Remember that catchy jingle associated with those little seeds, the ones made famous for sprouting hair on the cute little “Chia Pet” pottery figurines—all the rage in the 80’s? Although the Chia Pet is a cute novelty, what you may not know is that this diminutive seed is an absolute nutrition powerhouse. Native to Mexico and Guatemala, and revered by the Aztecs as an energy power food, this small seed is derived from the desert plant called Salvia hispanica.
What’s so exciting about this seed? First of all, it tastes great; it has kind of a sweet, nutty flavor. They look just like poppy seeds but are far superior, nutrition-wise. In fact, Chia seeds have a truly remarkable nutrient profile that rivals flaxseeds (except you don’t need to grind these seeds up). Three components make Chia seeds truly stand out among the crowd:
Omega-3 ALA ~ Chia seeds are a virtual storage vat for the super-heart-healthy anti-inflammatory fat—omega-3 ALA. Chia seeds beat out the former ALA plant star: flaxseeds in terms of their ALA content. (Chia seeds are more stable than flaxseeds, so you don’t have to worry about them going rancid and no need to grind them up first either.)
Fiber ~ Packed in this tiny seed is an extraordinary amount of fiber—both insoluble and soluble. The insoluble kind helps keep things moving in your digestive tract whereas the soluble fiber is helpful for lowering bad cholesterol and regulating blood sugar. What’s more, Chia seeds are high in protein (a complete protein at that): fiber and protein are two nutrients that are very helpful for weight management. (The soluble fiber in Chia seeds absorbs water bulks up in your intestine so you feel fuller.)
Vitamins and minerals ~ The seeds are literally bursting with vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, manganese, copper, zinc and niacin to name but a few.
Nutrition~ Here’s the breakdown of this nutritional wonder seed: 1 ounce has 138 calories, 9 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbs, and 4.7 grams of protein.
Here are some tips for getting this incredible superfood into your diet:
Sprinkle on yogurt
Sprinkle on cereal or mix in your oatmeal
Sprinkle on salads
Sprinkle on top of whole grain toast (spread with peanut butter and bananas)
Add to baked goods like muffins, pancake mix or breads (replace ½ cup flour with ½ cup ground chia flour)
Mix one tablespoon chia seeds with three tablespoons water. Let mixture sit for 15 minutes then use as an egg substitute in baked goods.
One of my favorite recipes using chia seeds is my superbly heart healthy raspberry chia seed pudding: 1 cup light vanilla soy milk, ½ cup raspberries, ¼ cup chia seeds. Mix raspberries with milk in blender until smooth. Pour into Tupperware container, add chia seeds, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight, allowing the chia seeds to gel creating a pudding consistency. (You can add a sweetener of choice, if desired.) Enjoy!