Welcome to a new part of the website – featured ingredient!  Every other week we’ll highlight a rockstar food item and provide a recipe or two in which to use it.

To kick off our new series, this week’s nutritional powerhouse is Chia!  Isn’t she cute?

Oops, that’s a ChiaPet.  We’re actually interested in Chia seeds, which can be used to grow any ChiaPet of your choice but are much more useful as a food product:

Chia seeds come from the salvia hispanica plant (a member of the mint family) and have been around for centuries.  A staple food of some Mexican and South American cultures, they have more omega-3′s than flax seeds, are rich in antioxidants and are loaded with soluble fiber. Because of these properties, chia seeds don’t need to be ground to unlock the omega 3′s (unlike flax) and the extra antioxidants mean they can actually be stored for long periods without going rancid.  They are low in cholesterol and sodium, and a great source of magnesium, calcium and phosphorous.  At 60 calories per tablespoon they’re a nutritional bargain!

Chia seeds are popping up in health food stores and restaurants all over the place, especially smoothie bars.  Often touted as a metabolism booster, they are also touted as a cure for cancer and have a host of other magical properties.  The reality isn’t clear at the moment, but one thing is for sure – you’ll definitely get a boost of some super-healthy nutrients from eating them as well as adding variety to your diet.

Now on to the fun stuff!  These odd little seeds can be eaten in many ways:

  • Raw.  They’re crunchy and a little nutty, but also kinda dry.
  • Soaked in fruit juice.  The seeds expand a lot in liquid and take on an almost tapioca-like quality.  This is due to their high level of soluble fiber.  Athletes often eat them in this way because they are easy to consume that way.
  • Toss a tablespoon or two into a smoothie.
  • Sprout them and then toss with a salad.  Chia pet not required.
  • Sprinkle them on top of yogurt, or mix with granola.
  • Bake them into bread, muffins, or granola bars.  I bet they’d be great as a substitute for poppy seeds!
  • And my personal favorite, make Chia Fresca!  This is a traditional Mexican drink and there are a few different ways to make it.  Here’s the traditional version using only lemon and water:

And here’s a more complicated recipe using one of my favorite fruits, MANGO!!

Yum!  So there you have it.  Chia seeds, once the novelty toy of the 70′s, have been elevated to superfood status in the 21st century.  Why not give them a try, then report back on your results in the comments!

Sources: Livestrong, Dr. Weil



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