Why you should add chia to your diet, and a list of recipe ideas to make it extra easy

What is chia?

Chia seeds are little black or white seeds, about the size of poppy seeds. There’s not really much taste to them, a little nuttiness perhaps. They are a distant cousin of the mint, and come from a desert plant called Salvia hispanica. Originally used by the Aztecs, chia is not at all a recent discovery, and is actually an ancient grain. It works equally well in savoury or sweet dishes.

Why is it so good for you?

Chia has been touted a lot of late as a superfood, and there’s some pretty good basis for the hoo-hah. Chia is:

  • around 18% omega-3 fatty acids, which are magic fats good for your heart, brain, body and mood. Omega-3 reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke and a number of kinds of cancer.
  • around 34% fiber which keeps your stomach healthy and your bowels working just the way they should. Fiber also balances your insulin levels and can keep diabetes at bay.
  • high in protein which helps you build muscle and burn fat
  • high in calcium giving you stronger bones and healthy teeth
  • high in iron, great for your blood health
  • a good source of magnesium which helps your nerves and muscles to function, keeps the bones strong and the heart steady
  • high in zinc which strengthens your immune system and helps you to heal faster from illness or injury. It’s also good for your senses of smell and taste!
  • a great source of antioxidants which can reduce inflammation in your body and helps fight ageing and improve your skin
  • an excellent source of energy and can raise your metabolism
  • a great option for pregnant women, replenishing their nutrient and energy levels without increasing fat or carbohydrate intake.

Chia is very easy to add to your food, and easy to eat. It is said to swell up once it hits your stomach, absorbing up to 10 times its own weight in water. Chia therefore makes you feel fuller for longer, which stops you from snacking or feeling hungry again quickly after eating.

It can be a great help in losing weight and keeping it off, and apparently actively reduces sugar cravings. There is basically nothing bad in it; because it’s so tiny it’s low in fat and contains no sugar or gluten.

Chia is a wonderful source of iron, calcium and protein for people on a vegetarian, vegan or paleo diet. It has binding qualities so can be used as an egg substitute in baking recipes.

Some great chia recipes to try

At its easiest, Chia can be sprinkled over salads or muesli, or added to smoothies, juice or yoghurt. Ground chia flour can be used instead of wheat flour in recipes such as bread, pancakes, fresh pasta and even brownies (yum)!

But with some more effort and imagination you can take it much further than that. Check out the following recipe ideas:

Chia and Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

In a saucepan mix 1 cup of oats and 2 cups coconut milk, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add ½ cup pumpkin puree, ½ tablespoon chia seeds and then simmer for another five minutes. Add ½ teaspoon each of vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, and a pinch of salt, simmer again for another five minutes. Serve. Yum!

Chia Roast Vegetable Salad

Chop 1 sweet potato, 2 carrots, 1 capsicum, 1 broccoli, ½ cauliflower and 2 parsnips into equal sized pieces. Toss through with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons honey, a good pinch of salt and pepper and 20g chia seeds. Roast in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, turning once halfway through. Serve over a big platter of baby spinach and arugula. Drizzle with a little more honey, olive oil, and salt and pepper before serving. Serve with lemon or lime wedges for squeezing.

Chia Pudding

Mix 2 tablespoons of chia seeds with a 400ml tin of coconut milk, half a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a good sprinkle of cinnamon. Cover, and leave it overnight to soak. This pudding is similar to rice pudding, but way better for you. You can enjoy this for breakfast or anytime really as a snack, warm or cold. Add flavourings to your liking such as chopped up strawberries or oranges, or a big spoonful of Nutella.

Chia Veggie Burgers

Boil 200g sweet potato and let it cool. Place in a blender with ½ bunch chopped fresh parsley, 1 clove crushed garlic, 1 chopped spring onion, 1 egg, 35g SR flour, a good handful of grated parmesan, the zest of one lime, a pinch of salt and 20g chia seeds. Mix and then form into burger patties, cook these in a fry pan or on a grill until cooked through.

Chia Pasta

Cook 400g fresh spaghetti. In a bowl mix ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup vegetable oil, 1 clove crushed garlic, a really good sprinkle of salt and pepper, 4 tablespoons chia seeds, and 4 tablespoons grated parmesan. Mix the steaming hot pasta with the rest of the ingredients and ½ cup reserve cooking pasta water. This is an awesome base and you can add whatever you like to it, for instance 500g prawns and some lime zest, or chopped chorizo, olives and crumbled fetta, or roasted cherry tomatoes and zucchini.

The sky is the limit really with what you can do, and there is no excuse for not adding magical chia to your diet. For more ideas talk to the experts at Eric’s today and find out their own favourite chia recipes.

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