Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New Obsession... Chia seeds

The Newest “Superfood”?
Chia seeds seem to be one of the newest fads to sprout into health food and grocery stores. When I put a package of them in my mom’s Christmas stocking she pulled them out and looked at me like I had gone off the deep end. She was familiar with the name (and the old chia- grow-on-the-counter-pets) but didn’t have a clue about how to use them in her diet.

Chia seeds are sold on their own, but are also being incorporated into cereals, granola bars, crackers, and juices. Their slightly nutty flavor goes well with many foods and textures. Often touted for their cardiovascular benefits, they are worth looking into! They are not a new phenomena at all, in fact they are an ancient seed prized by the Aztecs, "Chia" meaning strength. It is said that runners and warriors used chia seeds for food and energy when they were unable to carry other food sources.

Nutritional Benefits:
Chia seeds are the greatest source of plant Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Alpha-Linolenic Acids or ALA). That doesn’t mean they can replace the fish in your diet (ALA must be converted so is not as efficiently used in the body as DHA or EPA), but none the less a great benefit.

1 Tbsp provides ~46 calories, 3 g protein and 4 g of fiber. They are also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins. Did I mention they are packed with antioxidants? They pack a lot of punch in a small dose! Unlike flax, we are able to digest chia seeds whole, so they don’t need to be ground up to reap their benefits!

Chia expands up to three times its size when placed in water. This increases the feeling of fullness (satiety). This trait could potentially help you manage weight- by adding chia to certain foods to reduce portion size (therefore eating fewer calories while still feeling full).

Ways to Use Chia Seeds:
  • Add to yogurt or smoothies
  • Add to your favorite hot or cold cereal or granola
  • An egg substitute in baked goods: Soak 1 Tbsp of chia with ¼ cup of water and stir.
  • Grind seed and add to baked goods, pancakes,
  • Add to stews or soups to thicken
  • Add as a topping for a salad
  • Make chia pudding by adding milk or milk alternative
  • Add to rice or casseroles

Have you tried chia? What are your thoughts about it or favorite uses?