I had never really heard of chia seeds before changing to a plant based diet. My only recognition of them were as the seeds used for Chia Pets in the 80s. When I changed my lifestyle and started researching this new path, one thing kept popping up over and over again as one of the most important components to eating a balanced plant based diet: Chia Seeds.
Chia seeds actually come from the mint family and are native to central Mexico and Guatemala. They are unprocessed whole grains that can be absorbed by the body as seeds (unlike flax seeds which need to be ground up to be absorbed) and are action packed with nutrients. Here are some amazing facts about them:
- They are gluten free
- High in dietary fiber
- Have 8x more omega-3s than salmon (lowers inflammation, lowers blood pressure levels)
- Are a complete protein containing all 8 essential amino acids
- High in antioxidants
- High in calcium
- High in vitamin C
- High in iron
- High in potassium
- 1 oz (4 tbsp) gives you 4.7g of protein
One study, published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, found that a combination of 50% calories from chia seeds and 50% calories from Gatorade works just as well as 100% calories from Gatorade in training sessions greater than 90 minutes. The most interesting thing about this discovery is the half chia seeds, half gatorade mix had the exact same results, but offered a larger nutritional boost thanks to additional Omega 3 fatty acid consumption and 50% less sugar than the full Gatorade solution, thus cutting down on calories and boosting nutritional intake.
Chia seeds combined with water (1 tbsp chia seeds to 3 tbsp water) are a great egg replacer in baking and cooking. Check out my Banana Muffins recipe to see them in use. You can add chia seeds to anything to get their nutritional content: salads, baked goods, smoothies. I always put a good scoop of chia seeds in my smoothie blend and I have noticed the effects of these little energy boosters after a hard workout.