Chia seed popularity took off in Europe only in the late 90s’ but for a lot of us (me included) living without the tiny seeds nowadays seems unimaginable. Even though most of us consider chia as a kitchen staple and a must-have, its’ use has managed to spread well beyond that. Chia seed oil is on the rise this time and in this post, we’ll have a look at the seeds, the benefits and different uses of chia for different preferences and needs.
Chia seed love story
I’ve talked a lot about chia seeds here already; it’s one of those things I can never get enough of. I use it on an (almost) daily basis and I honestly can’t imagine my life without it. For those of you who are new to my blog, let me tell you that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting chia seeds when I was traveling around South America. I’ve also met and fallen in love with avocados there (you can read more about the uses and benefits of avocados in this post), among many other things (mangos! Have I mentioned mangos?).
I use chia mostly in my kitchen (where else, right?), but only recently I’ve discovered that there’s this thing that they make and it’s supposedly a miracle-worker in terms of skin benefits. It’s a magical potion that hasn’t been very out in the open just yet (or I failed to miss it). Let me introduce to you: chia seed oil. Chia seed oil? Correct! And it’s been gaining popularity and all that, but let me first tell you more about the plant itself.
Salvia Hispanica L., as chia is known with its Latin name, was popular with the Aztecs well before we even knew they existed. It was widely cultivated, considered a staple food and was on the same level of popularity as the maize (corn). Chia seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients and you can add them to basically everything you make in the kitchen: bread, toppings, cereal, smoothies, cakes, granola bars and even tortillas. In the central America the natives made a drink with chia seeds called Chia Fresca or Iskiate; refreshing enough, I enjoyed it but the slimy chia was a bit strange, to be honest with you. Anyway, once I got used to it, I made a few rounds during this summer. My favorite: Green tea and peach Chia Fresca.
Chia seed nutrition
- Loaded with antioxidants
Antioxidants are great for our bodies, especially the health of our cells. Antioxidants protect these cells from the free radicals (which are basically harmful molecules, also known as oxidants). What does that mean? It means that these compounds prevent or slow down the damage to our cells, which leads to a healthy skin and reduced signs of aging. Antioxidants occur naturally in plants (fruit, vegetables, tea, coffee), they protect us in a natural way. There are antioxidant supplements to be found on the market today, but I guess it depends on every individual personally whether they want to take these supplements, or get a daily dosage of these protectors naturally; through the diet, with food.
- Rich in polyunsaturated fats (especially omega-3 fatty acids)
Apparently, polyunsaturated fats are, along with monounsaturated fats also called the good fats. They can be found in nuts, vegetable oils, seeds. In opposition to trans and saturated fats, these can be beneficial to our health. They provide us with fats our bodies can’t produce themselves, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Rich in source of B vitamins (thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and folate)
- High amount of minerals: calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorous, zinc
- A good source of dietary fiber
- A good source of protein
Chia seed benefits
- Aids with weight loss (makes you fuller and reduces appetite)
- Daily intake of omega-3 fats
Chia seeds contain more omega-3 fats than salmon does. In case you haven’t heard it yet. These omega-3 fats are mostly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which supposedly is not as beneficial as we were told. We would need DHA, which is the most important omega-3 fat, and some sources even claim that vegans should take a DHA supplement since we’re getting the wrong omega-3 fat. At this point it all depends on who we ask; vegans claim chia seeds are nutritious, others claim they’re not as useful as believed. What do I believe? That I love chia, we’re like best friends and I don’t really care what people say; it’s useful, it contains a ton of antioxidants and that’s good enough for me. With all the other benefits (vitamins and minerals) it’s all just an extra plus. Go for chia!
- Lowers the risk of heart disease
- Helps regulate blood sugar levels
- Boosts energy
- Aids with constipation
- Good for the bones
- Improves teeth health
Chia seeds uses
Now, when you’re familiar with the benefits of these tiny seeds, I gathered some of my older posts with chia seed recipes. Have a look and you’ll see that including chia seeds into your diet is very easy. In case these kitchen recipes don’t convince you, have a look at chia seed oil benefits or a recipe for a beautiful chia seed face mask with essential oils.
Chia seed oil
Chia seed oil is made from chia seeds (obviously), and with all the nutritional value of the chia seeds covered above, you can imagine it is a powerhouse elixir which can be used internally or externally. The oil itself, made by pressing chia seeds, is of rich gold color, with a fair nutty flavor. You can either take it in the morning, one teaspoon a day, or use it on your skin as a super moisturizing lotion with essential nutrients, that provide your skin and hair with tons of benefits:
- Protects the skin from the free radicals (antioxidant power!), giving you a radiant look
- Increases skin hydration
- Strengthens the skin
- Aids with anti-aging
- Aids with dry and irritated skin
- Nourishes split ends of your hair and your scalp
Before you do any chia oil shopping, remember to get a cold pressed one, organic and free of any chemicals or pesticides. It should come in a dark glass bottle, to prevent exposure from the light. Also, don’t expect sesame oil. It sounds strange, I know, but I’ve seen people disappointed because they (for some reason) expected chia seed oil to be as sesame oil (in flavor, I guess?). Well, you can imagine it’s a different plant. Different taste, different benefits.
Chia seed flour
Pour chia seeds into a food processor or a coffee grinder, pulse the seeds until they’re ground and pancakes are on the dinner list ideas. Grind chia seeds to make chia seed flour. With a faintly nutty flavor, you can store it in a cool, dark place for a few weeks.
Another way of using chia seed flour may be more interesting for some of you (it certainly was for me), since you can make your own chia seed face mask at home. What for? Well, this way you can get a good amount of antioxidants not only for the inside beauty, but for the pretty and smooth skin on the outside as well. Did I come up with this idea myself? Not this time! I ran into Humblebee & me blog the other day, where Marie really knows what she’s doing; gorgeous blog with a ton of new ideas, recipes and DIY projects. Since I know you want to give chia seed mask with French clay a try, head over to her. The recipe is clear and easy, and in my opinion, today is a perfect day for some creative fun and pampering. It’s all we need really, on a gloomy day like this!
A delicious and healthy treat you can make in advance and either eat as an evening snack (when you have chocolate cravings) or make it in a jar and take it with you as a snack or lunch. Experiment with toppings, you won’t be sorry.
Refreshing, tasty (if you make it the right way, otherwise it may be a bit tasteless) and very easy to make. It is packed with nutrients and you can add the tea to your own taste. The original iskiate is made with chia seeds, lemon juice and water, but feel free to experiment. So did I.
Add chia seeds to your daily oatmeal breakfast or jar, as one of the many additions it, health-wise, improves the nutritional value of your breakfast and it’s quite filling too!
Chia seeds in smoothies
I always add chia seeds to my smoothies, along with some other additions (more on that some other time). It makes the smoothie thicker and more filling as well; it transforms my just a fruity drink into a powerhouse of nutrients. Have a look at this Refreshing Mint and Strawberry Smoothie recipe or this Creamy Mango Smoothie for more ideas.
What’s your favourite way to use chia seeds? Let me know in the comments below.