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Tuesday
Feb082011

Meet Mr. Chia

I am about to head into the kitchen to make Saturday Pancakes (on a Tuesday) but before I do I have a friend I'd like you to meet. He's tiny, versatile and has earned front and center status in my kitchen. Say hello to Mr. Chia!

Chia is a very small member of the mint (sage) family and is native to Mexico and Guatemala. My husband got me hooked on chia seed after reading Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. In his book, McDougall tells of a tribe of endurance runners—the Tarahumara of Northern Mexico—sustaining themselves with chia while running 100-mile ultra marathons. 100 miles! Impressive to say the least.

Black and white chia seed | These little guys can soak up 12 times their weight in water!There is evidence that chia was first used as a food as early as 3500 B.C. So why this nutrient-dense super food is just going mainstream in the American diet boggled me until I watched this video. It's a shame that it's just been "rediscovered"—because we've really been missing out and here's why. In just two tablespoons (your daily requirement) you get:

  • Over 4g of PROTEIN
  • 4g of soluble FIBER—that's approximately 28% of your daily requirement
  • 205 mg of CALCIUM—that's equal to one ounce of cheese or two cups cooked broccoli
  • A perfectly balanced 3:1 ratio of OMEGA-3 and OMEGA-6 for a total of over 3g
  • A rich helping of IRON, B VITAMINS, CALCIUM, MAGNESIUM, PHOSPHORUS, POTASSIUM, ZINC, BORON, and COPPER

To take full advantage of chia's amazing nutritional benefits eat the seeds raw (ground or whole). Blend with your favorite smoothie, sprinkle over yogurt or add some to granola. Or try pinole? Or how about this "meal replacement" shake.

The Aztec nation also used chia to heal. Chia is said to be beneficial in reducing inflammation, weight loss, thyroid conditions, hypoglycemia, diabetes, IBS, celiac disease and even acid reflux!

There are no known allergies to chia seed.

Chia as an Egg and Gluten Replacer

Though best raw, I have found chia to be superior to flax and packaged egg replacers as an egg substitute in baking.

One "chia egg" = 1 tablespoon ground chia whisked with 3 tablespoons water.

Mix chia meal with water and you've got a great egg replacer for use in baking.

What you get is a thick, gelatinous gel.

The binding ability of chia and chia gel is so great that you can often reduce or omit binding gums such as xanthan and guar—often called for in gluten-free recipes. Give it a try. Simply replace xanthan or guar gum with an equal measure of ground chia.

For baking you might prefer white chia (equal in nutritional value as black). When ground to a meal, black chia will speckle baked goods with bits of black.

Chia seeds have little to no flavor and will not affect the taste of foods and beverages.

One tablespoon of chia seed yields 1-1/2 tablespoons ground chia meal. Chia meal is easily made using a coffee/spice grinder, a magic bullet, or a high-powered blender.

A Lesson in Gathering Chia

This video is a tad long, but shows chia being gathered with a fly swatter and a bucket!

More About Mr. Chia

Tarahumara Pinole and Chia post over at Not Meat Athlete

Chia the Ancient Food of the Future over at Living Foods

The Chia "Cheat Sheet" and Ten Raw Chia Recipes over at Natural News

Back to the Pancakes ...

Oh yes, and here are those pancakes. Bound with chia and smothered in guava-lilikoi (passion fruit) syrup. Only a week of vacation left. Our time in paradise has gone too fast!

I order my chia seed from Amazon. Unlike many other seeds, chia does not go rancid and can safely be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for about two years (some sources say up to five!).

Do you have a favorite chia recipe?

How do you incorporate chia into your diet?

