Much like Quinoa, chia seeds are something that I’ve come across a lot lately, in articles and in stores. It’s not so much that they’re new but that they’re gaining in popularity and have made their way into energy bars and other snacks. So, in case you’re not really sure what all the fuss is about, here is a bit of information about them.
Chia seeds are native to Southwestern US, Mexico, and some parts of South America and they’ve been around for centuries. They come in either black or white but the black seeds are easier to find; the white ones are rarer (and a bit more expensive) but they don’t differ very much nutritionally. They are pretty small in size but are packed full of nutrients which is one of the reasons why they are almost everywhere today. They are gluten-free, have a high amount of antioxidants, dietary fiber, protein, calcium, iron, and more omega-3 fatty acids than flaxseeds and fish oil which are notoriously high in omega-3s. The seeds are really good for runners and dieters because they hold about 10 to 12 times their weight in water – so they sustain energy and prevent dehydration and overeating.
I was actually surprised at how many ways chia seeds can be used. First of all, they can be eaten raw as a snack on their own (they have a mild nutty flavor); if you don’t want them raw, look for any number of energy or granola bars that contain them. They can also be added whole to a variety of foods like yogurt or oatmeal or even fruits. When they’ve been soaked in water, they create this edible gelatin-like substance which can be added to change the consistency of spreads and other food. Their flavor is pretty mild so they don’t change the taste of whatever they’re added to. In Mexico, chia fresca is a popular drink made by soaking the seeds in fruit juice. Another alternative is grinding them down to a powder – packaged chia powder is a newer trend than the seeds themselves – which can be used for baking breads or muffins among other things. The powder can also be added to food in very much the same way the whole seeds can.