Have chia seeds been massively over-hyped as a ‘superfood’ by marketers? It seemed that way to me. As a result, I was a bit slow to warm up to them. But, learning that the word “chia” means strength created intrigue in these seeds.
Grown in Mexico since the era of the Mayans and Aztecs, chia seeds have been known for centuries for their energizing and hydrophilic properties. Chia seeds are able to absorb up to 10 times their weight in water. As such, these sponge-like seeds became a favorite among ancient, and now modern athletes, for their hydrating as well as endurance properties. This absorbent quality also makes chia-containing liquids very filling, creating a following among dieters. However, researching the culinary uses for chia seeds, they seemed little more than a substitute for ground flax seeds.
So, how do chia and flax seeds compare nutritionally? Both chia and flax seeds are high in fiber, calcium, phosphorous, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Of note, chia seeds score bonus points for being a complete protein, of which flax seeds are not. Also, unlike flax seeds, chia seeds don’t require grinding to render the nutrients bioavailable and they are less prone to rancidity. Hmmm.
The next question, naturally, was how do chia seeds taste compared to flax seeds? My informal taste test involved topping a salad with chia seeds instead of my usual ground flax seeds. Instead of flax seed’s nutty flavor, the chia seeds tasted …almost tasteless. Boring? Perhaps. But, their neutral taste is what I now love about Chia seeds, in particular when made into a gel.
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 cup filtered water
Chia seeds, water, a mason jar and about 15 minutes are all it takes to make a chia gel. Simply add the chia seeds to water and stir well. If using a mason jar, secure the lid and shake intermittently to make sure the seeds don’t clump together into a gelatinous mass. Or, stir with a fork. After about 15 minutes the gel will be thick enough to hold a spoon upright (if using the ratio for an egg replacement). Chia gel will keep refrigerated for about two weeks. See how to make it in this 45-second How to Make Chia Gel video.
WAYS TO USE CHIA GEL
- Use as an egg-substitute in baking.
1 egg = 1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water = about 1/4 cup gel
- Add to smoothies. Yes, you can add the seeds directly into smoothies, without creating a gel. But, the little seeds tend to stick to the sides of the blender. Clean-up is easier when you add the seeds in gel form.
- Make your own boutique juice beverages. You’ve seen them at the grocery store, now make them at home. Simply add some gel to your freshly juiced beverage to make it even healthier and more festive.
Shown below: Ginger Beet Juice with Chia.
NOTES & MORE CHIA IDEAS:
- If you have food allergies or are on high blood pressure medications or blood thinners, you should ask your health care provider before adding chia to your diet.
- Chia Seed Nutritional Information
- Nutritional Comparison: Flax vs Chia Seeds
- How to Make Chia Fruit Jams
- Chia Pudding Primer
What are your favorite ways to use chia seeds and chia gel?