By Nutritionist and GoodnessMe Box Health Editor Melissa Fine.
Chia seeds are one of the few health foods that haven’t gone out of fashion, I remember first hearing about them when I started studying Nutrition in 2010 - when we were all still calling them ‘chai’ seeds.
Fast-forward to 2015 and we now know that they’re pronounced ‘chee-ya’. Bags full of them continue to fill health food store and supermarket shelves, and chia pudding is appearing on more and more café menus (and not just the health conscious ones).
And for good reason - this South American seed may be tiny, but it’s super versatile and its nutritional profile is huge.
Here’s the lowdown on chia for all the sceptics and devotees out there.
What are Chia Seeds?
Similar in size to sesame or poppy seeds, you can get black or white varieties of chia, which nutritionally and taste-wise are very similar - so the colour you choose comes down more to personal preference. I like to use white chia in things like porridge or yoghurt and black chia when I want the seeds to be more visible (e.g. sprinkled on top of homemade bread or a salad).
What do Chia Seeds Taste Like?
To be honest, chia seeds taste like nothing – this tends to be a good thing, as you can add chia to pretty much any dish without changing its flavour.
Chia seeds are more about texture – they have a nice crunch if you eat them as they are. Or if you soak them or add them to liquid, they quickly develop a jelly-like texture that reminds me of tapioca pudding – this explains the chia pudding craze.
What are the Health Benefits of Chia Seeds?
These babies are a good plant source of:
- Omega-3: An essential fat with anti-inflammatory properties. We need to obtain omega-3 from our diets, as our bodies aren’t able to produce it independently. Oily fish is the best source of omega-3, so if you aren’t a salmon or sardine eater, chia seeds are the next best thing and even if you are a fan of fish, it’s not something we tend to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chia on the other hand can be incorporated into any meal.
- Dietary Fibre: Just one tablespoon of chia seeds gives you more than 5.5g of fibre – that’s a lot! Not only will this fill you up (fibre expands in the stomach and also is slow to break down, providing a steady energy supply), it can also help keep you regular when consumed with adequate water, helping move things along the digestive tract and adding bulk to the stool.
- Protein: With one tablespoon of chia providing a little over 3g of protein, chia seeds are an easy way to bump up the protein content of your meal, helping stabilise your blood sugar, so you’re less likely to get a dip in energy mid-morning. See if adding chia to your morning smoothie, muesli, yoghurt or avocado toast keeps you fuller for longer.
How Can I Use Chia Seeds?
If you’re new to chia, start with 1-2 teaspoons and see how you go with the fibre content (you might find that this much is enough, or that you’d like to build up to 1 tablespoon). It’s also worth following a serve of chia with a glass or two of water, which will help move it along the digestive tract.
- Stir through yoghurt, porridge or bircher muesli.
- Add to a smoothie to make it nice and thick (no need for ice-cream!)
- Sprinkle on top of a salad or stir-fry – for some extra crunch and nutrients, this doubles as a pretty garnish.
- For a natural thickening agent, stir chia seeds through homemade sauces or casseroles.
- As a vegan egg replacer: Chia is ideal for vegan baking because it serves as a binding agent. To make a chia ‘egg’, combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water, allow to sit for a few minutes until the mixture has a gel-like consistency.
- Make chia pudding: For one serve, mix 3 tablespoons of white chia seeds with 1 cup of almond milk or coconut water, along with a pinch of each cinnamon and vanilla powder (or a drop of good quality vanilla essence). You can also add 1/2 -1 teaspoon of rice malt or coconut syrup to taste, for a little extra sweetness. Stir until everything is evenly combined and then cover and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours before digging in.
…We’re also loving the no-fuss range of Chia Puddings from Morlife at GoodnessMe Box HQ– easy to make in the office for a mid-morning or afternoon snack and available in three delicious flavours like creamy Coconut Cacao – simply add water and voilà!
Morlife Chia Puddings: Available in Coconut Cacao, Coconut Mango and Spiced Apple. A good source of fibre and gluten free. Find out more at www.morlife.com