Plus — why chia seeds are great for your health
The chia seed’s name instantly brings to mind a catchy refrain from a TV commercial. Cha-cha-cha-chia! But this chia is no pet. It’s a tiny seed packed with a wallop of health benefits.
Chia seeds are harvested from the Salvia hispanica plant, a type of plant in the mint family. The word chia means “strength” in the Mayan language, and people of the ancient Americas used chia as a food and medicine. According to the USDA, the Diegueño, an indigenous people of North America, believed 1 tablespoon of chia seeds supplied 24 hours’ worth of energy.
Chia is unique in that when the seeds get wet, their crunchy outer coating turns to gel. This feature makes for a unique taste sensation — much like tapioca. That gel also expands in the stomach to make you feel full longer, potentially helping you eat less.
Just 2 tablespoons of the tiny nutty seeds contain:
- A ton of fiber: About one-quarter of the required daily intake of fiber for adults.
- Tryptophan, which can improve mood and sleep, and control appetite.
- Protein: This plant-based, cholesterol-free source of protein provides about 10 percent of adults’ daily requirement.
- Lots of antioxidants: These help prevent cancer and heart disease, and chia contain even higher levels than blueberries, considered a “super food” for their antioxidant content.
- An impressive 18 percent of the recommended daily intake of calcium.
- An aid that may help control Type 2 diabetes. The seeds’ gel-like coating can help stop blood sugar from spiking.
Nutritionists recommend no more than 2 tablespoons per day; more than that can bring on fiber overload.
Chia can be found in the natural foods section of most grocery stores. Try them as an addition to just about any recipe or snack, such as:
- 1 tablespoon to your favorite smoothie
- 1 tablespoon to hot or iced tea
- 1 tablespoon per serving to your favorite meat breading/coating
- 2 tablespoons to any banana bread, muffin or cookie recipe
- Skip the sugar in flavored yogurt and add 1 tablespoon chia seeds and fresh fruit to plain yogurt
- Top guacamole or hummus with a smattering of seeds
- Replace egg in any recipe with 1 tablespoon seeds plus 4 to 5 tablespoons water. Mix well and let sit for 10 minutes, then add to recipe.
- 2 tablespoons into a jar of spaghetti sauce
- Garnish salads, cereal, oatmeal, soup, sauces, sandwiches and pizza with a sprinkle of seeds