Author: Susan Taylor, RDN, LD, CLT
If you remember the Chia Pets popular in the ’70′s and ’80′s, you may be surprised to learn the lowly chia seed may have some powerful health benefits. This little seed from the Mexican plant, Salvia hispanica, has a mild nutty flavor and may be eaten whole as the unprocessed seed may be absorbed by the body–unlike flaxseeds. A one ounce serving contains 138 calories, 10 grams fiber, 5 grams protein, and 4500 mg alpha-linoleic acid–the same omega-3 fatty acid found in lesser amounts in flaxseeds.
Chia seeds may be used as an egg substitute as they form a gel when combined with liquid–mix one part chia seeds to six parts water to use in baked goods. One tablespoon of this gel equals one large egg–good to know if you are vegan or have egg allergies. Chias may also substitute for pectin in jam, as a thickener in soups or bump up the nutrient content of baked goods. Try sprinkling ground or whole seeds on cereal, salads, or yogurt for a little extra crunch.
Thanks to their antioxidant content, this little seed may be stored in a cool, dry place for several months due to it’s decreased risk of going rancid. If the seeds are ground, they will keep in a tightly closed container for at least a month.
Although published clinical trials are limited, so far they seem to support the Chia seeds’ positive effect on weight loss, lowering blood glucose, and lowering triglyceride levels. However, more conclusive evidenced is needed to support it’s superfood status. Even though the jury is still out regarding Chia seeds’ health claims, the future looks bright for this versatile little seed.