Although we’d have liked to have written an article called The Top 101 Ways to Eat Chia Seeds, we couldn’t actually think of that many!
However, as you will see when reading this article, chia seeds truly are a versatile superfood addition to a wide range of sweet and savory foods.
What are Chia Seeds and Just Why Are They Such A Superfood?
A true ancient superfood, chia seeds were an important food consumed by Ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures and they recognized it as an energy food. In fact, the word chia means ‘strength’ in ancient Mayan.
Mature chia seeds can be white or black and come from the Salvia hispanica plant and were once a key food crop in Guatemala and Mexico although as the popularity of chia seeds is increasing, they are becoming a valuable crop once more in parts of the world.
Just a one ounce serving of chia seed contains 4 grams of protein including all nine of the essential amino acids that the body needs. It also contains 12 grams of carbs (11 grams of which are fiber) and 9 grams of fat – 5 grams of which are the polyunsaturated omega-3s linked with decreasing the risk of cardiovascular conditions such as strokes and thrombosis.
The one oz serving of chia seeds also provides just under a third of our RDI (recommended daily intake) of manganese and magnesium and just over a quarter of our RDI of phosphorous. Chia seeds also contain calcium and other micronutrients such as B vitamins, potassium and zinc and are a good source of antioxidants.
We should consume between 22.4 grams and 30.8 grams of fiber per day, depending on our age and whether we are male and female, so adding even just half an ounce of chia seeds to our diet can provide between 50% and 66% of our recommend fiber intake. Remember that any high fiber food is always best introduced to the daily diet slowly as consuming too much fiber at first can cause some digestive upset.
A higher fiber diet can also help with weight loss as fiber not only helps us feel fuller for longer but higher fiber foods are often lower calorie foods, although currently, there is limited evidence showing that chia seeds can help with a weight loss program.
Fiber is also linked with better cholesterol and blood pressure levels and it may also help combat some of the risk of diabetes, cancer and other conditions that are liked with inflammation in the body.
If you take away the fiber content of chia seeds - as much of this passes through the body undigested - then the one ounce serving of chia seeds contains around 100 calories in total and its low carb content also helps make it suitable for many diets and lifestyles.
Chia seeds have a very mild flavor – just slightly nutty – which means they will not really alter the flavor of food when added to a dish, rather they will just improve its nutrition and if stored in a cool and dry place, chia seeds will keep for a years.
How Not to Eat Chia Seeds
If you are new to chia seeds, the most important thing to remember is that they are hydrophilic (water-loving) and can absorb as much as 10 times the original weight in water.
This is the main reason why chia seeds are best added to a moist food such as yogurt or be pre-soaked in liquid before using. A general ratio is one part chia seeds to six parts liquid, or one third of a cup of chia seeds in two cups of water. If this mix is a little thick, then dilute it with more liquid – up to three cups of water. Pre-soaking or eating chia seeds with liquid also makes it easier to consume chia seeds, especially if you are not used to eating them.
Although chia seeds can be eaten whole or ground, they can stick to your teeth and be difficult to swallow. It is best to never give chia seeds to young children and if you have any difficulties in swallowing, you may want to avoid chia seeds also.
If you do eat chia seeds raw (un-soaked), drink plenty of liquid alongside to help ease them through but more importantly to help stop you from becoming dehydrated as the seeds will absorb some of the liquid in the gut as they pass through.
As a rule of thumb, you can add chia seeds to a food if there is some moisture to keep the seeds in place.
The Top Easy Ways to Add Chia Seeds to Your Diet
1. Add to Breakfast Cereal, Oatmeal or Granola
You can add a teaspoon or so of chia seeds – whole or ground - to any type of breakfast cereal which is served hot or cold if you have added milk or a milk alternative. The seeds will swell slightly but should keep some crunch unless you make very mushy oatmeal!
Another option is homemade chia cereal. To do this, soak chia seeds overnight in your preferred liquid such as almond milk or soy milk (try quarter cup of chia seeds in one cup of almond milk) then in the morning add fruit, nuts and spices to the chia seeds.
2. As A Yogurt Topper
Whole or ground chia seeds can be added to Greek yogurt along with fruits, nuts and other healthy toppings.
