Up until recently, the most you might have known about chia seeds is that when they sprout, they resemble hair! But now we know that chia seeds are so much more than simply the source of decorative Chia pets: chia seeds are a super food! This protein-rich grain is easy to add to your favorite recipes. Here are 5 uses for chia seeds that will help get you started.
What Are Chia Seeds?
Before we start using them, it's interesting to take a look at what exactly chia seeds are. Chia seeds are the seed of salvia hispanica, a plant related to both sage and mint. Chia is native to southern Mexico and Guatemala, where it has been grown and consumed for its nutritional properties since pre-Columbian times. It continues to be eaten in these regions even today, often in the form of beverages, like this chia seed fresca.
The seeds themselves are one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet: they're a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, and consumption of them has been linked to increased heart health. Chia seeds are also very rich in protein.
How to Use Them?
Chia seeds can be used in a variety of different recipes, but bear this in mind: the health factors that have been linked to chia seeds are linked predominantly to milled, rather than whole chia seeds, so it's important to grind the seeds before using, either in a mortar and pestle or with a spice grinder.
Once crushed, chia seeds can be used in a variety of ways. The simplest way to use them is to sprinkle the crushed seeds into a morning smoothie or atop breakfast yogurt or oatmeal, adding some extra nutrients to your morning routine.
If you're looking to get a bit more involved, use chia to help your oatmeal achieve the perfect texture, with this overnight chia oatmeal. Soaking the chia seeds overnight helps thicken the oatmeal up for a delicious meal first thing in the morning.
You can also chia seeds to other recipes, like multi-grain bread with chia seeds. Chia brings its unique nutritional benefits to the mix of other grains and seeds. If you have a favorite bread recipe, you can also add the chia seeds directly to this base recipe.
One unique characteristic of chia seeds is their ability to thicken mixtures. When soaked, chia seeds create a slightly viscous substance that is perfect for making an all-natural, pectin-free blackberry jam or a chocolate chia seed pudding.
In the same vein, chia seeds can be used as a binder, as a replacement for eggs, breadcrumbs or both. Chia seeds are perfect in a raw pizza crust, and they can also be used as both an egg and breadcrumb substitute in these vegan chia mushroom meatballs. They're perfect as a binder in our very own quinoa chia seed energy bars.
Once you've gotten a glimpse of some of the many ways that chia seeds can be used, the sky truly is the limit!