Chia seeds are nutrition-packed powerhouses. Here's what you need to know about their health benefits—and a fabulous recipe to help get you started.
As a kid, I begged my mother to buy me a Chia Pet puppy. Who wouldn’t want a ceramic animal that you slather in wet mud and seeds, so it’s covered in foliage where the fur should be? Plus, you’d get to watch the seeds sprout and grow at a miraculously rapid rate.
I never actually got the Chia Pet that I coveted as a kid, but I am making up for it now because I buy chia seeds every week and sprinkle them on everything except ceramic animals. It turns out that those same seeds from my childhood are packed with nutritional value. Important side note: The chia seeds that accompany the Chia Pet sets are not processed for consumption, so don’t snack while you are crafting your menagerie.
What makes chia seeds so healthy?
The tiny black seeds of the chia plant (Salvia hispanica) are native to Mexico and Guatemala. They were an integral part of the Mayan and Aztec diet, and in fact, the word “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for strength.
Chia seeds have become popular because they contain large amounts of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, plenty of high-quality protein, and several essential minerals and antioxidants. According to Healthline.com, a few spoonfuls daily might be powerful because chia seeds may improve risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, lead to better digestive health, and increase blood levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
Usually a bland taste is a downside in the culinary world, but the fact that chia seeds have no actual flavor is a plus because it makes it easy to sneak them into your favorite dishes without affecting the taste. (Note that you should only eat them when prepared properly in recipes. Swallowing dry chia seeds can be dangerous!) Their ability to absorb liquid also makes them a healthy method of thickening sauces. I like to sprinkle them on oatmeal and toast or scrambled eggs, but many folks like to use them as a topper on yogurt, salads, soups, or as added value to a smoothie or baked good.
Dr. Jessica Knurick shared a fun recipe for Blueberry Chia Seed Pudding with us. It’s super easy and quick. The result is a delicious chia-filled breakfast or dessert pudding that feels rich and decadent, bursting with nutritional value and flavor!
Blueberry Chia Seed Pudding
3 tablespoons whole chia seeds
1/2 cup hot almond milk
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup washed blueberries
- Combine chia seeds, cinnamon, and hot milk in a bowl and mix lightly. Let rest to firm up (about 20–30 minutes).
- Wash the blueberries and sprinkle them over the pudding. Enjoy!
In the great super-seed showdown, chia seeds seem to be outshining their sister seeds of flax, hemp, and pumpkin. In a recent Huffington Post article entitled Flax vs. Chia, Terri Coles explains, “Flax is a seed worth eating, but chia has the upper hand here thanks to its higher numbers for fiber, calcium, and phosphorus, as well as because it’s a complete protein. But all seeds have antioxidants—and different ones—so it’s great to get a mix of them in your diet.”
It’s fun to discover more healthy things to eat, and as a chia fan, I love the grown-up reasons why I should love these tiny black boosts of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. Earlier this year, I adopted a real puppy, so now I can channel my love for all things chia simply by using them to improve the nutritional value of my daily diet.