Essential Guide to Chia
The Tiny Seed That’s a Powerhouse of Nutrients
In recent years chia has become an increasingly popular addition to vegan meals. The fashionable food has often been labelled a ‘superfood’ for its versatility and impressive nutritional value.
Sourced from the plant Salvia Hispanica – a member of the mint family – chia seeds originate from Central and South America, where they grow naturally in the warm climate. Legend states that as early as the 14th and 15th centuries, Aztecs and Mayans used chia as a source of energy.
For such small seeds, chia boasts an impressive array of nutritional benefits.
The seeds are high in fibre, with 100g ofchia providing around 34g of fibre – so even a small portion could act as a considerable contribution to your recommended daily intake.
While, when it comes to energy, it seems the ancient Aztecs weren’t far off – 100g of the super seeds provides approximately 407mg potassium (far outranking bananas, which, though best known for their potassium value, only contain around 358mg per 100g). The combination of fat, protein and fibre means the seeds are digested relatively slowly, providing the long, slow release of energy to keep blood-sugar levels stable.
Chia seeds are also packed full of omega 3 fats, omega 6 fats and omega 9 fats and are full to the brim with antioxidants – which help to protect our health and reduce levels of inflammation in the body. But chia’s shining star of nutrition is by far its calcium level; 100g of chia seeds provides approximately 631mg, whereas 100ml of milk contains around only 129mg of calcium.
How to use Chia?
As well as using them raw, in salads and savoury dishes, chia seeds can also be ground into a flour, or pressed to release oils. The whole, raw seeds make a great addition to cereal bars, while ground seeds can be added to smoothies or baked goods, for a quick and easy nutritional boost. And why not try soaking the seeds? Chia seeds can absorb 10-12 times their own weight in water – though you can always opt to soak them in almond milk, instead. Once soaked, the seeds form a gelatinous structure. Soaking chia seeds is believed to make them easier to digest and therefore improves the availability of the nutrients.
Chia Pudding: Don’t restrict your use of chia to simply savoury dishes; combine a summer fruit, like raspberries or strawberries , with coconut milk, chia seeds and just a drop of maple syrup or vanilla extract to taste. Then leave it in the fridge overnight to soak, for a delicious, nutritious pudding!
Chia Face Mask: Thanks to chia seeds’ miniature size and nutritious make-up, they can act as a great exfoliator; so why not try making an all-natural chia seed face mask? Grind the chia seeds first, then add water to make a gel-like substance (slightly thicker than what you would use for cooking); then choose your optional additions. Some people prefer adding lavender oil, while others may opt for tea tree oil, for its antibacterial properties. You can also add some whole chia seeds to the mix to enhance its exfoliation ability. Chia seeds are a definite favourite in the beauty game, as well as in the kitchen, as their vitamin and antioxidant properties can help the skin feel fresh and bright.
Chia seeds are a great addition to any salad; they add bundles of texture, flavour and nutrients to the mix, but unfortunately, can lead to a toothy mess. The miniature brown seeds often can get stuck in and between the teeth – so just make sure to brush before snapping your next selfie!
Though chia seeds can often be deemed as slightly expensive, you only need use them in small quantities. So, in terms of the health benefits you gain from a limited dose, chia seeds equate to surprisingly good value for money.
The leaves of the chia plant contain high levels of natural oils, which are, in fact, an effective repellent against insects, meaning they are ideal for organic growing. So, though some places do not boast the best climate for growing chia, it could be a great addition to your garden and help keep bugs at bay.
Soaked chia seeds can be used as an egg alternative, and can work nicely when baking both sweet and savoury dishes – just be sure to put aside the time for the seeds to absorb the water (this can take up to 10-15 minutes). Use around one tablespoon of seeds, with three tablespoons of water in substitution for one egg.