Chia seeds are harvested from a flowering plant in the mint family known as Salvia hispanica, which is native to parts of Mexico and Guatemala. They are small round seeds and are usually black, brown, and white in color. When mixed with liquid, a gel forms around the seed which is what gives chia beverages their distinctive texture. Chia seeds can actually absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid which makes them useful in keeping baked goods moist. Edible chia seeds are closely related to the chia plants made popular by chia pets, but they are not exactly the same seed.
The main health claims for chia seeds are that they are high in omega 3 fatty acids, high in fiber, and can help with weight loss. One ounce of dried chia seeds, or about 2.5 tablespoons, provides 140 calories, 5 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber, 12 grams of carbohydrate, and 9 grams of fat of which 8 grams are heart-healthy fats. Chia also provides a similar amount of omega 3 fatty acids as ground flax seed in the form of alpha linolenic acid, or ALA.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, which has many benefits including improving heart health and reducing cholesterol levels, promoting intestinal health, and promoting weight loss. Fiber takes longer to digest and makes you feel satisfied longer, which is how it can help with weight loss and even decrease your risk of developing diabetes or heart disease. Eating a diet rich in fiber is also shown to be protective against colorectal cancer.
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Chia seeds have a very mild flavor and can easily be added to many foods you already enjoy. Try adding whole or ground chia seeds to smoothies, juices, milk, yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, or a granola bar recipe. Try them sprinkled on salads or cereal, baked into muffins or breads, or made into chia pudding using the recipe below! Grocery stores in the area stock a variety of chia products including chia pudding, chia kombucha, granola with chia seeds, and more! Each of the recipes below provide about a third of your recommended daily amount of fiber
Overnight Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Add all ingredients except chia seeds to a mixing bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. Mix in chia seeds until well combined. Let rest covered in the refrigerator overnight. Can be stored covered in the fridge for 2-3 days. Serve chilled with desired toppings, such as fruit or a dollop of whipped topping.
Per serving: Calories 165, Fat 8 g, Saturated fat 1 g, Sodium 75 mg, Carbohydrate 25 g, Fiber 9 g, Protein 4 g
Carrot Cake Overnight Oats
Mayo Clinic Staff; Serves 1
Dietitian’s Tip: This oatmeal is loaded with calcium, protein, fiber, and vitamin A. Chia seeds are high in heart-healthy soluble fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. Both the oats and the chia seeds provide soluble fiber which helps lower cholesterol levels. The small amount of carrot in this recipe provides 100% of your vitamin A for the day and is good for your eyes and immune system.
⅓ cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
¼ cup finely grated carrot
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pecans, chopped
1 tablespoon shredded coconut, unsweetened
Directions: Mix all ingredients, except for the pecans and coconut, in a bowl or mason jar. Top with pecans and coconuts and cover with lid. Refrigerate overnight and eat chilled.
Per serving: Calories 395, Fat 12 g, Saturated fat 3 g, Sodium 135 mg, Carbohydrate 55 g, Fiber 9 g, Protein 21 g, Vitamin A 100% daily value, Calcium 36% daily value
Romi London is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System.