Food Focus: Everything You Need to Know About Chia Seeds

Chia seeds

In our culture, chia seeds used to only be known as a way to grow hair on a terra cotta head, but now, they’re widely known as a superfood! You’ll find them in smoothies, yogurt, cookies—chia seeds are the darling of the health food world! And for good reason; they are packed with nutrition and healthy benefits. Let’s learn more about ch-ch-ch-chia!

What do they look like?

Chia seeds are tiny, ovular seeds (about the size of a pin head) and they come in two colors—a dark gray/black or a white. Both colors offer the same nutritional profile. The color difference has more to do with how you want your final dish to look than anything else. When chia seeds get wet, the seeds swell and absorb the liquid, creating a gel “forcefield” around each seed.

What do they taste like?

Nothing, really. Chia seeds have almost no discernible flavor. They do have a crunchy texture when dry and a gel-like texture when they are incorporated with wet ingredients.

Why are they good for me?

In other parts of the world, chia seeds have been widely accepted for centuries as one of nature’s more perfect foods (chia seeds were a staple in the diets of Aztec and Mayan cultures). Why do chia seeds have such staying power? Well, they are one of the highest-known plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. You know how you’re always hearing you should eat more salmon to benefit all the systems of your body? Well, a diet rich in chia seeds gives you the same healthy fat benefits.

Also, because of the gel-like behavior of chia seeds when they are wet, they do a great job of helping your body regulate blood sugar during digestion. Chia seeds are also packed with protein, fiber, and antioxidants!

When and where do I get them?

Unlike their omega-3 counterpart flaxseeds, chia seeds are highly shelf-stable—meaning they are easier to track down and store than flax. A few years back, it was nearly impossible to find chia seeds anywhere except speciality health food stores or online. But now, most major grocery stores carry chia seeds all year long (although, you may still have to look in the health food section). You’ll also probably be able to find many products (smoothies, drinks, yogurts, crackers, etc.) on the grocery store shelf that incorporate chia seeds.

How do I prepare chia seeds?

Chia seeds are a breeze to use! Sprinkle some on your avocado toast. Put a few tablespoons in your smoothie. Sprinkle some on top of your yogurt. Put some into your baking. The possibilities are endless!

What are some good recipes?

If you want to break out from the sprinkle method of using chia seeds, here are some more “advanced” ways of using chia seeds in your kitchen:

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Cassie Johnston is an award-winning food writer and recipe developer living and working in Southern Indiana. Her work has been feature in national publications such as Gourmet Magazine and The Huffington Post. Cassie’s a big fan of strenuous hikes, cheese, watching sports, Brussels sprouts, and craft beer, and she’ll talk your ear off about her love of local food and seasonal eating. She’s obsessed with social media and loves connecting with new friends!