Ingredient of the Month 21: Chia Seeds- and Chia Champions recipe event

They don't look like much, but chia seeds are packed with nutrients!

See how tiny they really are...

In recent years the nutritional benefits of chia seeds have come to the world's attention, but for the indigenous peoples of Central and South America, chia has been a staple food for centuries; maybe even millenia. Chia, also known by its botanical name salvia hispanica, is actually a member of the mint family and related to sage. The Aztecs valued chia so much that they offered it up to their gods in religious ceremonies and used it to pay taxes. (Aztec warriors could march for 24 hours on just a teaspoon of chia, it is said.) Roasted and ground chia seeds were used to make a flour called pinole. Although the Spanish conquerors banned the cultivation of chia, wild chia was gathered and used secretly. Today chia is again widely cultivated in Mexico, both for domestic use and export. Chia seeds mixed with water, lemon/lime and honey are used to make a thirst-quenching drink called chia fresca. Here are some great reasons to include chia seeds in your diet:

1: Nutrition:
  • Just one tablespoon of chia seeds contains more omega- 3 oils than salmon (great news; don't let anyone tell you you have to eat fish to get these fatty acids!) In fact, it's one of the richest known sources. Omega-3s build strong and flexible cell walls in the body, are essential for the vital organs, can prevent cancer and promote cardiovascular health.
  • Antioxidants and minerals are abundant in chia seeds; they are weight for weight higher in calcium than milk and higher in antioxidants than blueberries, for example.
  • Vitamins B, C, E and K are also found in chia seeds.
  • Chia seeds are rich in good quality protein. (ie: made from all the essential amino acids.) They are 20% protein, in fact, and 1oz (about 2 tablespoons) of chia contains 4.4g.
  • Fibre is another great benefit from eating chia seeds; they contain even more than flax seeds.
2: Healing: Indigenous peoples have used chia for dressing wounds, treating colds and sore throats, stomach upsets and constipation; even body odour and prostate problems.

3: Sport: Chia means strength in the Mayan language; chia seeds were called  "Running Food" by the Aztecs- and with good reason, too: not only do the nutritional benefits of chia (see above) help build a fit and healthy body, but chia's ability to hold water- around 9-12x its weight- also makes for great hydration and retention of electroytes; better than artificial sports drinks, in fact. Another chia secret is that the gel which forms round the seeds as they absorb water causes slow release of carbohydrates as well as slow conversion of carbohydrates into sugar for energy. To put it simply, chia seeds in your diet will help you perform better: a glass of chia seeds in water every morning or 45 minutes before you train/ compete can result in greater energy and endurance. (I can vouch for this!)

4: Weight loss: Chia seeds have been found to help in weight loss in 3 ways: 1: Their superior nutritional properties mean you will feel more satisfied and be less inclined to overeat or snack, plus chia gel is filling in itself. (Definitely true!) 2: As outlined above, they can regulate blood sugar levels by releasing carbs slowly. 3: Chia seeds taken with water are a very good source of fibre so they ensure an efficient lower digestive tract..

Some culinary uses for chia seeds:
  1. You can use chia as an egg replacer, the same as a flax egg
  2. Chia seeds, ground or unground, can thicken sauces without the need for corn or wheat flour.
  3. Ground chia makes an excellent naturally set chilled dessert, along with your favourite fruit, plant milk and natural sweetening agents; just throw it all into the blender and leave to set in the fridge.
  4. You can slip chia seeds into your baking for added nutritional benefits.
  5. Chia seeds can be sprouted, although I have to admit I haven't had any success in this yet. Apparently you should spray them with water rather than soaking them to avoid the gelatinous mess I ended up with! (All helpful comments on sprouting chia gratefully accepted!)
Chia recipes from this blog:

Come join our Chia Champions event!
Are you a chia champion? Do you include chia in your favourite recipes and find creative ways to slip it into the family's food? If so, we'd love to hear from you- and please feel free to spread the word about this event all over the blogosphere so we can make a useful collection of chia recipes and knowhow. Just use the linky tool below (and click on it to see what other links are there) anytime during June 2013. No need to re-post, just amend your post to link to this announcement and mention the event; that way we'll both stand to benefit from more traffic and with any luck get to know about some awesome new blogs too. No need either to include an event logo- there isn't one this month!


  1. Brilliant. I am a fan of chia, as well as coconut and hemp. I've actually got an entire book about chia, which has some great chia bits of info.

    I'm running the Sutton Fun Run tomorrow and will be having energy food/drink to keep me powered up during the 8.5 miles. I base these on Brendan Brazier recipes. I do have to alter them a bit as they simply don't work for me as is.

    Anyway, I'll post up my recipes tomorrow or Monday for the Chia Champs event.

    What exactly is involved? I'm not sure I get it...

    1. Thanks for your comment Jon, and we're looking forward to the recipes. All you do is post your recipes on your blog, include a link to this event page and mention that you have linked your post to this event. Then this post will (hopefully) build up a list of links to various blogs that people have added, so it will become a bit of a hub for chia recipes and lots of links and backlinks will be formed. You have to click on the Mister Linky widget to see the list or add a link. On the last day of June I will post a roundup of the links as well.

    2. Oh, and good luck in the Sutton Fun Run! (I've never been brave enough to enter a race, 5k is my furthest.)

    3. Eventually I've got the recipe up - raw energy chia chocs! Lush


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