3. For Crunchy Salad Toppings
Sprinkle some chia seeds onto your favorite salads for a nutrition boost or even add a teaspoon to your homemade salad dressing!
4. Fiber Boosting Soups and Stews
Add whole or ground chia seeds to soups and stews either during cooking or at the end. Not only will the seeds act as a thickener, they will also increase the nutrition of the meal.
5. Chia Smoothies
Adding chia seeds to your smoothie will add a real superfood boost. Just add up to one tablespoon of chia seeds to the other raw ingredients before blending. If the smoothie is a little thick – add some more liquid and blend again.
6. Chia Seed Pudding
Chia seed pudding allows you to experiment with lots of different flavors. An easy chia seed pudding can be made by soaking chia seeds in coconut or almond milk with a little cinnamon overnight and then adding some vanilla flavor and toppings such as toasted coconut or nuts when serving. If you not keen on the texture, then try using ground instead of whole chia seeds.
Why not try a lemon and blueberry, apricot and pineapple, cocoa, walnut and maple or matcha chia pudding as well?
7. Chia Seed Dips
If you buy dips ready made from the store, then stir in some chia seeds before serving or you can also add them to homemade hummus, tzatziki and guacamole or even use the seeds to replace some of the higher calorie ingredients in the dips!
Ideas for Chia Seed Drinks
8. Chia Seed Water or Juice
Chia water is not just great for drinking, this is also the easiest way to pre-soak the seeds for using in other ways. Just add a quarter cup of chia seeds to soak in four cups of water for 30 minutes. A splash of citrus juice and the water is then ready to drink.
You can pre-soak the same amount of chia seeds in four cups of juice.
9. Chia Lemonade
Make some homemade lemonade by soaking 1½ tablespoons of seeds in 2 cups of cold water for 30 minutes, then add the juice from a lemon and some sweetener and finish with fresh mint.
Why not try it with limes instead of lemons?
10. Chia Seed Tea
You can add a small quantity of chia seeds – around half to a teaspoon of chia seeds to a cup of your regular tea. Leave the seeds to soak for a while and they will sink to the bottom of the cup.
How to Eat Chia Seeds in Savory Dishes
To use chia seeds in savory or even sweet dishes, you may need to make a chia seed gel first. You can make chia seed gel by adding the required amount of chia seeds to slightly warm water and then mixing well. A jar with a good fitting lid can be useful for mixing with. Once mixed stand for between 30 seconds and five minutes before using. If the gel is a little thick – add more water, or if too thin, a few more chia seeds and mix again.
Leftover gel can be placed in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to four days.
As well as water, you can make gel with milk, yogurt, juice, soy milk, almond milk and more – it’s easy to adjust the gel base depending on what recipe you will be using the gel in.
Leftover gel made with other liquids can be refrigerated but may not keep as long as a water based gel would.
11. Chia Thickener for Puddings, Gravies and Soups
If you make a gel with chia seed and water (or other liquid), the gel can be added to puddings and used like gelatin as a thickener. Chia seed gel can also be soaked in water added to hot dishes such as soups and gravies to thicken them just before serving.
Chia seed gel is a great alternative to gelatin or dairy-based thickeners for vegan or dairy free diets.
12. High Fiber Stir Fries
Just add whole or ground chia seeds when cooking your stir fry.
13. Chia Seed Burgers and Meatballs
Instead of binding homemade burgers or meatballs with egg or breadcrumbs, why not use chia seeds? Adding one tablespoon of chia seeds should be enough to bind a half pound of ground meat.
You can also add chia seeds to homemade veggie burgers.
14. Homemade Chia Falafel
As well as in burgers, chia seeds can be added to homemade falafel.
15. Meat and Fish Crispy Crumb Coatings
You can add finely ground chia seeds alongside breadcrumbs, or even just use a tablespoon of ground chia seeds along with a cup of almond or corn meal with added seasonings for a baked crispy crumb coating.
Using Chia Seeds in Baked Goods
Usually, a small quantity of chia seeds can be added to most baked goods to add some fiber to those often unhealthy treats!
