What Can You Do with Chia Seeds? Plenty!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Mother knows best. Back in 2005, my mom starting telling me about this "amazing" seed that was great for health. She added it to smoothies, granola, breads, and just about everything else. Flax, I quickly learned, was versatile and an easy way to integrate those heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids into my diet.

But as much as I love flax for its nutritional benefits (fiber, lignans, the aforementioned Omega3s and protein), there are a couple of caveats when using it in recipes:

Flax must be ground for our bodies to process it. Whole flaxseeds pass through the body undigested, meaning they're only providing us with fiber. If a product contains whole flaxseeds and boasts that it's a great source of Omega-3s, it's like they gave you a treasure chest but forgot to give you the key! Sure, those heart-healthy fats are in there, but they are locked inside the seeds.

Their nutty flavor is tasty but hard to disguise, which makes it difficult for it to blend in to the background in a recipe.

A couple of years ago, I discovered a food that's become as much of a staple in my kitchen as flax (which I still use almost daily and love!). This seed is a bit harder to find and perhaps slightly more expensive, but it's a great product that I love to use.
What is it? It's chia seed. (Also called salba.)


You know, like Ch-ch-chia? (Rings a bell now, doesn't it?) As in Chia Pets? Those terra cotta sculptures that grow "hair" use the same seeds that grace my morning smoothies and afternoon "puddings."

What is Chia?

Chia seeds are tiny (about a millimeter in diameter) and come in black and white varieties. The seeds have a mottled appearance, with areas of gray, brown, black, and white. When wet, they more than triple in size, with a clear bubble surrounding the seed, due to the soluble fiber.

The white ones are sometimes called "salba." Some companies say the white seeds (salba) are better for you (and therefore worth a heftier price tag), but chia expert Dr. Wayne Coates, a retired professor of agricultural engineering, says that black and white seeds are equally good for you. On his website, he says: "if anything the black has more antioxidants. The black seeds, just as with dark fruits, are higher in antioxidants. Both seeds contain essentially the same amount of omega-3, protein, fiber, etc."

The plant is a member of the mint family and hails from Mexico and Guatemala, though seeds are also produced in the US. Chia seeds were among the four staples of the ancient Aztec diet staples: corn, chia, amaranth, and beans. According to Dr. Coates, chia fell out of favor as a commercial crop after the conquest of the Aztecs, but the seeds of wild plants were still eaten by locals. In the 1990s, Dr. Coates' efforts at the University of Arizona led to resurgence in domesticated chia seeds, starting in northern Argentina.

Chia Nutrition

One tablespoon of chia has, according to SparkPeople's Nutrition Tracker:
  • Calories 46.0
  • Total Fat 4.0 g
    • Saturated Fat 0.0 g      
    • Polyunsaturated Fat 4.0 g      
    • Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g      
    • Trans Fat 0.0 g  
  • Cholesterol 0.0 mg  
  • Sodium 0.0 mg  
  • Potassium 0.0 mg  
  • Total Carbohydrate 4.0 g      
  • Dietary Fiber 4.0 g      
  • Sugars 0.0 g  
  • Protein 3.0 g
  • Calcium 8.6 %  
  • Iron 5.6 %  
  • Magnesium 11.0 %
Chia has*:
  • more Omega-3's than salmon
  • more dietary fiber than flax or oats
  • more antioxidants than blueberries
  • more magnesium than broccoli
  • more antioxidants than oranges
  • more calcium than milk
  • more iron than spinach
*compared with an equal amount of the other foods listed

For more information on the Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acid in chia, click here.

Remember when I said that chia more than triples in size when placed in water. That's because chia is hydrophilic. Unlike what happens when you eat too much salt or your hormones kick in, this is a positive trait, as long as you're drinking adequate fluids. Ancient Aztecs and modern athletes use(d) this to their advantage.

If you eat dry chia, it will absorb water in your stomach, which can cause cramping if you eat too much. However, if your chia has already been soaked in a liquid, you will be consuming extra water, which will be released into your system as the chia is digested. (Chia can be digested whole, remember?) For this reason, chia seeds are a frequent addition to homemade sports drinks and are consumed with water as "chia fresca" in Mexico.

In his book "Born to Run," Christopher McDougall shared the story of the Tarahumara tribe from Mexico, who fuel with chia water (chia fresca) while running 100-mile ultramarathons.

Culinary Uses of Chia

Chia's soluble fiber and hydrophilic nature can be used to your advantage in the kitchen. Adding chia will thicken and bind dishes like jams, puddings, and smoothies. The chia seeds take about 20 minutes to absorb water and work their thickening magic.Note: You can also grind chia seeds in a coffee grinder. They thicken even faster, and the seeds won't get stuck in your teeth if they're ground!

Smoothie thickener: Stir into a smoothie before serving. The tiny seeds stick to the sides of the blender, so I put them straight into the glass to reduce clean up.

