Tiny yet packed with immense goodness, the potential of nuts and seeds as great means of diet enhancement has come from the belief that nature gives us adequate sources of food, as is evident in the food choices in the rest of the animal kingdom. The hyperactive birds have always chosen their food wisely, suitably picking on fruits, seeds, and nuts for their higher-energy needs and their low-fat content. While we may not be quite as capable to be that wise as creatures in nature, understanding that certain foods that occur in nature are more highly suited for our metabolic needs is what makes chia such an obvious and intelligent choice.
Chia seeds are flat, oval-shaped glossy looking dark to light brown colored seeds that are a powerhouse food source containing the right kinds of fats, proteins for helping in growth, and multitudes of vitamins and essential nutrients for our body. The plant comes from the mint family whose botanical name is Salvia hispanica and, as the name suggests, has its origins in Mexico and Guatemala.
What really is surprising is the density of nutrition the tiny seeds possess – from more antioxidants than the same serving of blueberries to more omega 3 than walnuts and, more importantly, more calcium than milk!!
Composition of Chia Seeds
Let’s try and understand the composition of this super powerful food which the Aztec warriors in the Mayan civilization used for strength and which is what chia translates into – the strength giving seed!
A single helping of chia is around 28 grams which has 131 calories as per USDA or United States Department of Agriculture, Nutrition Database. And that contains 8 gm of fat, 13 gm carbohydrates, 5.6 gm of protein, 11.2 gram of fiber, and, the happiest of all news, no sugar!
Here is another fact that should turn the tables on all flaxseed enthusiasts. It gives you more omega-3 and fiber as well as calcium than flax seeds!
What the ancient Mayans were simply guessing from the success they had at war was the amazing strength giving property of this super food that today we know has one of the largest known set of nutrients that human body needs which includes calcium, phosphorus, potassium,iron,copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, niacin, thiamine, and others.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds has as much omega-3 fatty acids as four ounces of salmon!
Chia Nutritional Facts
- The best news ever is of course the form of carbohydrates that chia has. While we have been slowly understanding that unutilized carbs in our diet converts to sugar, here is what makes the chia carbs different. They are in the form of pure fiber and thus perfect for inducing the best digestive health ever. In fact, 80% of the carbohydrates sourced from chia is fiber and thus perfect for those who are ruminating about diet choices for their type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
- The Alpha Linoleic Acid found in chia seeds is the highest form of omega-3 found in any plant source. Also as per dietary chart, the perfect balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids that helps in progressive digestion of other forms of fat and not allowing them to bind into the system is perfect in chia seeds.
- The fiber that is in chia is indigestible or insoluble – which is 95% of it – so it does not raise blood sugar level, thus reducing the rate of diabetes.
- Chia is the best egg and gluten replacer in the diet and perfect for those struggling with over burdened liver function and kidney dysfunctions.
- The outer layer of chia turns into a gel-like form that can help in binding it along with other baking ingredients rather well. The very fact that it simply swells up to almost four times its size helps it in creating a satiety and works perfectly like a natural appetite suppressant–a concern for those who are watching their weight.
- A plus in chia seeds is the ability of humans to digest it whole unlike flaxseeds that have to be powdered for better absorption by gut. It has been known to reduce triglycerides as well as LDL, increasing instead HDL to combat any form of heart-related dysfunction.
Chia and Its Easy Dietary Replacement
What makes chia such a riot in the kitchen is its absolutely bland taste and its ability to fall in sync with almost all kinds world food cultures. From curries, to smoothies, chutneys,or omelets, any meal, any time of the day, could be “chia-ed”efficiently. From vegan to vegetarian, chia has so many ways of fitting in.
Here are some easy-to-follow recipes to get the young convert to chia going on new diet regimen.
Super Charger Chia Pumpkin Blast
To get your morning breakfast replacement on high note is the goodness of chia with the nutritional boost from banana – another super fruit.
- 1/3 cup pureed red pumpkin
- 2/3 cup soy milk or almonds milk
- ½ frozen banana
- Handful of kale
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- Honey to taste
Blend in and slurp away!
Yogurt Strawberry Frosty
Here is a dessert with chia seeds for those who cannot help their sweet cravings.
- Hung curd 2 cups
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh cream
- 2 tablespoons crushed almonds
- 2 tablespoons crushed pistachios
- ½ cup strawberry pureed and add 2 tablespoons roasted and crushed chia seeds
Blend in the cream cheese, fresh cream, and the smooth hung curd to make a smooth batter. Add the nuts and the pureed strawberry. Add a little sugar or honey for sweetening. And of course use the chia seeds as topping and in the mix. Set in tiny little glasses and serve fresh with strawberry slices and with a sprinkling of chia seeds.
Chia Pancakes with Fresh Roasted Strawberry
The breakfast must have!
- Make your regular pancake with a mix of whole wheat flour, eggs, milk, some vanilla essence, and a sprinkling of sugar.
- The only addition is the two tablespoons of chia seeds you could add to the batter! Make pancakes the usual way.
- Stack them up and keep them ready.
- Now take the juiciest of strawberries and in hot pan roast them for a minute with a sprinkling of brown sugar to help them caramelize slightly.
- Now layer the pancakes with a topping of strawberry, followed by another pancake and more strawberry. Add more chia seeds on top for that nutty crunch. You could also add honey or maple syrup as is your usual topping for crepes.
Honeylicious Summer Fruits and Chia Salad
A colorful side dish with all the goodness that nature can give you.
All you need is the freshest of blueberries, mulberries, kiwis, strawberries, mango, and some melon if you so like. Drizzle a mix of chia seeds added to honey and lemon juice. Serve!
Oatmeal with Chia seeds
Here is another simple way of making the most of the cholesterol lowering oats with the additional goodness of chia. Take your usual measure of oats,and after having cooked it to soften it, in plain water,add almond milk to give it a creamy consistency. Top it with brown sugar for that little sweetness and chia seeds.
You could use chia seeds for your lemonade, numerous salads, granola bars, your everyday omelet,and home-baked breads and cakes; even your chocolate brownie will be as tasty with a dash of chia in it. The very fact that chia seeds get assimilated into any kind of food without making it too thick or too diluted – since it has no particular taste as well – makes it a versatile means to enhance the value of food.