Healthy or Hype: Chia Seeds

Welcome to another edition of Healthy or Hype! Our featured guest this time…

…Chia Seeds

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What are Chia Seeds?

Chia seeds come most commonly from the Salvia hispanica plant. There’s evidence that they were cultivated by the Aztec in pre-Columbia times. Ground and whole chia seeds are still used in Argentina, Bolivia, Guatamala, Mexico, and Paraguay but is increasing in mainstream popularity after being included on many “superfood” lists and being incorporated in to dozens of new food, beauty, and drink items every year, expecting to reach a $2.1 billion global chia seed market by 2022.

Typically, the seeds are small ovals about 1mm in diameter. They are mottle-colored with brown, gray, black, and white coloring. The seeds are hydrophilic and can absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked and form a mucilaginous coating which gives it a gel-like texture.

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Nutrition and Health Benefits

Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (especially alpha-linolenic acid, ALA), thiamin, and niacin and also good sources of riboflavin and folate. Chia seeds also contain calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and manganese.

Healthy fats, fiber, minerals. A winning combination.

2 Tbsp of chia seeds contain: 128 calories, 8g fat (6g polyunsaturated), 10g carbs (6g fiber), 4g protein, 14%DV calcium, 8%DV iron

This is:

  • 5x the omega-3 content of 1/4 cup of walnuts
  • 2x the iron and magnesium of 1 cup of spinach
  • As much calcium as 1/2 cup milk
  • As much potassium as 1/3 of a banana
  • 2x the fiber as 1 cup of cooked oatmeal

Although some preliminary research indicates potential health benefits from consuming chia seeds, results are still inconclusive. A 2015 systematic review showed no statistically significant results in relation to cardiovascular disease risk factors and a 2015 study showed that consumption of chia seed oil did not positively influence running performance compared to water alone.

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Uses and Recipes

Vegan Egg Replacer

To replace 1 egg in a recipe, mix 1 Tbsp ground chia seeds with 3 Tbsp warm water. Mix and set aside for 5-15 minutes.

Easy Overnight Breakfast

In a blender, mix 2 cups non-dairy milk (coconut, almond, etc.) + 1/2 cup chia seeds + sweetener of choice (maple syrup, honey, stevia, etc.) to taste. There are endless flavor variations. Try cacao powder and instant coffee granuales for a cafe mocha vibe. Try mango and coconut flavoring for a tropical escapse. Add almond extract, coconut flakes, and cocoa powder to enjoy a healthier Almond Joy candy bar for breakfast.

Make Your Own Chia Pet

Yes, these are the same seeds that grew on the infamous novelty Chia Pets popularized in the 1980s. Save your infomercial dollars and make your own at home!

Homemade Endurance Energy Gel

Rather than sucking down a packet of Gu or glorified gummy candy Chomps, make your own to take with you on your long training runs and for intra-race fuel! This athlete has a yummy Pineapple-Orange Energy Gel recipe. Chia seed use in endurance runners has increased in popularity since the release of the best-selling book Born to Run. Perfect for runners as they provide a sustained source of energy and can combat dehydration while reducing inflammation and joint pain and accelerating post-run recovery.

Want to try some chia seeds out for yourself? Chances are you’ll find them at your local supermarket!

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Have you tried chia seeds?
Share your favorite chia recipe.

Related Posts:
Healthy or Hype: Apple Cider Vinegar
Healthy or Hype: Coconut Oil
Healthy or Hype: Turmeric

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