I know this topic might not seem like a barn burner, but I'm still pretty darn excited about it: we're talking about how to use chia seeds.
Chia seed is one of my favorite foods ever because it's so powerful from a health perspective — and it's really fun to use in the kitchen.
In today's post, we’ll cover why you should consider adding this tiny — but mighty — seed to your diet. And we’ll also cover how to use chia seeds in some delicious and fun recipes.
Why you should consider using chia seeds
I’ve been a chia fangirl for years now, and I’m still excited about using them on a regular basis.
Because regular use of chia seeds can be a real game changer for your digestion. And as someone who used to struggle a lot with my digestion (IBS), I can tell you that chia has really helped me out in this department.
So has not eating pepperoni pizza and Diet Coke and bottomless cups of coffee every day (hello college), but that's a story for another day.
As I’ve written before, about 97% of Americans are deficient in one important nutrient.
Is it protein?
Well, no. But I wouldn’t blame you if that was your guess.
So, no, it’s not protein. In fact, most American eat twice as much protein as they need.
And this isn’t great, because eating too much protein can increase your risk for kidney damage, especially if you have high blood pressure or have diabetes. Eating too much protein can also increase your risk for cancer.
Okay. Enough about protein.
Super unsexy, I know. But it’s true.
Fiber, fiber, fiber.
Why you need to eat a high-fiber diet — and how chia can help
Bottom line: eating a low fiber diet can be really bad for you. Conversely, getting enough fiber can be really good for you.
For starters, we need fiber to pull excess cholesterol from the body — this is especially important for anyone with high cholesterol — or anyone who is taking statins.
We also need fiber for a healthy immune system — the fiber actually “feeds” the beneficial bacteria in our gut, where most of the immune system resides.
In addition, eating plenty of fiber helps our digestive system. Big time. Fiber is beneficial for “feeding” the good bacteria in our gut, balancing blood sugar, helping the digestive system move along smoothly, and keeping hunger at bay.
Lastly — and perhaps most importantly — a diet full of fiber-rich foods reduces the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.
That said, here’s why I love chia seed: it’s really high in fiber.
Chia and fiber
One mere ounce of chia seeds yields 10 grams of fiber — which is only 5 grams less than what most Americans get on a daily basis.
What we really should be getting is about 25-30 grams of fiber a day.
Okay, so let’s do the math. If we eat one serving of chia seeds a day, we’re about a third of the way towards reaching our fiber goal for the whole damn day.
Pretty cool, right?
Here’s what's also cool about chia. Chia is known as a demulcent, which means it forms a gel when introduced to water or other fluids. This gel can then relax and soothe mucous membranes, such as those found in our digestive tract. This property — along with the fact that chia contains fiber — is what helps chia seed bulk up stool and help improve bowel movement.
I like to think of chia seed as a spa treatment for my digestive system — not surprising since the word demulcent stems from the Latin word, demulcēre, which means to soothe or caress.
So, if you want to do something really nice for your digestive system, enjoy a spoonful or two of chia seed as part of your regular diet.
You (and your body) may also appreciate the fact that chia seed is a good source of cancer-fighting antioxidants, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. The fiber also helps us feel full for longer, which can aid in weight loss and weight management.
Chia seed also has a bit of a reputation as an energy food for runners and endurance athletes, due to Christopher McDougall’s coverage of a tribe of chia-fueled Mexican ultra-runners in his book Born to Run.
Chia seeds: whole, ground or soaked?
Now that we know how powerful chia seeds can be, let’s talk about how to use them.
Chia seeds can be found in most grocery stores. Typically they’re sold in a pouch or bag, and you can often find them in the bulk section as well.
The seeds are usually sold in their whole form, though they can be enjoyed whole or ground. Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds don't have to be ground in order for our bodies to access the nutrients.
If you’re interested in weight loss, however, there appears to be some benefit in using ground chia seeds, as reported in “Do Chia Seeds Reduce Belly Fat” from Nutritionfacts.org.
You can also soak chia seeds before using them. Some people find the resulting chia gel to be easier to digest, although I’ve never had issues using whole seeds. The basic recipe is to add two tablespoons of chia seed to one cup of filtered water. Stir, then refrigerate in an airtight container. The resulting chia gel can then be spooned into smoothies, oatmeal, or other meals. The gel should keep in the fridge for about four days.
How to use chia seeds in a recipe
My favorite way to use chia seed is in a smoothie. I don’t have a specific recipe to offer — basically, I’ll just throw a tablespoon or two into any smoothie.
The only caveat is that if the smoothie is sitting around for a while. For example, if you make your smoothie and store it in the fridge — the chia seed will thicken the smoothie. So, you might want to add some water and shake it up to make it easier to drink. No big deal.
Here are some other ways you can use chia:
- Chia Pudding: this prep-ahead option is awesome for easy grab-and-go breakfasts throughout the week. If you like chocolate, try my Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding.
- Overnight Oats: Add 1-2 tablespoons of chia seed to your favorite overnight oats for a fiber boost. To try: Banana Walnut Overnight Oats. You can also add chia to regular oatmeal, as well as my Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Bowl.
- Egg replacement: Sensitive to eggs? No worries. Just mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture set for 15-20 minutes, and then you’ll have a great egg replacement for baking.
- Chia Jam: Oh, this super quick jam is the JAM! This Mixed Berry Chia Jam is ridiculously easy, and insanely delicious.
- Energy bites and other snacks: Chia seeds work really well in energy bite recipes, such as these No-Bake Chocolate Hazelnut Energy Bites.
- Drinks: Soak chia seeds in tea or juice to make a refreshing chia drink like my Blackberry Mint Chia Fresca.
- Energy/sports gel: You can also soak two tablespoons of chia seed in one cup of water or coconut water to make a hydrating energy gel for running and other endurance sports.
As you can see, chia seeds are a very versatile ingredient. They're so easy to include in smoothies, snacks, and any other healthy dishes that sound good to you these days.
I hope today’s post has been helpful in demystifying the powerful chia seed, and that you feel inspired to get more of this powerful food into your daily diet.
If you try the recipes, please tag me over Instagram at @mospo — I’d love to connect with you.
In the meantime, here's a video of me making that Mixed Berry Chia Jam, step-by-step… Enjoy!
Watch the video: how to use chia seeds to make jam