Just because something's little doesn't mean it's not powerful. Case in point: Chia seeds. These little superstars are tiny, but they're loaded with essential nutrients like omega-3s, calcium, potassium and magnesium. If that isn't enough, they're great for keeping hunger at bay; between all the fiber they contain (5 grams per tablespoon) and their liquid-binding power, chia seeds can be a powerful force against the munchies. Here are 10 great ways to incorporate them into your day.
Make them into pudding
Chia seeds can absorb many times their own weight in liquid, so when you soak them in water or milk overnight, you get a dish that's a lot like tapioca pudding in texture. Add some spices and a little bit of sweetener (like honey or pure maple syrup) and you get a healthy breakfast or snack that tastes like a treat. We love this recipe for clementine chia pudding; the creamsicle-like dish boasts 4 grams each of filling fiber and fortifying protein, all for less than 150 calories. Top it with a tablespoon or two of toasted pistachios or sliced almonds for a bit of crunch.
Use them as a topping
Add some crunch to yogurt or oatmeal by sprinkling on chia seeds. Note: Once they sit in liquid for a while, they form little gelatinous balls. If you don't like that texture, sprinkle them on just before eating. Just 1 tablespoon of chia seeds gives you 5 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein, as well as magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, and omega-3s, and has just 60 calories. The black and white seeds are equally good for you, so pick up whichever one you prefer (or whichever one your supermarket or health food store carries).
Mix them into muffins (and more)
If you're making pancakes, waffles, muffins, or homemade granola, toss in some nutritious chia seeds. They have a neutral flavor, so they work in almost anything. Toss a handful into these hearty flapjacks, or swap them for the poppy seeds in the streusel in these tasty muffins. You could also use chia seeds in place of some of the flax seeds in homemade granola bars. Wherever you put them, they bring a happy bit of crunch.
Add them to your kid's snacks
Admit it: If you have kids, you dip into their little squeeze packs of fruit (we do it, too). Now get your own, with the added goodness of chia. In flavors like wild raspberry, pomegranate mint and green magic, they're good for grownups on the go ($13.30 for 8, amazon.com). (Your kids might want to try them, too.) These are best for fans of bubble tea, tapioca, or gelatin; if you don't care for that texture, these aren't for you.
Bake them in to bread
We love this bread recipe, which combines chia with sunflower, caraway, sesame, and poppy seeds. Not only do you get the crunch (and nutrition) from all those seeds, you also get a delicious loaf perfect for morning toast or lunchtime sandwiches—and it's gluten free. Try it slathered with your favorite nut butter (or regular butter) and low-sugar jam, with smashed avocado on top, or as an open-face melt with smoked turkey, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut piled on.
Snack on 'em
Chia-packed Health Warrior energy bars ($25 for 15, amazon.com) are a tasty, energizing snack. Flavors include coconut, chocolate peanut butter, acai berry and coffee, so there's something for everyone. Plus, they're sturdy, so they won't get smashed in your purse or gym bag. Have one before or after a workout, with your midmorning coffee, or to stave off the 4 p.m. munchies. With just 100 calories (but 4g fiber), they're satisfying without weighing you down.
Turn them into a spread
Make your own jam the easy way with chia. The seeds' binding power means you won't need pectin—just a bit of sweetener (how much depends on the fruit). For blueberry jam, for example, add a few tablespoons of maple syrup or honey and 1/4 cup chia seeds to a few cups of berries and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until it thickens. The result is so delicious and healthy. Use any fruit you like, or a combination; we love berries mixed with peeled and seeded stone fruits, like peaches or plums.
Bread fish, meat, or veggies
Add some chia seeds to your favorite breading for chicken, fish or vegetables to boost the crunch factor as well as the nutrients. Blog Savoring the Thyme offers this recipe for chia-cornmeal-crusted tilapia, while Dole adds them to a delicious Italian-flavored chicken recipe. For something a little different, click on over to Nutrition Stripped, where you'll find a trendy cauliflower pizza 'crust' fortified with chia seeds.
Work them into your beauty routine
We love superfoods that also work as beauty products (we're looking at you, coconut oil!). Chia is so good for you inside, it just makes sense that it works on the outside, too. In this scrub by Andalou Naturals ($13, amazon.com), chia seeds work as an exfoliant and buffing agent, leaving you with smoother, brighter skin. If you're more of a DIY person, make your own chia scrub with this recipe by Spa Index.
If you like to run or bike, no doubt you're familiar with energy gels designed to keep you going during prolonged exercise. Some of those products are healthy enough, but others are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients, and may upset your stomach. Chia seeds—with their power to turn liquids into gels—to the rescue. We like this recipe by running blogger I Run On Nutrition, which combines chia seeds with tart cherry juice, orange juice, salt and honey for an all-natural boost.
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