Chia seeds have become a buzz word in the health food community, but it’s not because they’re newly discovered — more like newly rediscovered. In fact, chia seeds were a staple in the Aztec diet for thousands of years, starting somewhere around 3500 BC. The Aztecs used them as food both in whole and flour form, and also made the seeds into beverages.
Their health benefits were known in ancient history but only recently have chia seeds been experiencing a resurgence in fame, thanks to the work of scientists, nutritionists and agriculturalists in the early 1990s that pushed chia seeds back into commercial production. Now, you can find chia seeds in many grocery stores, and recipes abound for how to use these seeds as everything from egg replacer in baking to an extra energy boost in smoothies.
So what’s so great about chia seeds? Pretty much everything.
In a single ounce of chia seeds (about 2 tablespoons), you get 11 grams of fiber (which is about one-third of the daily recommended amount of fiber!), 4 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fat of which 5 grams are omega-3s. That’s impressive enough but it doesn’t stop there. You also get about 18 percent of daily recommended amount of calcium, about 30 percent each of manganese and magnesium, and you also get a dose of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and potassium among other minerals and nutrients. All of this in just two tablespoons of the little black and white seeds.
The high protein and fiber content help you to feel fuller longer, which means they can help you keep your appetite in check and potentially help with weight control. Athletes also enjoy the energy boost given by chia seeds, and they're a popular addition to the diets of distance runners. You also get around the same amount of calcium as in half a cup of milk, which means healthier bones and teeth.
Another benefit of chia seeds is that they’re so easy to add into your diet. Sprinkle them over cereal or stir some into your oatmeal to give a powerful punch to your breakfast. Add them to smoothies or salads for lunch. They can be used as egg replacer in baking so your baked treats are healthier, which means you can even enjoy them as part of a dessert. With that in mind, we have some recipes you’ll definitely want to try, starting with healthy breakfasts.
If you'd like a cold alternative to oatmeal or oatbran for breakfast, there are quite a few ways to make chia pudding. It's basically as simple as putting chia seeds in some sweetened nut milk, and topping it off with a few berries and nuts. Here are a couple ideas to get you started.
Chia seeds play a co-starring role in these easy-to-make granola bars. The seeds bring an extra healthy boost to the key ingredients, which include oats, nuts, a nut butter, and honey or agave syrup. Endlessly customizable, these granola bars are a great grab-n-go breakfast.
Speaking of grab-n-go, we have more ideas. This raw snack recipe is basically like a Larabar. Chewy, packed to the brim with healthy ingredients, they use dates as the sweetener and a way to bind ingredients together. The result: a healthy meal that tastes like a dessert.
And, of course, speaking of dessert, we have a protein shake recipe that basically tastes like you're eating cake batter. Seriously. It's so delicious you'll think you're getting away with breaking your healthy eating goals but it actually is filled with protein and healthy fats that help you feel full for hours.
For a more minty take on a lunch smoothie, try this recipe that uses orange, mango, banana, acai, and a handful of other healthy ingredients to create a tangy citrus-flavored meal in a glass. It's perfect for a lunch or even after a workout.
Now moving on to desserts with a capital D. These two recipes help illustrate just how amazing vegan baking can be when you add in the chia seeds. Instead of using a chicken egg, you can use a chia egg, which is basically just chia seeds and water. The chia seeds absorb the water and become a gooey binder for the other ingredients. It is perfect for something like this autumn-inspired sweet bread in all its moist, fluffy goodness.