April's Health Genie: Chia Seeds
Note: This article is not meant as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult with your medical practitioner before using any type of remedy, herbal or otherwise.
Dear Health Genie,
I recently came across a recipe that called for chia seeds as an egg substitute. Is this the same chia that I used to make Chia Pets in my youth? What else can you tell me about chia seeds?
Yes, the Chia Pet made the chia seed a household name, but it is also a highly nutritious food that is versatile enough to be used in an array of culinary dishes. The chia seed is a member of the mint family, native to Central America and has been historically used as a staple in Mayan and Aztec diets.
When soaked, chia forms mucilage, a gel-like substance. The viscosity is similar to that of eggs, which is why it was used to replace eggs in your recipe. This gel-like substance is a great source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is beneficial to the body because it aids in elimination and modulates blood sugar. For those trying to lose weight, soluble fiber increases satiety (feelings of fullness). Chia is also hydrophilic, meaning it attracts water, so it can be made into a great pre-exercise hydration tonic; see the Chia Fresca recipe below.
Like flaxseed, chia is high in essential fatty acids and in the ideal ratio of 30% Omega 3 to 10% Omega 6. Essential fatty acids benefit the brain, nervous system, heart, joints, and skin. To enjoy these benefits, the chia seed must be consumed raw.
In addition to fiber and essential fatty acids, chia is high in protein, calcium and antioxidants and also contains iron, magnesium and zinc. While it contains many beneficial nutrients, what chia does not contain is also noteworthy. Chia is free of cholesterol, simple sugars and gluten!
At City Market, chia is available in both the Wellness and Bulk Departments. Because you cannot wash the seed, without it bulking up, it is important to buy organic chia seeds. Also look for Synergy’s Raspberry Chia and Cherry Chia beverages in our kombucha cooler.
To use chia, sprinkle it on soup, salad, cereal or yogurt or add it to smoothies or baked goods. A popular beverage recipe below, Chia Fresca, is an additional way that you may enjoy the many benefits of this super-seed!
Chia Egg Replacer
For the equivalent of one egg, add one tablespoon of chia seeds to 3 tablespoons of water. Let sit for 5 minutes. Then and use as you would eggs in baking.
1 cup spring or filtered water
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice
2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
Whisk the chia seeds into the water. Allow them to soak for 10-15 minutes. Then, stir in lemon or lime juice and agave and whisk well. Drink immediately.
- “Aztec Diet Secret: What are Chia Seeds?” Eat Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, n.d. Web. 19 March 2013.
- Pirello, Christina. “Change Your Life with Chia.” Huffington Post. 20 Feb. 2010. Web. 19 March 2013.
- Smith, Melissa Diane. “Surprising Egg Substitutes.” Better Nutrition. 2012. Web. 19 March 2013.