For years, chia seeds were almost exclusively associated with sprouting terracotta pets and heads. That is, until Chris McDougall published "Born to Run" in 2009.
But soon the trend also caught on with food bloggers, chefs, foodies, and generally health-conscious people. Now, chia seeds are commonly included in energy bars and drinks, added to kombucha, used to thicken puddings, and used as a binding agent in egg-free baking.
And for good reason! These little seeds are incredibly nutritious, with significant concentrations of protein, fiber and several essential minerals.
Chia is, appropriately, the Mayan word for strength. Chia seeds were an important energy source for Mayans, Incas and other ancient cultures, and remain a dietary staple in many South and Central American countries. Some nutritional highlights:
Just 1 tablespoon of chia seeds contains 5 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, 2282 mg of Omega 3 and 752 mg of Omega 6 fatty acids!
A significant concentration of fiber combined with their ability to absorb 10 times their weight in water also makes chia seeds excellent for maintaining regularity.
This fiber content also helps normalize blood glucose levels by slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar.
Chia seeds contain respectable concentrations of potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and manganese.
Chia seeds are extremely nutrient-dense, with one of the highest antioxidant concentrations of any known food! (For more information about superfoods and nutrient density, check out What are Superfoods?)
With an amazing nutritional profile, mild flavor, and impressive versatility, it’s hard to think of a reason NOT to incorporate more of these super seeds into your diet!
Smoothies and drinks: Chia seeds make a great addition to smoothies and other drinks. Added whole, they impart a fun texture to frescas and even cocktails. Ground, they are great thickeners for smoothies and nogs.
The recipes below use chia seeds for added texture, body and nutrition. Check them out!
Chia seeds are available in the bulk or baking section of most natural grocers. They are also widely available online.
This story was originally written for One Green Planet and is reprinted with permission here. One Green Planet is your online guide to making conscious choices that help people, animals and the planet. To learn more, visit the site, subscribe to the feed and join the growing community on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.