By Elisa Bosley
You’ve probably heard that chia seeds are a “superfood”—but, like a lot of people, you may not know why they’re healthy or how to use them.
First, a little history: Chia are the edible seeds from the plant Salvia hispanica, part of the mint family, that’s native to Central America. Ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures reportedly used chia as an energy and endurance booster. Today, farmers cultivate chia in its native Mexico and Guatemala, as well as other Latin American countries and even Australia.
What makes chia seeds really special are their powerful nutrients. Gram for gram, chia boasts more fiber than flaxseed, more protein than eggs, and more calcium than milk, plus abundant vitamin C and iron. Chia seeds also contain more omega-3s than any other plant food (although as alpha-linolenic acid, which the body must convert to more usable forms).
Chia seeds have little taste but add wonderful texture to any dish. And unlike flaxseed you don’t need to grind chia to reap the health benefits. Bonus: Because they’re full of natural antioxidants, chia seeds stay fresh without refrigeration for years.
The easiest way to use chia is to simply stir a tablespoon or two into your morning juice or smoothie; stir and let sit for a minute or two. The seeds absorb moisture and take on a pleasantly chewy texture.
Or make a simple, gluten-free and vegan chia pudding: In a food processor, blend 6 pitted dates (soak in 1/3 cup hot water to soften), 8 ounces canned coconut milk, and a dash of salt, plus the soaking water. Transfer to a bowl and add 1/2 cup chia seeds and 2 cups unsweetened almond milk. Refrigerate overnight. Whisk and serve. You can also add flavorings if you like, such as cocoa powder, cinnamon, lemon zest, or pumpkin puree.
A good, reasonably priced source of organic chia can be found at: https://www.clnf.org/chia-seeds-og
3 tablespoons chia provides:
10 grams fiber
5 grams omega-3s
5 grams protein
179 mg calcium