Monday, April 4, 2011

Trendy Bytes: Chia Seeds

Photo credit:  little blue hen (Flickr)

A staple food in the diets of the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, chia seeds are making a strong resurgence due to their favorable nutritional profile.  Just one tablespoon provides nearly 4 grams of fiber and 63 milligrams of calcium along with a variety of other valuable vitamins and minerals.  They're also an excellent botanical source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as manganese, an important component of an antioxidant enzyme in the body.  Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds do not need to be ground in order to enhance digestion and optimize the health benefits.  While many health claims, such as promoting weight loss or enhancement of athletic performance, have been made about chia seeds, don't expect any miracles yet. Most of the research on these little seeds is still preliminary and has mostly been conducted in animals.

The tiny black seeds have a nutty flavor and can be sprinkled whole or ground into yogurt, smoothies, cereal, and salads.  One cool thing about chia seeds is that they form a gel when soaked in water making them a fun addition to beverages, like the chia fresca.  Because of their stability, they have also been added to baked goods and commercially-prepared foods, like energy bars.  In fact, they can even be used to replace eggs and oil in recipes for baked goods!

You may be wondering if chia seeds can also be used to sprout your very own chia pet, right?  Well apparently...Yes, you can!

Chia seeds into chia pets! Photo Credit: Richie Diesterheft (Flickr)

Have you tried chia seeds?  If so, how do you enjoy using them? 


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