When you start looking at chia seeds, you soon realise that they are really quite astounding.
Measuring all of 2 mm in diameter, these tiny oval seeds are an absolute powerhouse of nutrients. Lots of foods are described as superfoods these days, but chia seeds definitely deserve the name.
What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds come from the mint family and originated in Mexico and the southwestern US.
Here in Australia you can generally buy either white or black chia seeds. So which is best? Well, apart from the colour of their shell, there’s no difference. Both contain exactly the same impressive array of nutrients and both have very little discernible flavour.
Top Tip: If you see a packet of brown chia seeds, don’t buy them. Chia seeds should only be black or white – brown is a sign that they’ve not matured correctly.
Apart from their high nutritional value, the other remarkable thing about these seeds is that they can absorb a huge amount of liquid for their size – more than 10 times their weight. As they take on liquid, they develop a gel-like coating. This gel is a feature of many chia-based drinks and puddings.
Start the day with a dose of chia seeds with our Best Protein Powder Overnight Oats Recipe
Why Should I Eat Chia Seeds?
They are incredibly good for you.
These tiny little seeds are bursting with dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, a generous measure of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids (particularly good news for your heart) and powerful anti-oxidants.
Chia seeds are also a complete protein which means that they contain all 8 of the essential amino acids. This is great for both followers of plant-based diets and those who like to eat food with a high nutrient content.
Overall, chia can play a role in supporting the digestion system, improving heart health and generally keeping your energy levels up and your body healthy.
- Chia seeds are tasteless when mixed in with other foods.
- Chia seeds are tiny, but nutrient-packed, so you don’t need to eat them in large quantities to reap their benefits.
These 2 factors make it surprisingly easy to include a couple of spoons of chia in your diet on a regular basis.
Fed up with the same old breakfast? Shake things up with our Easy Banana Oats Protein Pancakes. And you can add chia if you wish by making a batch of chia gel (see below) and mixing in a spoon or 2.
Chia Seeds – The Nutritional Lowdown
Chia seeds are arguably the king of functional foods and it’s no wonder that so many people view them as a superfood.
Here are some of the important nutrients found in chia:
- Protein – a complete protein providing all 8 essential amino acids.
- Vitamins – B1 (thiamine), B2, B3 (niacin), Folate (B9) and smaller amounts of A, C and E.
- Minerals – Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorous, Zinc and a smaller quantity of Potassium.
- Fibre – both cholesterol lowering soluble fibre and gut health promoting insoluble fibre.
- Rich in (largely unsaturated) fatty acids – Linoleic Acid and Linolenic Acid. Great plant-based source of valuable Omega-3 fatty acids.
If you’d like a more detailed breakdown of the nutritional clout of chia, see here.
Looking for an energy top up and tastes great, but keeps things healthy? Why not make our High Protein Banana Bread Recipe?
How Long Do Chia Seeds Last?
Opinions vary on exactly how long they can be stored for, but if you keep them as they are in an airtight container in a cool, dry place in your pantry they should be fine for at least 2 years.
If you decide to refrigerate them, you may get 3 or 4 years out of them.
And if you freeze them – especially if you vacuum seal them first – they may last for as long as 10 years.
If you are dealing with chia products, rather than the straight seeds, it is a different story.
Chia flour generally has a shelf life of 6-12 months.
And of course, once you have added a liquid to your chia seeds, they ‘go off’ far quicker. If you choose to make a batch of chia gel to add to recipes as you need it, it should last in your fridge for as long as a week, but that’s about it.
Even if you prefer to eat clean, you should have treats. Maybe it’s time to make our Irresistible Chocolate Hazelnut Protein Brownie.
How To Eat Chia Seeds
There are a number of ways to get these nutritious seeds into your diet, but simply eating a spoonful isn’t one of them.
As chia seeds absorb any liquid around them, if you pop a dry spoonful of them directly into your mouth, it won’t be a pleasant experience. The seeds will suck up the saliva in your mouth as they expand. And if you manage to swallow them before that happens, you may feel as if some have lodged in your throat and are swelling there!
There are far more pleasant options:
- Add Chia Seeds Directly To Foods – Chia seeds go really well in anything that already has a bit of liquid in it for them to absorb.
- Obvious examples include smoothies and shakes – see our Best Protein Shake Recipe for some inspiration – breakfast cereals and takes on porridge. You can mix them in with flours in cakes and breads and hide a serve or 2 in treats like protein balls – take a look at our Best Bliss Balls Recipe for some help.
- And don’t forget chia seed puddings. Health food stores and trendy cafes in every town in Australia offer some take on these versatile grains of goodness, soaked in juice or milk or water and flavoured with fruits or nuts or chocolate – or all 3!
Have you got a decent healthy dessert recipe up your sleeve? Perhaps our Luscious Reindeer Jaffa Protein Mousse will fit the bill.
- Make Chia Gel – If you are concerned that your chia seeds might suck all the liquid out of whatever you put them into, an easy way of incorporating them into a dish is to make a gel from them first.
- Try adding 1 cup of water to 1/4 cup seeds and let it sit for 30 minutes. You should get a jelly-like gloop with chia seeds suspended in it.
- Add it to puddings, smoothies and delicious breakfasts like our Eat the Rainbow with 4 Yummy Protein Bowls suggestions.
Chia Seeds – Nutritional Gold
Chia seeds really are amazing. So tiny and yet so nutritious and almost endlessly versatile.
Isn’t it time you started eating more of them?