suppress your appetite which is great for weight loss and keeping blood sugar levels stable.  Much like vegetable fiber it also promotes intestinal regularity.

 

chia seeds in gelThe gelatinous quality of chia seeds serves many functions.  Researchers believe that the gelatin creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and digestive enzymes and slows the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar.  This slowing helps with endurance and metabolic rates which helps athletes and others who need a consistent source of energy for long, working, school days or moms who just need to keep up with their daily demands.

 

Those who want to lose weight will love the appetite suppressant qualities and how it can be a food replacement item in place of fats, eggs, breadcrumbs and flour in recipes.

 

Below are 10 ideas as to how you can incorporate chia seeds into your meals.

 

 1.  Egg Substitute – for 1 egg

Use 1 Tbs finely ground chia seeds

3 Tbs water

Mix thoroughly together and let sit until it is the right consistency.

(Do not use in place of eggs for an egg dish such as an omelet.)

For ground chia seeds, you can grind the seeds in a blender, food processor or coffee grinder or buy them already ground.

 

 2.  Healthy Pudding

2 c.         coconut or other milk

1/2 c.     chia seeds

2-3 Tbs  cocoa powder (to taste, optional)

1 tsp      vanilla (to taste)

1 Tbs      sweetener of choice – try honey

Put in a blender and blend until smooth.  It will thicken in about 10 minutes in the refrigerator.

The flavor variations are as endless as your imagination.  Substitute fresh or frozen fruit for cocoa/vanilla.  Use fruit juice instead of milk.

 

 3.  Thickening Soup or Gravies

If your gravies end up lumpy when corn flour or other thickening agents are used, try adding a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds (powdered or not) at a time until the desired thickness is reached.   Be sure to wait a bit until the seeds have an opportunity to gel.  More fluids may need to be added.

 

 4.  Use in Place of Breadcrumbs

If you make meatballs, meatloaf, other ground meat recipes that require breadcrumbs to hold it all together, add a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds per pound of meat in place of the breadcrumbs.   It is gluten-free!

 

 5.  Sprouts for Salads

You may most be familiar with alfalfa sprouts but chia seeds can be sprouted too.  You may purchase sprouting jars at some health food stores but they are not needed.  Just soak some chia seeds in a jar with some water overnight, (cover them with about 1/2 to 1 inch of water) then drain the water off.   About every 12 hours rinse with fresh water and drain.  In a few days they will begin to sprout and you can use them with salads, in place of lettuce on sandwiches, as soup toppings or add as a green to a smoothie.

 

 6.  Add to SmoothiesChia smoothie

Make your favorite smoothie and add a teaspoon to a tablespoon  of chia seeds per cup of ingredients.  How much you add will depend on how much liquid is used.  Adding the chia seeds cuts down on the amount of fruit/vegetables needed without losing the anti-oxidant, essential fatty acid and nutritional value of other foods.

 

 7.  Use as a Flour Substitute in Breads, Muffins and Cookies

Substitute 1/4 the amount of flour in any bread, muffin or cookie recipe.  The chia gel bulks up the food and helps to lessen the amount consumed.

 

 8.  Halve the Fat in Recipes

If a recipe calls for 4 Tablespoons of butter, use 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of chia gel then bake as you normally would.  The chia seeds hold onto moisture ensuring your baked goods don’t dry out and stay moist.  The same goes for oils.  Use 1/2 the recommended amount in the oil, and half in chia gel.

 

Chia Gel Recipe:

1 Tbs      dry chia seeds

9 Tbs      water (or other liquid)

 

Stir together the chia and water with a fork to prevent clumping.  Let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes.  The result is a thick gelatin with the seeds suspended inside.  It will slide but not pour.

 

 9.  Use as a Topper Chia topper on salads

Sprinkle chia seeds on top of salads, ice cream, in stir frys,  salad dressings or yogurt.  Add to trail mix or cereals.   Or just eat a small handful right out of the package for a quick, filling snack.

 

 10.  Make an Energy Gel/Drink

If Gatorade or a popular energy drink is what you usually reach for (or feed your kids) try making energy gels instead.  Mix 2 Tablespoons of chia seeds into a cup of coconut water (or plain water flavored with citrus or natural fruit juice).  Let sit for about ten minutes and serve up with a spoon.  It is more hydrating and provides more energy than Gatorade and you avoid the fake colors, flavors, and GMO corn syrup sweeteners.  Just add more water to make it a beverage.

 

I would love to hear about your experiences with chia seeds relating to any of the ideas mentioned above or how you have used them differently.  Please share your comments below.

Trackbacks

  1. […] blender.   Sometimes I add a scoop of a protein powder, Maca powder, **ground flax seeds and/or chia seeds to thicken it up.  If you are using refrigerated or room temperature produce and want it colder […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: