You may have increasingly heard of chia seeds as a health food. But what are chia seeds and why are they so popular?
Chia seeds come from the mint-related Salvia hispanica, a Central American plant once cultivated by the ancient Aztecs, Mayans and Native Americans. In addition to the seeds themselves being edible, the sprouts can also be eaten. They pack an incredibly high dose per gram of natural fibre, as well as protein and omega 3’s.
Not only are they crammed full of nutrients (that include beta carotene and vitamins C and E, many B complex vitamins, magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium) their high protein content and ability to swell with the addition of liquid means they are hugely popular as a way to curb appetite.
While chia seeds can be eaten by themselves, the real benefit of them is how little they alter the taste and texture of your favourite foods, while having a profound effect on the quality nutrition you’re taking in.
Chia seeds themselves do not have much taste, and so lend themselves well to mixing in just about any dish. When allowed to soak up liquid such as juice or water, they develop a gelatinous texture. When added to rice, quinoa, cereal, and smoothies, they don’t alter the taste or texture by much, yet help fill you up in the healthiest way possible.
They can also be used in baking breads. The sprouts are good in salads and on sandwiches. Other easy ways to add chia seeds to your diet are simply to add them to yogurt, or sprinkle them on salads. Whether whole or ground, the nutritional benefits remain. Amazingly, chia seeds can even be used as an egg substitute when baking – just mix with a little water and add as you would an egg.
Chia seeds can even be a healthy source of soluble fibre for your dog - try adding a teaspoon to your dog’s food. Cats may like to nibble the grass if you decide to grow it. When buying chia seeds experts suggest avoiding red chia seeds, which are immature and thus less beneficial. They should be white and black or brown and black, and each one is about the size of a kiwi seed.
They’re available in an increasingly wide range of stores, from your local health food market even to mainstream supermarkets, so give this amazing super-seed a try!