Chia seeds are the focus of the next installment of my superfoods 101 series. This series was created with the intention of diving into some of my favorite superfoods, discussing their nutritional benefits, and showcasing a simple recipe to highlight the versatility of superfoods.
What are chia seeds?
Chia seeds are now mainstream. What once was considered to be an obscure health food is now commonplace and can be easily found in supermarkets and on restaurant menus. Chia is an herb that is part of the mint family and is of Central American origin. Similar to goji berries and maca, chia seeds have been consumed for thousands of years and are thought to have been a staple in the Aztec, Mayan, and Incan diets.
Chia seeds are multidimensional and incredibly absorptive. They become gelatinous when mixed with a liquid and can serve as a thickener in recipes. The gel-like consistency is ideal for making a pudding or overnight oats, they can be sprinkled in raw seed form on yogurt, oats, vegetables, or salads, or added to a smoothie for nutritive benefits.
Aside from their versatility, what makes these little seedlings a superfood? They are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation occurs as a result of environmental and internal stressors which cause the body to react defensively. Over time, an inflammatory state can be detrimental to one’s health. GI diseases, such as Crohn’s, IBS, and celiac disease, along with arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's, are all related to inflammation.
Chia seeds are also cardio protective and help to lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. These seeds are also a fiber-rich powerhouse and contain up to 10 grams of fiber per two tablespoons. If you are new to chia seeds, I recommended starting slowly, since a sudden uptick in fiber can cause some GI issues. Chia seeds are also a plant-based source of protein and contain iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc - all of which are beneficial for individuals, but especially for those who follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
Looking for a way to try out chia seeds? Consider these recipes below.
Recipes featuring chia seeds
Super Seedy Crackers
makes 2 baking sheets
- 1/2 cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
- 1/4 cup golden flax seeds
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons dulse, roughly chopped or dulse flakes (Dulse is a sea vegetable loaded with minerals. Make sure that you purchase organic or sustainably harvested product.)
- 2 tablespoons psyllium seed husks (Psyllium seed husk is soluable fiber that is derived from the seed of a leafy green weed.)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped rosemary (or dried)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 cup water
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (everything but the maple syrup, oil, and water). Stir well. In another bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, and water and add to dry ingredients. Stir until well incorporated. Let dough sit for 10 minutes, allowing the ingredients to bind together. Stir every few minutes.
- Cut four pieces of parchment to the size of your sheet tray. Split the dough in two. Gather one half of the dough into a ball and place between two pieces of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin (or a bottle of wine or oil), firmly roll out the mixture into a thin sheet, approximately 1/8" thick. If any dough rolls out from under the paper, simply add it back to the flattened mixture and continue to roll until thin. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining dough. Let sit for 10 more minutes.
- If you have two baking sheets cook both batches at once. If you only have one, cook one batch at a time. Slide the bottom half of the parchment paper with the dough mixture onto a baking sheet (make sure to remove the top parchment paper). Bake for 20 minutes. Remove baking sheets from the oven. Carefully slide the parchment paper with the cracker out of the baking sheet. Place a fresh parchment paper on the baking sheet. Grasp the parchment paper and crackers together and carefully flip the whole mixture over onto fresh sheet of parchment paper. Peel the old parchment paper off, and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until dry, crispy, and golden. If some pieces are not crisp, break them off and bake some more. Repeat with the second batch.
- Let crackers cool, break apart, and store in an airtight container for up to a month.
Have some cracker crumbs? Toss them in your salad for a healthy riff on a crouton.
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