How many times have you gotten home from the store only to get that sinking feeling when you realize you forgot something important?
But if you have chia seeds in your pantry, you may not have to run back to the store. No longer just the source of that great head of hair on Chia Pets, these mighty seeds are incredibly adaptable, have a tasty crunch, and boast a bevy of nutrients. They’re a veritable Swiss army knife for your kitchen. Once you get to know these little seeds, you will be amazed you ever lived without them.
Forgot to pick up eggs? No problem—chia seeds have you covered. Combined with water, chia seeds can be used as an egg substitute in baked goods. Their soluble fiber gives chia seeds their unique ability to "gel." This gel, with its tapioca-like texture, adds fiber, protein, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids to any recipe. As an added bonus, all that fiber—about one third of your daily needs—slows down digestion, increases the feeling of satiety, flushes out the colon, reduces inflammation, and boosts the immune system.
Looking to boost the nutrient content of your favorite foods? Chia's got you there, too. Prized as a nutrient-dense food since the time of the Mayans, their name means "strength" and strength is exactly what they provide, right where it counts most: your heart and brain.
Rich in a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), chia seeds keep your brain healthy and your memory sharp. They increase "brain derived neurotrophic factor" (BDNF), a protein in the brain which plays a role in maintaining healthy neurons, learning and memory. ALA is also incredibly beneficial for the heart; reducing the instance of fatal heart attacks, blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol and inflammation and reduce overall risk of death from heart disease.
Chia seeds also strengthen your bones, thanks to nutrients like calcium and manganese. The phosphorus in each tiny seed helps strengthen your muscles by synthesizing protein for tissue growth and repair.
These kitchen chameleons fit easily anywhere and everywhere into your diet, whether you are gluten free, vegan, or Paleo. They can be eaten raw, sprouted or cooked, whole or milled, on their own or added to recipes. Ground chia seeds can thicken any liquid—from smoothies to gravy—while adding their knockout nutrient punch. Since chia seeds have the unique ability to gel, they're great in chia puddings and even in these blueberry coconut chia popsicles.
So next time you're missing an ingredient, reach for the chia seeds and get creative. Chances are, you'll end up with something you love.
Photo credit: I Believe I Can Fry via Flickr