Romi Londre, RDN, CD
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Chia seeds are small round seeds, and can be black, brown and white in color. They are harvested from a flowering plant in the mint family known as Salvia hispanica. It's native to parts of Mexico and Guatemala. Edible chia seeds are closely related to the chia plants made popular by Chia Pets, but they are not the same seed.
A gel forms around the chia seed when mixed with liquid, which gives chia beverages their distinctive texture. Chia seeds can absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid, which makes them useful in keeping baked goods moist.
Chia seed benefits
Chia seeds have many nutritional benefits. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Chia provides a similar amount of omega-3 fatty acids as ground flaxseed in the form of alpha linolenic acid, or ALA. They can help with weight loss.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, which can improve heart health, reduce cholesterol levels and promote intestinal health. Fiber takes longer to digest and makes you feel satisfied longer, which is how it can help with weight loss and decrease your risk of developing diabetes or heart disease. Eating a diet rich in fiber also is shown to protect against colorectal cancer.
One serving of dried chia seeds is about 2.5 tablespoons. This has 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.
Using chia seeds
Grocery stores stock a variety of chia seeds. Products that contain chia seeds include chia pudding, chia kombucha and granola with chia seeds.
Chia seeds have a 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.
These recipes provide about one-third of your recommended daily amount of fiber:
Overnight chocolate chia seed pudding
1½ cups almond milk
⅓ cup chia seeds
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
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. The pudding can be stored covered in the refrigerator for 2–3 days. Serve chilled with desired toppings, such as fruit or a dollop of whipped topping.
Nutrition information per serving: 165 calories, 8 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 75 milligrams sodium, 25 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fiber, 4 grams protein
Carrot cake overnight oats
This oatmeal is loaded with calcium, protein, fiber and vitamin A. The amount of carrot in this recipe provides 100% of your vitamin A for the day, which is good for your eyes and immune system.
½ cup rolled oats
⅔ cup skim milk
⅓ cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
¼ cup finely grated carrot
1½ teaspoons chia seeds
2 teaspoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pecans, chopped
1 tablespoon shredded coconut, unsweetened
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.
Nutrition information per serving: 395 calories, 12 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 135 milligrams sodium, 55 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fiber, 21 grams protein, 100% daily value vitamin D, 36% daily value calcium