What is Chia Seed? He’s tiny, packed with nutrition and has earned front and center status in my kitchen. I think you’ll like him, too.
I am about to head into the kitchen to make Saturday Pancakes (on a Tuesday) but before I do I have a friend I’d like you to meet. He’s tiny, versatile and has earned front and center status in my kitchen. Say hello to Mr. Chia!
Chia is a very small member of the mint (sage) family and is native to Mexico and Guatemala. My husband got me hooked on chia seed after reading Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. In his book, McDougall tells of a tribe of endurance runners—the Tarahumara of Northern Mexico—sustaining themselves with chia while running 100-mile ultra marathons. 100 miles!
There is evidence that chia was first used as a food as early as 3500 B.C. So why this nutrient-dense superfood is just now going mainstream in America boggled me—until I watched this video. It’s a shame that chia has just been “rediscovered” because we’ve really been missing out, and here’s why.
Two tablespoons of chia are packed with:
- Over 4g of PROTEIN
- 4g of soluble FIBER—that’s approximately 28% of your daily requirement
- 205 mg of CALCIUM—that’s equal to one ounce of cheese or two cups cooked broccoli
- A perfectly balanced 3:1 ratio of OMEGA-3 and OMEGA-6 for a total of over 3g
- A rich helping of IRON, B VITAMINS, CALCIUM, MAGNESIUM, PHOSPHORUS, POTASSIUM, ZINC, BORON, and COPPER
To take full advantage of chia’s amazing nutritional benefits eat the seeds raw (ground or whole). Blend with your favorite smoothie, sprinkle over yogurt or add some to granola. Or how about pinole or a “meal replacement” shake.
The Aztec nation also used chia to heal. Chia is said to be beneficial in reducing inflammation, weight loss, thyroid conditions, hypoglycemia, diabetes, IBS, celiac disease and even acid reflux!
Chia as an Egg Replacer
I have found chia to be superior to flax and packaged egg replacers as an egg substitute in baking. The formula for one egg is:
One “chia egg” = 1 tablespoon ground chia whisked with 3 tablespoons water
What you get is a thick, gelatinous gel like you see here (I used white chia seed meal).
The binding ability of chia and chia gel is so great that you can often reduce or omit binding gums such as xanthan and guar—often called for in gluten-free recipes. Give it a try. Simply replace xanthan or guar gum with an equal measure of ground chia.
For baking you might prefer white chia (equal in nutritional value as black). When ground to a meal, black chia will speckle baked goods with bits of black.
Chia seeds have little to no flavor and will not affect the taste of foods and beverages.
One tablespoon of chia seed yields 1-1/2 tablespoons ground chia meal. Chia meal is easily made using a coffee/spice grinder, a magic bullet, or a high-powered blender.
Unlike many other seeds, chia does not go rancid and can safely be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for about two years (some sources say up to five!).
More About Chia Seed
Back to Those Pancakes
Oh yes, and here are those pancakes. Bound with chia and smothered in guava-lilikoi (passion fruit) syrup. Only a week of vacation left. Our time in paradise has gone too fast!