Super food or little grass pet?

As I began hearing more and more about the chia seed, I was sure we were not talking about the same chia from the Chia Pet of the 80’s and 90’s.  You know the one with the earworm commercials…ch-ch-ch-chia!  If by chance you are too young (or too old)to remember, Chia Pets are terra cotta pots in the shapes of animals that you spread chia seeds on, and then they spout a grassy “fur” within a couple of weeks.

 

And…yes, the grass pet is made from the same chia seeds that we eat.  In fact chia seeds have quite the history.  They are grown in Mexico and South America and date as far back as the Mayan and Aztec times.  They were a staple in the diet, and historians have suggested it was a very important food crop in the day.  Currently Australia is the leading producer of chia seeds.

 

You can eat chia seeds whole or ground, and when they are combined with liquid they swell and form a gel.  Apparently it is also the primary ingredient in a very popular Mexican and South American drink called chia fresco which combines the seeds with fresh lemon or lime juice and added sweetener.

 

This truly all sounded rather disgusting to me (I’m sure the aversion is connected to the grass pet), but I did step out and make a lemon chia pudding, and I am very excited to report that it was really delicious!  I mean, very refreshing and tasty, and with a good texture (I was worried about that part as I don’t go for flan or custard), and an all around pleasant surprise.  I can totally understand the chia fresco craze!

 

Now, why would we eat these little seeds? 

They actually have some great nutritional benefits. 

Chia Seeds

Serving size:      2 Tablespoons (1 ounce)

                                138 calories

                                9 grams of fat (4,500mg of ALA Omega 3’s)

                                10 grams of fiber

                                5 grams of protein

                                18% of the Recommended Daily Value of Calcium

 

They add a bit of texture to a dish while the flavor is very mild, so it can be added to a variety of dishes…sweet or savory.  Add whole to granola, cereal, yogurt, or salad, and ground mixed in with flour for muffins, pancakes,  and cookies.

 

They can also be used as a food substitute for eggs and pectins (this would come in handy for someone following a vegan diet).  You can mix 1 part chia seeds to six parts water to form a gel, and about  1 tablespoon of this gel is equivalent to a large egg.

 

I will save flax seeds for another post, as they are also a great healthy addition to our diets, but for comparison purposes here is their nutrient breakdown.  I used 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed as the comparable since that is the easier way to consume flax on a daily basis.

Flaxseed

Serving size:       2 Tablespoons, ground

                                74 calories

                                6 grams of fat (3200mg ALA from Omega 3’s)

                                4 grams of fiber

                                2 grams of protein

Thanks for reading and have a great week!