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July 29, 2013

Chia Seeds: The Super Seeds

by Anne Paddock

For years, the word “chia” was synonymous with the kitsch product known as the “chia pet” – a tabletop figurine in which chia seeds are spread like a paste across the top so that when watered, the seeds sprout and the figurine appears to grow hair. Times are changing as consumers realize this tiny little seed is a nutritional powerhouse with a higher and better use as a food. Packed with Omega 3’s and vitamins, one tablespoon of chia seeds also contains 3 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber which causes the seed to expand to 9 times its size when combined with a liquid. Chia seeds are also a good source of calcium, phosphorus,  and manganese.

canstockphoto13822918The chia seed has a mild nutty flavor that makes it a great addition to smoothies, juices, porridge, and salads. Bakers are now adding chia seeds to breads and baked goods to give them a nutritional boost and an added texture. My daughter often blends chia seeds with almond milk and a touch of maple syrup to make Chia Seed Pudding.  And, chia seeds can also be used as an egg substitute because of their gel-like attribute (1 tablespoon of chia gel made with water equals 1 egg). But the easiest way to use chia seeds is to place one tablespoon in a glass, add 1/3 cup of water, stir and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes. Add the chia mixture to a bowl of oats (steel-cut, regular, or quick), stirring to blend.  Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and then top the bowl with chopped almonds and dried fruit for a delicious breakfast or snack.

canstockphoto11063414Chia seeds come in a variety of colors and there is a lot of chatter about differences in the quality of chia seeds.  Some people claim the black and white seeds are better than the brown seeds. Others claim there is no difference in quality. Still others claim MILA chia seeds (16 ounces for $55) are the best because the seeds are grown organically with sustained farming practices, in compliance with fair trade practices, and processed with a proprietary procedure. Other critics state there is no scientific evidence to support that one chia seed is better than another leaving the consumer in a state of confusion. Everyone needs to make their own informed decision and for me that means buying organic chia seeds that sell for $12 – $15 a pound.

Chia seeds are available at most grocery stores and health food stores throughout the country. The seeds can also be purchased on-line through www.thechia.com.au/, www.bobsredmill.com, www.vitacost.com, www.luckyvitamin.com, www.amazon.com, www.nuts.com, and most e-retailers that carry seeds and grains.

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