If you've strolled the beverage aisles of your natural foods grocery store lately, you may have noticed new bottled beverages with suspended seeds strewn throughout the colorful liquid. Chia Seeds. If you ask around, you may be told they're the newest superfood, and a powerful antioxidant. A wonder seed. You may have also learned that, yes indeed, this is the same chia seed that sprouted the ever-popular Chia Pet of TV infomercial fame.
Now whenever everyone starts talking about a new, exciting superfood I tend to flee in the opposite direction. Remember when the whole world was reading Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections (even Oprah)? That made me an instant skeptic. I figured surely a book that everyone in America was reading wasn't a book that I would find to be a good read (full disclosure: I love The Corrections). I had a similar reaction with chia seeds. Sick of hearing all about their health benefits and listening to nutritionists discuss how they're the next big thing, I turned my back on this powerful little seed. Until just last week.
It's hard to fully turn your back because people are most certainly talking. The Today Show's Health Blog identifies chia seeds as the next trendy health food while Prevention Magazine deems them a "pricey new food craze" and Best Health Magazine explores if they're "worth the cash." I purchased them in bulk and got roughly 2 cups for $3, so I didn't find the cost prohibitive, but like all new food trends, there are surely folks capitalizing on the general public. The more research you do, even if you're a born skeptic like myself, the more you start to look at those teeny, tiny seeds in a new light. Then when you try them, you'll realize that they're strangely filling and energizing.
Left Side: Raw Chia Seeds; Right Side: Chia Seeds After Soaking Overnight
The short story with chia seeds is this: chia seeds are actually a species of flowering plant in the mint family. They're rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is usually what you hear the nutritionists discussing. The seeds themselves can be eaten raw as a whole seed, packing a good punch of protein, fat and fiber (one-ounce has 4 grams protein and 11 grams of fiber!). But they can also be ground and used in baked goods or soaked, which makes them grow in size and become gelatinous in texture. The cool thing is that unlike flax seeds, you don't need to grind them first because they're completely digestible in whole form. I've started to use them just as I would any other seed, adding them to salads or sprinkled on yogurt with my morning granola. And, of course, there's pudding.