Chia seeds. They seem to be everywhere lately. Sprinkled on salads, blended into smoothies or made into porridge, there’s no escaping them at the minute. But what are they? We’re going to delve into the world of this new super ingredient to find out just what the deal is with chia seeds.
What are they?
Chia seeds come from the plant “salvia hispanica”, which is native to Mexico and Guatemala. The oval shaped seeds are around 1mm in diameter and are often a mottled black, brown, grey or white colour. The seeds are very popular in some southern American countries such as Bolivia, Paraguay and Mexico as a food source. The seeds absorb up to 12 times their weight when soaked in liquid!
Anyone who was around in the 90s may recognise the name from “Chia Pets”. Yeah, those things are super foods now!
What are the benefits?
Chia seeds are said to be packed with a load of good things, including vitamin B, fibre, calcium, proteins, fats and potassium as well as being high in omega 3 fats, often found in oily fish.
It’s often said that chia seeds can aid with weight loss. The theory is that because of its high liquid absorbency the chia seeds expand when in the stomach and give a feeling of being full. This full feeling may lead to eating less and in time lead to weight loss (more on that further down).
How can I use them?
Chia seeds are surprisingly versatile. They can be used either by themselves or as an addition to other healthy foods. One of the most straightforward ways to use chia seeds is to make a “chia pudding”, you take around 3 tablespoons of chia seeds, add liquid (coconut water, almond milk and teas- of course- are a popular choice) along with any flavourings and leave in the fridge overnight. As the chia seeds absorb some of the liquid they transform into a sort of pudding you can eat raw, quite often for breakfast. You can see our recipe for a chai chia breakfast here.
Chia seeds can also be simply added to salads for a little crunch, smoothies for added fibre or to rice dishes for texture.
If you’re trying to be a little healthier with baking (or make substitutions due to allergies) chia seeds can provide a substitute for eggs or butter when mixed with water.
Is it worth it?
Yes and no.
First of all going back to the weight loss theory. Though the logic is sound this has actually only been studied a couple of times and with inconclusive results. It makes much more sense to eat healthy and exercise to see results.
Chia seeds aren’t bad at all, they’re packed full of vitamins and healthy fats. However, all of the good things found in chia seeds can be found in other foods and they can actually be absorbed much more successfully from these other sources. For example, omega 3 is found in chia seeds, but the body isn’t great at absorbing this from plant sources. It would be much more beneficial to get your omega 3 from oily fish.
The bottom line is, there’s nothing wrong with chia seeds, but they shouldn’t be used as a source of all of your vitamins and nutrients. Add them to your food, or eat them instead of a sugary breakfast definitely but don’t dismiss other important parts of your diet in favour of them. Enjoy them as part of a healthy balanced diet.
Let us know your thoughts on chia seeds and any healthy chia recipes you enjoy!