Chia seeds are tiny powerhouses of nutrients, loaded with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and various vitamins and minerals. They offer versatile culinary possibilities and are a popular choice for boosting overall health.
- 1 What are Chia Seeds? Where do they come from?
- 2 Nutritional values of Chia Seeds
- 3 Benefits of Chia Seeds
- 4 Chia seeds for weight loss
- 5 How many chia seeds to eat per day and when
- 6 Chia seeds: how to eat them
- 7 Chia Seed Gel
- 8 Chia Seed Butter
- 9 Recipes with chia seeds
- 10 Where to buy chia seeds
- 11 Chia seeds: contraindications
- 12 More on this topic
What are Chia Seeds? Where do they come from?
Chia seeds come from the Salvia Hispanica plant, originally from Mexico and part of the Labiatae family. These seeds are rich in calcium, vitamin C, and omega-3, which support digestive health and the nervous system’s proper function.
Chia seeds are small, flat, oval seeds with a shiny, smooth texture. They can be white, brown, or black in color. They are produced by a Mexican plant, a plant Linnaeus believed to be of European origin but later discovered its Mexican origin.
Historically, chia seeds were a fundamental part of Aztec and Mayan diets, believed to provide strength to warriors for battles. In fact, the word “chia” in Spanish means ‘strength.’ They were also used in pre-Columbian times as offerings to Mayan deities.
Chia seeds are widely used in natural cuisine due to their versatility, taste, and health benefits, making them a superfood. They are beneficial for low-calorie diets, as they promote a feeling of fullness, reduce fat absorption, and help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Regarding their calorie content, two tablespoons or 28 grams contain approximately 140 calories, so 100 grams of chia seeds have 486 calories, which is relatively high.
Nutritional values of Chia Seeds
In terms of nutritional values, about 100 grams of chia seeds contain:
- 15.6 grams of protein
- 35 grams of fiber
- 43.8 grams of carbohydrates
- 30.8 grams of fats, including 22 grams of unsaturated fats
They are rich in essential minerals, providing 18% of the daily recommended intake of calcium, zinc, and copper.
Chia seeds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, containing eight times more than salmon.
They are considered a complete protein source, containing all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. These seeds are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, benefiting heart and eye health and supporting brain function.
Chia seeds also provide valuable minerals like calcium, selenium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and potassium. To fully enjoy these benefits, it’s recommended to consume them raw, similar to other oil seeds like almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
Benefits of Chia Seeds
These seeds are renowned for their numerous health benefits. Here are some of the key advantages of including chia seeds in your diet:
- Rich in Nutrients: Chia seeds are packed with essential nutrients. They are a good source of dietary fiber, protein, healthy fats (especially omega-3 fatty acids), vitamins (like vitamin B, vitamin C), and minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus).
- High in Antioxidants: These seeds contain antioxidants that help protect the body from free radical damage, reducing the risk of chronic diseases and supporting overall health.
- Weight Management: Due to their high fiber content, chia seeds can promote a feeling of fullness, which can help control appetite and aid in weight management. When mixed with liquid, they expand and form a gel-like substance that can help curb hunger.
- Digestive Health: The fiber in chia seeds supports digestive health by preventing constipation and promoting regular bowel movements. It also aids in the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
- Heart Health: Chia seeds are known for their heart-healthy benefits. They can help lower blood pressure and reduce levels of bad cholesterol, thus lowering the risk of heart disease.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Chia seeds are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health, reducing inflammation, and maintaining cardiovascular health.
- Blood Sugar Regulation: They can help regulate blood sugar levels, making them a good choice for individuals with diabetes or those looking to stabilize their energy levels.
- Bone Health: They are a rich source of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, which are important minerals for maintaining strong and healthy bones.
- Skin Health: The antioxidants and healthy fats in chia seeds can contribute to healthy and glowing skin.
- Hydration: These seeds can absorb many times their weight in water and help maintain proper hydration, making them useful for athletes and active individuals.