Reader Comments (30)

Thanks for the informative post on chia Lexie. I've just started using it as an egg replacer and I love it! We've been sprinkling it on foods for a while - I sprinkle it on the kids toast and cereal (same for us). I just can't get into it in my smoothies though. It makes it too gelly. Know what I mean? So I usually use flax for smoothies and chia for baking and sprinkling. I love the idea that we can use it to replace gums too. I've been doing that recently too and have noticed no difference. Woo hoo! Hope you have a great last week - sorry for taking up so much time with this looooong comment :)

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

Only another week? Maybe you should change your plane reservations and wait for Spring?
Oh, Chia. I've been using it for a couple of years because I don't really enjoy the taste of flax and yes it is more stable. I use it as an egg replacer and I'm thinking about adding some next time I make protein bars (huge oversight on my part). I also keep a lidded measuring jar with 2 cups of pre-made gel for easy access and to slop some into my smoothies because once it's been pre-jelled like that it just thickens rather than slimes. I love that little seed and have been wondering when its time would come. Good for you chia!

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaurel

Chia pudding! Yum!

Thanks for all the great info. I had no idea it was so shelf stable.

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKIm

I've recently incorporated chia into some of my meals. I love adding it to various porridge type grains for breakfast (i.e. gluten free steel cut oats, buckwheat, rice) during the boiling process. For some reason, this fills me up more and keeps my blood sugar leveled. I also have been adding it to my smoothies, though I like it more as a garnish.

I do want to try it as a gluten replacer, however, as the gums have become quite the controversy (though I use agar agar from time to time).

As for ground flax seeds, I think it was "The Healthy Apple" who mentioned that it wasn't particularly good for baking with, health-wise. But it's simply DELICIOUS mixed with peanut butter, left whole, and served with a granny smith apple.

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMorri

I use it in anything I bake with and in my smoothies and my lara bars! I try and sneak it in when I can because of it's high nutritional profile. It's virtually tasteless so easy to hide!!

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndreAnna

Lovely post! Another reason to love chia is that it doesn't interfere with thyroid function like flax can (if you have too much!). I like to add it to bars and for baking. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

All - Thank you very much for sharing the way you use chia! I love hearing from all the chia veterans and newbys out there: ) I've only been using it for a year ... so definitely a newby here.

Megan, I agree with you on the phytoestrogens in flax (chemical compounds in plants that mimic the human hormone estrogen and one reason why unfermented soy is being questioned). A while back the boys' pediatrician asked how much flax I was giving them ... so it was of concern to him. Hmmm. It's worth reading up on. I had inserted a paragraph on flax but removed it as I felt I just didn't have a grip on whether flax is all good or all bad or some good and some bad. Would love to hear from the experts out there.

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLexie

You. Are. Awesome! Just the post I needed! Thank you so much!

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaty T

Lexie, thanks for the great info! I have just started baking with chia seed so this post is perfect for me. ~Debbie

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

Anyone know if there is a difference in absorption of all those great nutrient in the whole vs. ground seed?

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJasmine

It turns any drink into Bubble Tea! Add it to apple cider, juice, lemonade....you get the idea!

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLizzy B.

Thanks Lizzy! Great suggestions.

Jasmine: Chia is known to be "easily digestible" whereas flax not so much so (unless it is ground). My guess is whole or ground offers the same benefits and absorption. Anyone else care to comment here?

Thanks Debbie!

xo Lexie

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLexie

I mix 1/3 cup chia with 2 cups water and store it in a quart jar in the fridge. I take a large spoonful before breakfast and again before dinner. My family members think it looks gross, but it does not have a strong taste and the texture does not bother me at all. It's a great way to get the Chia I need and has helped me to be "regular" :D

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStacy McKee

What a fab post, Lexie, and then you hit us with that stunning photo at the end! I used chia in smoothies and have just started using it some in baking. I don't like to use the gums. Won't use guar and sparingly use xanthan, if absolutely needed. Now I have a fantastic, healthy alternative! I had no idea it would keep like that though. I've been keeping mine in the fridge ... guess that's not necessary.

