5 Genius Ways to Use Chia Seeds, According to Nutritionists
We're all looking for easy ways to boost the nutrition of our meals as we remain safely at home during the coronavirus outbreak. So, you’ve heard chia seeds have superpowers. But, how exactly, does this little seed work wonders for your health? First up, there’s their omega-3 fatty acid content, which is a veritable boon for your body: “Chia seeds are high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that plays a key role in heart health,” explains vegan nutritionist Tiffany Ma, RDN. “Diets high in ALA may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, increase healthy cholesterol and improve blood pressure,” she continues, noting that the ALA content in chia seeds exceeds the recommended Dietary Reference Intake for Americans, which is 1.6 grams per day for adult males and 1.1 grams per day for adult females. Just one tablespoon of chia seeds provides 1.32 g of ALA, surpassing the recommended daily amount for women and providing 83% recommended for men.
Monica Nedeff, RDN, echoes Ma’s praise of the tiny superfoods, pointing to a 2019 research article on the health benefits of chia seeds. “[The scientific review found the] high omega-3 content of chia seeds to be helpful in reducing inflammation, decreasing cholesterol, and lowering blood pressure—great in supporting a healthy heart,” says Nedeff. “Additionally, the study discussed the benefits of antioxidants in chia seeds for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer, as well as the protective benefits in preventing diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s Disease. It’s also worth noting that chia seeds, especially for vegans, are a great choice for protein and calcium. For a seed smaller than a piece of couscous, we’ll certainly take benefits this big.
Unfortunately, however, when we think of chia seeds, many of us can think of few uses beyond “put them in your smoothie.” Prior to being enlightened, I could think of a few uses for them beyond “watching them collect dust and march towards their expiration date in that overlooked drawer in the fridge.” No more! Below, nutritionists weigh in on fun and creative ways to add chia seeds to your diet. Grab your trusty tablespoons and read on.
1. Add them to baked goods
Chia seeds don’t need to be relegated to the AM smoothie aisle. “I love using chia seeds in baked goods,” concedes Ma. “Sneaking them into freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies, banana bread, and homemade bread loaves is a great way to get your daily dose of chia seeds. The addition of chia seeds also adds an extra bite to baked goods, making it fun to eat,” she adds. Try our healthy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with chia seeds and you’ll never look back.
2. Sneak them into pancakes
Pancake day is always the best day, and given these trying times, we’ll take pancakes just about any day of the week. “Add them into the batter of pancakes before [cooking],” suggests Nedeff. (If you’re making waffles, it’s the same deal.) We dare you to find pancakes you love more than these fluffy vegan banana pancakes.
3. Make a super simple chia pudding
We promise that even self-proclaimed non-cooks can execute this recipe. “Chia seeds can absorb nine-to-12 times their volume in liquid, so try making a chia seed pudding by mixing 1 tablespoon chia seeds in a ¼ cup liquid such as juice, almond milk or another plant-based milk,” says Nedeff. “Stir every few minutes and within 15 minutes you’ll have a chia seed pudding,” she continues. For more flavor, try jazzing up your chia pudding with Nedeff’s favorites like vanilla extract, honey (if you eat it) or maple syrup, berries, and granola. Another smart tip: “If you don’t like the texture of the seeds, put the chia pudding in a blender and the seeds will be finely ground so that they’re less noticeable,” Nedeff suggests.
4. Sprinkle them on top of bread or bagels
Another savvy tip of Nedeff’s? Sprinkle chia seeds on top of bagels and breads for extra texture and a no-effort nutrition boost without changing the flavor profile of a dish (your late-night PB&J will still taste just as delicious, we promise). If you’ve whipped up a batch of homemade granola, you may also want to spoon some chia seeds into the finished product before eating. Crunchy cinnamon granola for an afternoon procrastination session, nothing better.
5. Make a homemade jam
Ma is a fan of slipping chia seeds into homemade jam recipes, experimenting with different types of berries like strawberries and blueberries. “Chia seeds have a unique ability to gel due to [their] soluble fiber content, contributing to the overall texture of jams,” she notes. All you’ll need to make a chia jam is a fruit, a sweetener like maple syrup or agave, and chia seeds. To fancy things up, consider adding a squeeze of citrus like lemon or lime juice, or even zesting a bit of these fruits’ rinds into your jam.