Chia seeds are versatile and can be easily added to various dishes. They can be sprinkled on yogurt, oatmeal, or salads, used in smoothies, or even used as an egg substitute in baking recipes.
While chia seeds offer numerous health benefits, it’s important to consume them in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
Finally, it is important to know that these seeds do not contain gluten and their consumption is also recommended for those suffering from celiac disease or other food intolerances.
Chia seeds for weight loss
Chia seeds can help with weight loss, because they:
- Make you feel full: Chia seeds can absorb a lot of liquid (up to 9 times their weight) and turn into a gel in your stomach, making you feel full. Typically, 135 ml of water for every 15 grams of seeds is needed, and you can also use milk. They also help with digestion.
- Are rich in fiber: Chia seeds contain a lot of fiber, which is good for you. Adults need about 30 grams of fiber each day, which is about a tablespoon of chia seeds.
- Are full of protein: Chia seeds have more protein than many other grains, making them a complete food.
- Reduce fat absorption: They slow down how your body breaks down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, which helps control your metabolism and keeps insulin levels in check. This can help you eat fewer calories and avoid snacking between meals.
If you’re wondering how many chia seeds to eat each day and when to eat them, it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional or a nutritionist for personalized advice.
How many chia seeds to eat per day and when
The recommended daily dose is 15 g which corresponds to 2 level spoons and provides approximately 67 kcal. You can incorporate them in your routine in different moments of your day:
- At breakfast. Perfect for starting the day well, they provide the body with many micronutrients. The fatty acids, the high protein content and the satiating properties allow you to get to lunch without the need for snacks. The satiety effect surpasses classic whole grain breakfast cereals, such as oat flakes and muesli. They can be served in different ways: instead of normal muesli, as porridge, as overnight oats, or simply mixed with fruit.
- For lunch and dinner. They enhance any savory dish. Simply sprinkle 2 tablespoons on your salad or soup. The flavor is not pronounced. However, be careful: Chia’s swelling properties can significantly thicken soups and sauces.
- As a snack or dessert. They are ideal for spoon desserts. They can be mixed with fruit, cocoa, cinnamon, milk or yogurt.
Chia seeds: how to eat them
You can eat both chia seeds and chia flour. They’re natural ingredients you can add to your savory or sweet recipes. Using chia flour in a recipe can reduce the amount of regular flour by up to 20%, which means fewer calories and sugars.
Here are some ways to use them in cooking:
- Mix them with yogurt, milk, cereals, or muesli for breakfast.
- Add them to soft doughs like bread, focaccia, or savory pies.
- Include them in recipes for lentil, chickpea, or spinach meatballs.
- Use them to thicken soups, sauces, desserts, or smoothies, acting like a gelatin or thickener.
- You can eat them raw, about a tablespoon a day with a glass of water, as a natural supplement.
- Make an infusion with them after lightly toasting them.
Remember, when you put chia seeds in contact with liquids, they become like a gel. So, let them sit and absorb the liquid, whether it’s milk or water, to thicken it and make it creamy.
And it is precisely this characteristic that makes them a very versatile ingredient that can be incorporated into different recipes or simply into smoothies and energy drinks.
It is recommended to consume the seeds raw, as temperatures above 42° C / 100° F destroy many vitamins and micronutrients.
Chia Seed Gel
Chia seeds contain a substance called mucilage, which is a type of complex sugar that can dissolve in water but can’t be digested by humans. When you mix them with water, they turn into a jelly-like substance, almost like a sponge that can soak up a lot of water and expand in size.
This gel has a mild laxative effect and can be used as a binding agent in both sweet and savory recipes, as a substitute for eggs. Other substances, like mallow mucilage, psyllium seeds, and flax seeds, can also do this.
You can use this gel as a great thickener in recipes instead of using butter, eggs, or flour. Just two tablespoons of it can replace one egg. To make it, all you need to do is mix:
- 1 part chia seeds
- 9 parts water
Here’s how to prepare it:
- Mix the seeds and water, and let them sit for 15 minutes.