16. Use Chia as An Egg Replacement in Baked Goods
Ideal for vegan and egg-free diets, chia seeds can be used to replace egg in cake recipes. A tablespoon of chia seeds mixed with three tablespoons of water and left to stand for a few minutes until it resembles scrambled egg will replace one whole egg in a recipe.
17. Bake Some Chia Seed Bread
Chia seeds can be added to bread recipes but remember if you adapt a favorite bread recipe to include chia seeds, you will probably have to alter the liquid content of the dough. Chia seeds are also naturally gluten free.
18. Banana Bread
Chia seeds also go well in homemade banana bread.
You can make easy soft tortillas with 1½ cups whole wheat flour, 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, 1½ tablespoons of flax meal, 1 tablespoon of oil, ⅕ cup of water and ¼ teaspoon of baking powder along with any seasonings as required. After mixing and rolling into a ball, the dough can be separated into four or five balls and flattened.
These can then be cooked in an ungreased skillet for two to three minutes on each side until they are light golden brown colored. They can also be cut up and oven baked.
You may also be able to find chia seed tortillas in your local wholefood or specialty store.
20. Or Even High Fiber Pizza Dough
As with bread, chia seeds can be added to your favorite pizza dough for some extra fiber and a little crunch.
21. Chia Crackers
Chia seeds go especially well in seeded crackers and you can make some easy crackers at home in just over 30 minutes. Mix together a ½ cup of each of the following; chia, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, with 1 cup of water and seasonings and spread out into thin sheets on a cookie sheet before baking in the oven at 300°F for 30 minutes or until they are crispy and lightly brown.
22. Chia Muffins
You can add some chia seeds to your regular muffin mix. The good thing about chia seeds is they can be used in both savory and sweet muffin recipes.
1. Chia Seed Cookies
Although you may be able to add chia seeds to any type of cookie, they work particularly well in oatmeal or chocolate chip cookie recipes.
How to Eat Chia Seeds in Other Sweet Treats
2. Chia Seed Pancakes
Add no more than one tablespoon of whole or ground chia seeds to your pancake mix to give high fiber pancakes with a bit of crunch. If you add some flax seed as well, your pancakes will also provide an extra energy boost!
3. Chia Waffles
Swap out a regular waffle mix for a whole wheat and chia seed waffle mix for a whole grain breakfast treat.
4. Breakfast and Protein Bars
Whether you eat them at breakfast time or as a pick-me-up snack during the day, adding chia seeds to no bake homemade breakfast or protein bars provides a protein and fiber boost to the snack.
5. Chia Seed Truffles
Chia seeds can be used in no bake truffles made with dates, oats and cocoa.
6. Ice Pops
Add chia seeds to fruit ice pops or make creamy ice pops with coconut milk, soft fruits such as blueberries and chia seeds. Just blend the ingredients together and freeze in an ice pop tray.
7. Chia Seed Ice Cream
Either add chia seeds to your homemade ice cream, or sprinkle chia seeds as topping on store bought ice cream.
You can also freeze chia seed pudding made with a milk or milk alternative base to make a creamy frozen dessert.
8. Chia Seed Jam
Why not top your chia seed pudding with a little homemade chia jam?
Unlike making traditional jams and jellies, chia seed jam takes around ten minutes to make with fresh or frozen soft fruits and uses little added sugar. In fact, in some cases, the sugar can be omitted completely and replaced with a natural sweetener such as honey.
There is also no need to add pectin to chia jam and does not need to be traditionally canned.
To make a soft fruit chia jam, use around two cups of prepared fresh or frozen soft fruit (such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or kiwis) to the pan and cook on the stovetop until it starts to soften. If you need to add a sweetener then do so, then use a spoon or potato masher to break the fruit up faster. Once the fruit is at the consistency you want, turn off the burner and stir in two tablespoons of chia seeds. As the jam cools, it will thicken.
Once cold, the jam can be placed in an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Although we could only come up with 30 ways for how to eat chia seeds across a range of foods and drinks, we are sure that once you become comfortable with using them in your daily cooking, you will be able to come up with many more, perhaps as many as 101 ways to eat chia seeds!