All hail the almighty chia seed!
Actually though, imagine you’re this tiny little seed. A seed that can be traced back nearly 5000 years, that is so sustainable it can be stored for a length of time, can travel distances, and a seed that was said to give strength and stamina to Aztec warriors as they were to enter battle. You would feel pretty almighty, wouldn’t you?
Tiny, but fierce, it’s no wonder this little guy is making headlines, because it’s one of those foods that is just truly incredible.
WHAT IS A CHIA?
The chia seed made its debut in North America back in the 70’s when there was that popular wave of the ch-ch-ch chia pet. A porcelain countertop pet that sprouted hair when you watered it, the chia pet became famous for its catchy TV jingle, and the fact that you could pretty much grow hair on anything conceivable; from Trump to Obama, even to the infamous Bob Ross- the chia seed became world famous for something that is so pop culture.
But, as the chia pet’s popularity fizzled out, and the wellness industry started to boom, we realized just how powerful of an effect this tiny little seed could have on the modern day diet.
The dietary use of the chia seed dates back to nearly 1500 B.C. in Mexico, during the time of the Aztecs that had a wide range of use for the chia seed, from diet, to medicine, to even ceremonial uses. The Aztec’s believed the chia seed held great supernatural powers, and it’s even said that it became banned when the Spanish conquered the region, due to its religious use.
Chia seeds tend to have a very mild and nutty flavor, they’re also a hydrophilic food, meaning they retain water, thus giving anything they’re submerged in that’s liquid a gelatinous texture. So, they’ve become one of the most successful binding ingredients, and an egg substitute for those who are vegan, or have an egg allergy.
Their hydrophilic tendencies aren’t what makes them a modern-day superseed, these seeds have a pretty badass nutritional resume. Not only are they incredibly dense in protein, are a great vegan source of Omega 3 fatty acids, are incredibly high in minerals, such as calcium, but they are also high in fiber, making them one of the best laxatives out there.
Just take a peek at some of the nutrients 2 Tbsp of chia seeds contain:
Fiber: 11 grams.
Protein: 4 grams.
Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2. They’re loaded with antioxidants, and the carbs that they do contain, are from prebiotic fibre.
Let’s just say that if there is one thing you’re thinking of adding to your diet, chia seeds are definitely that thing.
THE GUT FRIENDLY SUPERSEED
So, let’s talk about the gut for a second. The gut actually consists of nearly 70% of your immune system (called GALT, or Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue) and the bacteria and fungi that reside there play a huge role in keeping your GALT and immune system healthy.
Why? Because the your G.I. tract consists of over 400 bacterial species that live in massive colonies. This gut flora is responsible for neutralizing the toxic by-products of digestion, setting up a defence against harmful bacteria, producing vitamins, such as B & K, and helping your gut cells grow!
Human beings need a plethora of healthy bacteria and fungi in, on and throughout their bodies to maintain health. So, when you hear the word ‘probiotics’ this basically refers to those microorganisms that the human body can ingest and utilize for health purposes. You literally are a host for living ecosystems within your body, they are necessary as a line of defence, and having substantial amount of healthy bacteria and fungi keeps things running smoothly.
Can we compromise our gut?
Yes, there are definitely ways we can compromise these ecosystems and create an imbalance of unhealthy vs. healthy bacteria and fungi. Good vs. bad- if you tend to treat your body poorly, the bad guys will thrive, and vice versa. So, consuming foods that contain a good amount of gut-loving nutrients, such as fiber, probiotics, prebiotics, and anti-inflammatory nutrients, set your G.I. system up to flourish.
That’s why we are obsessed with chia seeds!
Chia seeds work wonders for the gut!
Tummy troubles are common to a very large portion of the population. You could be experiencing food moving too fast, or experiencing food moving too slow. Whether it’s constipation or diarrhea, if you experience one or the other, things aren’t exactly working the way they are supposed to (embarrassing as it may be, a healthy human individual averages 1-3 poops per day).
In our line of work this is a common problem for a lot of people (so, you’re not alone), and while going to the bathroom too much needs to be thoroughly investigated (and fiber may cause more trouble for you), if you are experiencing ‘not enough’ toilet time, we would rather prescribe a healthy dose of fiber, than herbal laxatives.