Egg substitute: Mix one tablespoon of chia seeds (keep whole or grind) with three tablespoons of water. Let sit for 20 minutes, then use in place of one egg in quick breads and cakes.

Pudding: Mix 1/4 cup chia seeds with 1 cup milk (I like coconut milk, chocolate almond milk, or vanilla soymilk). Let sit for 30 minutes, stirring with a fork every five minutes or so. If you love tapioca pudding, you'll love this! Get creative. Try lemon (add zest or two lemons to vanilla soymilk), pumpkin (add 1/4 cup pumpkin to the mix, plus a bit of sweetener and pumpkin pie spice), or strawberry (add 1/4 cup pureed berries and sweeten to taste).

Jams + jellies: Mix 1/4 cup chia seeds with 2 cups pureed fruit and sweeten to taste. Let sit for 30 minutes. Voila. A no-cook all-fruit spread.

Where to Buy and How to Store Chia:

Don't eat the seeds that came with your Chia Pet!

Chia seeds are available online, in bulk bins, and in the health food section of most larger supermarkets. Buy them in smaller quantities, the amount you intend to use in a month or two. As with any seeds or grains, you'll want to store them in a cool, dry place.

Because Omega-3 fatty acids are quite delicate and susceptible to spoilage, I store mine in the refrigerator.

So that's chia. Will you try it? Have you?

This article was approved by SparkPeople Healthy Eating Expert Tanya Jolliffe.

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


Coupons and deals make shopping easier for everyone to afford luxurious products at very affordable prices.Discounty is one of the leading websites that offer the best coupons for the best shopping experience https:// www.discounty.co.nz / Report
Iloved to read this article i found very intresting information thank you for sharing and keep it up the good work. https:// www.pennysaviour.com / Report
SCARLETT38 2/2/2021
https:// www.discounty.co.nz / offers the best coupons and discounts on thousands of stores and brands in New Zealand.
EMMATAYLOR5 1/11/2021
I would like to try chia. thanks for blogging
https:// www.revounts.com.au / Report
EMMATAYLOR5 1/11/2021
I would like to try chia. thanks for blogging
https:// www.revounts.com.au / Report
CATNURSE1 11/4/2020
I buy the water drops used with the Sodastream machine, add to plain water with chia seeds and drink throughout the day. Keeps me from snacking so much. Bigelow tea has come out with a cold water infusion and I got the watermelon cucumber mint and add chia to it. When my daughter was younger she called it my "buggy water". I'm also a big tapioca fan and found a recipe with coconut milk, vanilla and maple syrup and it's good. I also make a chia vinaigrette. Report
CECELW 10/5/2020
I eat chia seeds just about everyday Report
I have flax & chia seed in my (rolled) oatmeal, along with almonds, blueberries and unsweetened almond milk every morning. My glucose went from 810 with insulin down to 81 with nothing and my cholesterol went from 240 down to 90 with no medications. Report
Thank you for this great article! It is very useful for many. We have gathered numerous reviews on our website for PaperCoach.net feedbacks. We want to help students know about all the pros and cons of this writing service. http://papercoachreviews.com Report
I use chia daily and glad to know they're so nutritious! Report
Thanks for sharing! Lots of good info! Report
thanks for blogging it. www.uvenz.com Report
I love chia seeds. Report
The whole article is very useful for me. I don't have any idea about this topic and now i got almost all possible information from this article which is i think enough for me. The approach of this website is similar like www.aussiewritingreviews.com which i felt sound useful for every visitor of this website to make it easy to understand which is good for the website as well. Report
thanks for sharing Report
Chia seeds can cause constipation if one is not drinking enough fluid when consuming the seeds. Best to soak the seeds for 20 minutes in fluid of your choice before consuming them. Report
Are these chia seeds sold ground also? Report
These are good but I have diverticulitis so eating them whole would cause a problem. I would have to grind them up first just like flax seed in order to use them in recipes. Report
I use chia seeds every day and love them. I order mine through Puritan's Pride because that's where I've found the best price.
Using a recipe I got online (for 2 servings), I take a 1/2cup of chia seeds, and let that soak overnight with 2 cups of almond milk, and a dash of vanilla flavoring. In the morning I cut up some fruit to give it more fiber and taste. It's filling, and I like the fact that breakfast is (almost) ready-made. Report
I love them in my Morning Smoothie! Report
I love putting them in my oat/quinoa hot cereal in the morning! I buy the plain flavor cereal, and usually sweeten it with some raw local honey. I also add some coconut oil and whole flaxseed. It definitely gets me through the morning! Report
I just want to know if I can add the seeds (without "plumping" them) directly to food - like spinkles? Also could they be used as a thickener for gravy?
My husband & I tried them plumped by plain water - yuck! Felt like we eating caviar without any flavor!!!

