11 Ways to Enjoy Chia Seeds

Have you tried this nutritional powerhouse?

(HealthCastle.com).  My mother-in-law first introduced me to chia seeds when she sprinkled it on her morning yogurt for extra omega-3 fatty acids.  At first, all I could think about was the infamous terra-cotta chia pets from the 1980’s (Cha-cha-cha chia), made from chia sprouts.  However, I am one to experiment with food so I tried a sprinkle.  I am hooked.  

Chia seeds have been around since 3500 BC and were a staple food used in the Aztec and Mayan diets.  Also known as salvia hispanica, the name “chia” comes from the Mayan word for “strength”.  Chia seeds were used for food, oil and medicines in pre-Columbian times.   Fast forward to 2013, these seeds are growing in popularity.

Nutritional Profile

Seeds are the embryo of a plant.  While small, these seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch!  Chia seeds are a source of antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, fiber and other nutrients.  In one ounce of chia (3 tbsp), there are ~159 kcal, 5 grams protein, 10 grams total fat, and 12.3 grams fiber!  That is impressive!

Chia seeds are rich in essential fatty acids, in particular, omega-3 fatty acids (which is different than the marine omega-3 fatty acids), and is one reason chia seeds are being sought after.  Over 50% of chia's fat content is from ALA. This is impressive! Chia seeds are a whole grain, though it is referred to as an oilseed since it has a similar nutrient composition as flaxseed. 

Using Chia: 

Chia has an affinity for water.  When mixed with water, chia absorbs 9-12 times its weight, forming chia gel.  This can be used as a thickening agent, or as an egg substitute.  Did you know that you can use chia seeds to replace an egg? 

To replace one egg, mix together:

  • 1 tbsp of chia seeds + 3 tbsp water.  
  • Let the mixture sit for ~15 minutes. 
  • ¼ cup of the chia mixture = 1 egg. 

Preliminary research has shown that chia may help with diabetes and systolic blood pressure.  Some research suggests that high dietary intake of ALA (the omega-3 fatty acid found in chia described above) may increase the risk for prostate cancer.   Men with prostate cancer or with a high risk for prostate cancer should avoid consuming large amounts of chia.  According to the Natural Medicines Database, there is insufficient information available about the use of chia in pregnancy and so its use is not recommended.   

11 Ways to Enjoy Chia Seeds

Chia has a mild nutty flavor.  While you can grind chia into a fine powder, you can actually use it in its whole seed form and still absorb it.  Incorporate chia in your diet by sprinkling and topping your food with chia seeds.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Cold, ready-to-eat cereal
  • Hot cereal like oatmeal or cream of wheat
  • Yogurt
  • Muesli
  • Smoothies and shakes
  • Pancakes or waffles
  • Muffins  
  • Granola
  • Cookies
  • Soups
  • Salad dressing

While chia is healthful, eating ~1 to 2 tbsp a day is considered a healthy amount, provided it fits with your overall lifestyle balance.  

Written by Calgary Dietitian Kristyn Hall MSc, RD, Dietitian and Director, HealthCastle Calgary.

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