In the recent years, chia seeds have seen an unprecedented rise in popularity and now have become favourite with the health conscious people across the globe. ‘Chia’ is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.” The Aztecs and Mayans prized them for their ability to provide sustainable energy. Though chia seeds have an ancient history of being a dietary staple, only now has the world woken up to its benefits to label it a super-food. Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the plant Salvia Hispanica, which is related to mint – and this plant is native to the South American region.
Among the healthiest foods available today, chia seeds are saturated with nutrients that have multiple health benefits. Imagine, the following nutrients comprise a 28 gram (or 1 Ounce) serving:
• Fibre: 11 grams.
• Protein: 4 grams.
• Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
• Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
• Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
• Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
• Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
• They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.
These seeds have a good amount of protein and fibre – both of which have been proven to aid weight loss. Chia seeds are 40% fibre, by weight. Protein subdues cravings and appetite – and therefore is one of the best weightloss-friendly nutrients. The calcium content in them is particularly impressive – 18% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) in a single ounce. The other bone-friendly nutrients present in these seeds are phosphorus, magnesium and protein.
What to do with Chia?
Since chia seeds are quite bland on their own, they can be added to anything and are therefore very easy to incorporate into your diet. Adding these seeds to food items will dramatically boost the nutritional value. They can be eaten raw, soaked in liquids, added to porridges and puddings, or even to chapattis. They taste equally delicious when sprinkled on top of your cereal, dahi, pulao or salads.
Since they absorb both water and fat, chia seeds can be used to thicken sauces and even used to substitute eggs in recipes.
Be sure that you do not have too much of them at a time – because of the high fibre content, there could be digestion-related side-effects if you overdose on chia. The typically recommended dosage is 20 grams (about 1.5 tablespoons) of seeds every day.
A few recipes
1. Chia Seed Pudding
When soaked overnight, chia seeds take on a tapioca-like texture – ideal for a breakfast pudding. Add a little bit of cinnamon or other spices and a bit of stevia, or honey, if you like, for sweetness and you’ll have a pudding-like treat that can be eaten any time of the day. You could add diced bananas or raw almonds and pistachios as a garnish.
Another recipe that could be enjoyed by children is a Chia Parfait Pudding. Measure out half a cup of chia seeds, add a cup of coconut milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and two tablespoons honey. Mix well and refrigerate overnight so the chia seeds absorb the moisture and become thick and gelatinous, like a pudding. Spoon into a glass or parfait cup. Garnish with toppings of your choice – fresh fruit or dried fruits and serve.
2. Chia Sprouts
Sprouts may offer some of the highest levels of nutrition available, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes. Many of the benefits of sprouts relate to the fact that, in their first phase of growth, these plants contain more concentrated amounts of nutrients. Chia seeds are no exception, and you can easily grow chia sprouts at home to be used in raw form in salads and sandwiches or even as a garnish for soups.
These seeds are best grown on clay or ceramic flat dishes. Fill dish with water. Let soak for several minutes then drain. Sprinkle seeds onto the dish and spread evenly in a single layer – leaving space between seeds. Cover with cling film and place in a sunny spot. Make sure the surface of the dish is wet at all times, but there is no pooling water. The chia sprouts are ready to harvest when they are about 1/2 -3/4 inch high which should take about 4-7 days. You can cut then the sprouts just above the roots and use directly. Else, you can also take the whole thing, including roots, lift off of the tray roots and all and store in a partially closed container in the fridge for up to 10 days.
3. Tropical Breakfast Smoothie
Chia seeds in smoothies help create a creamy texture – like a thick milkshake. Just a glass of this smoothie is an ideal meal for those who are looking to lose weight. Combine two teaspoons chia seeds, 1/2 a banana, a cup of mango pulp, 1/2 teaspoon honey and 1 cup almond or coconut milk in a blender and blitz on high speed until thick and creamy.
Text by Aarti Kapur Singh