Besides the “chia pet” I had as a kid, about the only thing I’ve ever heard chia seeds used for was as an egg substitute. Whether you have egg allergies or are just leery of using raw eggs in your recipes, chia seeds are an excellent substitute. But that’s only the tip of the chia seed iceberg when it comes to their benefits. Even though they may be tiny in size, they pack a powerful nutritional punch.
Not only are they naturally gluten/grain free, but one tablespoon of chia seeds has more calcium than a glass of milk, more omega-3s than salmon, and more antioxidants than blueberries. Evidence shows they can also boost energy, stabilize blood sugar, aid digestion, and lower cholesterol.
So how can we add more of this little seed to our diets? Basically you can add them to anything and everything! Because they are tasteless, and won’t affect the flavor of your food, you can easily integrate chia seeds into all your meals. I personally love the crunch they add to food! (But they do tend to get stuck in your teeth, so be sure to check the mirror before you go out on that hot date!)
Beyond the nutritional advantages, chia seeds also have other unique qualities. When soaked, the chia seed absorbs up to 30 times its weight in water and forms a gel that makes a great thickener/substitute for many different recipes!
If you would like to give chia seeds a try…here are 14 great ways to get started:
Because chia easily absorbs liquids and turns into a gel, it makes a good egg substitute for baking. Blend one tablespoon ground chia seeds with three tablespoons of water and use the gel to replace the equivalent of one large egg in your baking recipes.
If you’re looking for a quick omega-3 punch in the morning, simply sprinkle a teaspoon of seeds on your fruit, add them to your cereal/granola, mix them into your yogurt, or even in your pancakes. You won’t even taste the difference.
If you don’t really like the crunchy texture of the seeds, you can pump up the protein and fiber of any smoothie by adding chia gel (for one serving, soak a teaspoon of whole chia seeds in one tablespoon water.) This antioxidant breakfast smoothie from Whole Living is high in vitamin C and sure to become a new favorite.
Thicken Soup or Gravies
If you don’t use cornstarch or flour, it can be a challenge to thicken different recipes. Just add a couple tablespoons of chia seeds (powdered or not) at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
GF “Breading” for Fish, Chicken, Meatballs
Mixed with some almond (or other GF) flour and garlic powder, chia seeds make an excellent “breading.” They toast up well and provide a nutty, crunchy flavor without the grains. You can also throw in a couple tablespoons of chia seeds (per pound of meat) in place of bread crumbs in your meatballs and meatloaf.
Make A Healthy Pudding
Forget store-bought pudding cups, chia seeds make a perfect homemade and healthy pudding. Soaking chia seeds in sweetened almond milk, thickens to form a tapioca-like treat. Here is a good one I found on FoodNetwork.com. There are endless flavor variations.
Jellies And Jams
Since the seeds have this amazing ability to make things jelly-like – they make great, well, jams and jelly! Puree blueberries, raspberries or strawberries and add chia seeds for an easy homemade jam. Try these 3 recipes from A Beautiful Mess.
Just put some chia seeds in water, drain the water off and leave in a jar for a couple days. Every 12 hours or so, rinse with water and pour the water off. In a day or two, you’ll have little chia sprouts.
If you’re feeling sluggish and bloated try starting the day with this before-breakfast, pre-workout drink from celebrity trainer Valerie Walters. It only has three ingredients and is a simple way to get a jump-start on your daily fiber, omega-3s, and other nutrients. Plus, it helps with elimination to keep you feeling bloat-free.
Homemade Energy Gel
Energy gel is a great way for athletes to get a kick of energy during a long training session or race. The problem is that it’s normally pure sugar with no real nutrients. It’s also pricey!
To make your own: soak a 2:1 ratio of coconut water to chia seeds for 10-12 hours in the refrigerator. It will keep in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. You can also put a few tablespoons in a plastic zip bag and take it with you – it’ll keep for a few hours.
A gel made from chia seeds and lemon juice can infuse your hair with moisture and protect your locks from dry air. Add 1/3 cup chia seeds to a resealable container and pour in 2 cups of water. Whisk well and let it sit in the refrigerator for 25 minutes or until it turns into a gel. Mix 3 Tbsp of lemon juice into the gel. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to give your gel a nice scent and apply to damp locks. Let it sit for 10 minutes before rinsing it off.
The Aztecs used chia gel to treat their wounds in order to avoid infections and promote healing. The same gel above can also reduce inflamed skin. Apply the chia get on a scar, and watch the redness fade away.
Use two teaspoons of chia seeds, half a cup of coconut oil, and one teaspoon of lemon juice and mix well. Add a few drops of bergamot essential oil and a drop of vitamin E for skin that is particularly dry. Let your mask set for a few minutes, then use a damp, lukewarm washcloth to remove using circular motions.
DIY “Chia Pet”
These are the same seeds used to make the chia pets you can buy in the store. Save money and make your own. Just fill a pot with dirt, sprinkle some chia seeds on top of the dirt and water. Viola! Chia Pet. Sort of. :-)
Note: Because they’re so high in fiber, it’s best not to eat more than one ounce (or about 2 tablespoons) of the seeds per day. Plus, chia seeds can be so effective at lowering blood pressure that it’s wise to talk to a doctor before trying out chia if you take blood pressure medication or have naturally low blood pressure.
Have you ever tried chia seeds? What is your favorite use?