- Then repeat the process once more to make it smooth and uniform. Store your gel in the refrigerator.
Chia Seed Butter
If you want to make chia seed butter, you’ll need:
- 100g of chia gel
- 100g of softened vegetable or regular butter
Here’s how to do it: Carefully blend the gel until it’s smooth and free of lumps, then add the softened butter and continue blending for a few minutes. You can store the mixture in the refrigerator, just like you would with regular butter.
Recipes with chia seeds
We offer you some sweet and savory recipes, rather easy and tasty, to make the best use of this pseudo-cereal.
Chia seed and berry pudding
Here is the recipe for an excellent berry pudding. The advice is to prepare it in the evening for the next morning. The seeds, once placed in milk, begin to absorb it. They swell and thicken it, making it creamy.
- 4 tablespoons of chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons of wildflower honey
- 125 ml of cow’s or vegetable milk
- 1 bowl of mixed berries and strawberries
- 2 tablespoons of muesli or cornflakes
- Pour the chia, milk and honey into a bowl. Put everything back in the fridge. The chia seeds should be put in the milk a little first. At least half an hour, up to 4 hours, in the fridge, to give it time to become creamy.
- Then place everything in the fridge. You can prepare the night before and leave it overnight. When preparing the pudding, wash and cut the strawberries into slices, wash the berries.
- Keep aside. Pour a few spoonfuls of muesli or cornflakes into a glass, then half the fruit. Pour over the milk with the chia, which will have become a cream. Add the remaining fruit. Sprinkle again with more granola.
Ready to eat pudding?
Polenta with chia seeds
Ingredients for 2 people:
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 2 cups unsweetened milk
- 2 teaspoons of chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon chia butter
- 1 sachet of yeast
- Prepare a kind of polenta by blending the corn flour, milk and seeds directly in the pan. Bring to the boil over high heat and when the mixture begins to thicken, lower the heat and continue stirring thoroughly.
- Once you have reached the right creaminess, remove from the heat and add the butter and nutritional yeast. Transfer the polenta into a plumcake mold and cook in the oven at 200° for approximately 40 minutes.
Chia fruit and hazelnut granola
We have already seen the recipes for making muesli at home previously, but this variant which contains chia is particularly energetic. Here is what you need.
- 300g of oat flakes
- 120g of coarsely chopped hazelnuts
- 100g of coconut flour
- 60g of sunflower seeds
- 30g of chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/3 cup cup hot honey
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 100g of sultanas
- 100g of diced dried apricots
- Combine all the ingredients except the sultanas and apricots in a fairly large bowl and mix well. Spread the mixture on an oiled baking tray and cook at 160° for about 25 minutes, until the muesli becomes crunchy.
- During cooking, be sure to stir often. Remove from the oven and add the grapes and apricots, mixing once more. Your brittle is ready to taste!
Brown rice with chia seeds and vegetables
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 2 cups brown rice
- 1/2 green pepper
- 1 yellow pepper
- 8 tablespoons of chia seeds
- tofu (optional)
- Toast the seeds in a pan, being careful not to burn them.
- Separately, toast the peppers cut into pieces and cook the rice in salted water. Once cooked, the ingredients will need to be mixed together in a wok.
- Sauté for a few minutes and garnish with parsley and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. If you like, you can add diced tofu.
Where to buy chia seeds
These seeds can be purchased in herbalist’s shops, fair trade shops or those specializing in organic and natural products. In many cases, they can also be purchased online.
Chia seeds: contraindications
Although there are no particular contraindications to the use of chia, it must be said that it is advisable not to abuse it, a rule which also applies to almost all foods.
However, particular attention must be paid by those who take drugs for arterial hypertension: chia in fact has the effect of reducing general arterial tension, with the result of enhancing the effects of drugs for hypertension and experiencing unexpected hypotension phenomena.
Other subjects who must be careful when taking this food are diabetics. These seeds are able to reduce blood glucose levels and, although this is good for diabetics, combined with the effect of insulin or drugs, it can lead the patient into hypoglycemic situations.
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