I have been using Chia seed for now 3 weeks and I put it in my water bottle about 1 to 2 tsp. and drink 2 bottles a day and so far have lost 2 lbs on it. I have been regular with bowels and have felt real good since I have been on it. I also sprinkles 1 tsp. on cereal, oatmeal. and yourgurt too.
I like the chia pudding and chia fresca ideas! I'm a huge fan of lightly flavored water infusions (cucumber water...yum!) so I'm really looking forward to trying chia fresca. I drink so much water during the day and often wake up a bit thirsty, and I'm wondering if chia fresca might be a way to help that problem. The pudding just looks yummy. I've used chia seeds to thicken dips, soups, sauces, and the like, and I'm glad to find a few new uses for it. Thanks! Report
This is so cool. I'm going to add chia seeds to my chocolate almond milk. Didn't know they sub for eggs. Will try that. Will try in smoothies. And we make our own jam in the summer from our berries. Will make a note to do that next summer. I'm new to chia seeds but have them in my home. I bought them for a recipe but with all this info, I don't need to bake! Mine are going from the cupboard to the frig right now. Report
I am going to try the chia pudding. Report
thumbs up on this one SPARK PEOPLE. It is only on rare occasions that I blog on an article. As you may know there are plenty of good to great articles on this website. I am pleased with this one, since I have learned so much new about CHIA seeds.. I have been purchasing it off and on, however, its a bit pricey for my usual purchases.. I purchase this some times along with the hemp seeds... both are great.. thank you SPARK PEOPLE for this informative article!! Report
I use it all the time..........good for you....... Report
Thank you! I was finding them in my Oatmeal as I was reading you post; they looked like little halo's were around them. Great news on how to unlock the water. Report
I've been putting them in my 'refrigerator oatmeal'. They do thicken up nicely. I never thought to use them to make puddings! I never knew they could be so versatile. Thanks for 'something new' learned for today! Report
I'm giving chia seeds a try! I'll have to do some more research about the absorption of whole flaxseed - I thought I had read somewhere on Sparkpeople that the whole flaxseed was better for you than the ground version... hmmm.. BTW - another benefit of chia seeds that I've heard about is there "zing" (i.e., energy booster) Report
I was drinking my chia seeds cause I read it takes the bad fats out of your body so it doesn't let you absorb them. But I wasn't sure about if cooking them would not let them do there job. Since I read this it sounds like you can cook pretty much do anything with them and they'll still do their job. :) I definitely want to try them in pudding :) and other ideas listed! Report
I love to add them to thick smoothies (thin ones make swallowing the seeds more difficult) and unsweetened applesauce. Sidenote: Does this mean we could have ate our Chia Pets as children?? Hmmm Report
I tried the "pudding" a couple times. Made it with chocolate soy milk, and then mixed blueberries in. It took WAY longer than the 30 minutes to set up to a proper pudding consistency (maybe it works faster if you really stir it every 5 minutes, but with a toddler, I just couldn't make that work).

It was REALLY tasty, though! Definitely going to keep making this. :) Report
Just bought some last night and got on Spark to look for more info/ideas. I had a tablespoon in my oatmeal this morning and it was great! Report
Love chia...use it daily...thanks for additional ideas. Great in eggs..... Report
I also use them to make smoothies & they do stick to the side of the blender, like the idea of adding them to the glass/cup/water bottle just before drinking the smoothie, also add them to oatmeal but eat it right away so I don't have a problem with them gelling up. Like the idea of chia pudding though & will try it today Report
I'll have to add chia seeds to my next grocery list. Report
I didn't know that we don't digest Flax seeds. I've been putting my Flax and Chia Seeds on top of my smoothie and using a spoon to mix and eat them. I'll have to grind my Flax seeds. I wonder if my coffee grinder would work for that. Report
Mixing chia seed into glass after making smoothie is good to know. I would put them directly into the blender and yes it is difficult to get them all out and into the glass. Report
I add to milk chia,cinnamin, and vanilla and let sit overnite in fridge.
It becomes pudding like. thrilled to know i can use as egg sub. Report
I love chia, I add it to my yogurt and it gives it a nice lite crunchy texture Report
I've tried them once, they are a little slimy. :0) but not bad. How much do you put in a 16 oz bottle of water per se??? I would love to add them to my morning runs! Thanks!! Report
Thanks for the recipes. I've been looking for a way to get them into my diet. Report
Love this post! I just bought chia seeds and have been putting them into my smoothie blender and like you said it gets stuck on the sides...so annoying! I'm going to try your tip and just stir them in at the end. Thanks! Report
I'll be looking for them to try. Thanks for the info. Report
I'm going to have to watch for them next time I buy groceries. Report
I'd like to try chia ... I'll be on the lookout for it when I'm shopping. Report