Chia seeds are one of our top recommendations when it comes to constipation. The 11grams of fiber per oz. of chia seeds is nearly 30% of the recommended daily intake of fibre for men, and nearly 50% of the recommended daily intake of fibre for women. That paired with other dietary sources from fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, can help you feel free of your toilet troubles. Just sayin’.
The scoop on prebiotic fiber.
Think of prebiotic fibers as food for your gut bacteria. They are indigestible food ingredients that keep your body healthy, by keeping your microflora healthy.
Foods high in prebiotic fiber are food such as chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, raw garlic, onions, banana, oats, and of course chia seeds! Increasing these foods in your diet helps to ensure you’re feeding the colonies in your gut with the right kinds of nutrients they need to thrive.
What else are chia seeds good for
Aside from all this gut talk, chia seeds have some other pretty awesome health benefits. They’re incredibly high in antioxidants, making them a heart-healthy food, and great for your skin. They’re a wonderful source of plant-based protein, for those who are looking to make a shift away from meat, and they are being researched for their abilities to possibly assist in the prevention of metabolic disorders, like insulin resistance.
Not only are chia seeds beneficial for so many body systems, but due to their high protein content, they are also an incredibly filling food that helps with satiety, which makes them a great addition for those wishing to lose weight.
Word of the wise, due to chia seeds’ incredibly high amount of fiber, and the fact that they bulk when absorbed by water, you don’t need to consume too much chia in order to reap the benefits. As a matter of fact, too much chia can cause digestive upset. Be sure to start with a small amount and slowly increase intake. Also, remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day, since water is necessary for fiber to pass through the digestive tract.
HOW TO USE CHIA SEEDS & OUR TOP FAV BRANDS
We love chia seeds in everything and anything, from smoothies, to juice, to fruit salad, chia pudding, granola, baked goods, energy bars, oats, salad toppers and as a binder. They’re so versatile, and so many brands out there utilize the power of chia in their products. Check out some of the brands we know and love below!
You can use Proactive Organic Ground Black Chia Seeds to make flax eggs, use as a vegan binder in burgers/ fritters, add to warm oats, in smoothies or keep ground and add to baked goods and protein bars. We definitely are all in for the whole chia seeds, but since they are so tiny, ground is nice to avoid getting seeds stuck in your teeth.
Mary’s Organic Superseed Crackers is our most absolute favorite brand of crackers. Mary’s crackers are jam-packed with superseeds, pseudograins, and other wholesome and healthy ingredients. They are gluten-free, filled with fibre, crunchy, tasty and once you get into the Mary’s you’ll never go back!
If you’re looking for a way to get more protein into your diet, Spectrum Vegan Protein Blend is one of the top brands out there for protein powder. Their ingredients are pretty simple as well, all derived from plants: Proprietary Protein Blend (Organic Pea, Organic Brown Rice, Organic Quinoa, Organic Chia Seed, Organic Amaranth), a really awesome addition to your diet if you are just starting to adopt more of a plant-based style of living, or if you are working out quite often.
And, of course we can’t let you read through this entire article about the benefits of chia seeds without leaving you with an incredibly simple, delicious chia seed pudding recipe.
Chocolate Banana Coconut Cream Pudding
This sugar-free chocolate banana coconut cream pudding is naturally sweetened with dates and bananas, it contains delicious and great for you ingredients like chia seeds, which are high in omega 3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Serve as breakfast, snack or dessert.
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 Tbsp cacao powder
- 2 bananas
- ¼ cup full fat coconut milk
- 3 dates
- 3 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp shredded coconut
- dash of sea salt
To make banana pudding
- Blend the almond milk with the other banana, vanilla, coconut, dash of sea salt until creamy and smooth. Add 1.5 Tbsp chia seeds, mix thoroughly and set aside.
To make chocolate cream
- Blend the coconut milk, 1 banana, dates and cacao powder until smooth and creamy. Add in 1.5 Tbsp chia seeds and mix thoroughly.
- Portion half the chocolate chia mix at the bottom of a bowl or small jar, and then repeat in a second jar.
- Pour the banana pudding on top of the chocolate.
- Place in fridge and set 20 minutes to overnight.
You can also add in layers of chocolate and vanilla, and add banana chunks to the pudding. Tops nicely with vegan whipped cream.