Enjoy your last week in paradise, my dear! I know it's been balm for your and your family's soul, especially during this cold winter. :-)

xoxo,
Shirley

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShirley @ gfe

Ahh...I love you, my like-minded friend!!! I use chia in everything that I can get away with. I love the power-house nutritional benefits of it and my kids always think I am sprinkling sugar on their food when they see me adding it to something. LOL
That pancake photo is gorgeous, by the way!! You have me drooling!
Enjoy your last week in paradise! I am sure you are all nice and sun-kissed by now!!
xoxo
k

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim @ Cook It Allergy Free

Stacy: Thanks for sharing that great idea. I was watching Dr. Oz last week and he said the right time to take fiber is a little before dinner to give you a full feeling. That full feeling will help you cut back on the mashed potatoes and rice—starches ... which will then help you lose weight. Cutting out 70 calories a meal for a year is a 7-pound weight loss. Sounds good to me. So anyway long story short, I think you are onto something there ... not only for nutrition but for a "full" feeling. I have been working on too many sweet treats lately and it's catching up with me : ) Bring on a spoonful of chia, ha!

Shirley: I'd love to know how the baking is going with chia. Since it's pretty new to gluten-free baking I think there are different measures of chia and water being used to = one egg. I tend to be generous on the chia. 1 T + 1/4 cup water = one egg. Hugs to you!

Kim: I wish I were sun kissed. We've been spending most of our time up here in the high country, trying to find the owner of a lost bull, working in the garden, picking mulberries : ) After 3 skin cancers before 40 ... I am a little shy of too much time in the sun. Will hit the beach today, though. Hugs, Lex

Lexie

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLexie

I am fairly new to chia, but am loving it. I love the tip with egg replacer, as I think my little guy is reacting to the ingredients in the boxed powder replacer.

My current favorite uses for chia are for treats! The Spunky Coconut blog has a recipe for chocolate pudding that's fabulous. It's essentially a combination of coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen organic full fat in a can), ground chia and ground flax, liquid stevia or some raw coconut sugar for sweetener (or a combo of both), and some raw cacao powder. Blend it and let it sit in the refrigerator to thicken and you've got a raw, healthy, yummy pudding!

Another treat we enjoy is a tablespoon of raw smooth organic almond butter, a tablespoon of raw coconut butter-whole coconut flesh, not oil (I use Artisana and get it online- it is firm at room temperature so we just scrape out about a tablespoon in little chunks), a tablespoon of raw cacao nibs, and a teaspoon of chia seeds. Mix together in a small bowl and eat with a spoon. The coconut butter is naturally sweet and is enough for me to counteract the bitter cacao nibs. I like the crunch from the nibs and chia while the smoothness of the almond butter and coconut butter offset the crunch nicely.

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen T

Thanks to all for the comments. I just purchased 20+ pounds of chia seeds. i take them as a supplement, but thanks to all the comments here will start using them for other things as well. i was a HUGE flax fan... but chia doesn't have to be ground to be easily digested (as flax does) and it doesn't require refrigeration... now i have found a few other superior things to flax.. i also do not like the taste of flax... and chia really doesn't have a taste... sorry flax... our relationship is over!

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTammy

I'm returning to say I've made several baked items with chia seed egg replacer and it's worked great. The ratio of 1Tground chia seed to 1/4 cup water has worked well in every recipe, even when I've needed to double it to replace 2 eggs.

February 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen T

Kathleen, good to know that 1 T ground works for one or two eggs. It is pretty powerful as a binder isn't it. Thank you for sharing : )

-Lexie

February 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterLexie

How does this fare in gravy making? Would it form the right consistancy? I'd hate to ruin a good batch of broth to find out.

_____________________

Hi Christy, Good question. Absolutely no go for gravy in my book : ) I would stick with arrowroot starch or corn starch. Or for a flour-based gravy I make a roux with olive oil and bob's AP flour or just fine rice flour.

xoLexie

February 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristy

fascinating! there has been a lot of talk about chia seeds lately, but i think you covered the topic extremely well. great photography too!

February 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterheather jacobsen

I need to have an egg replacer for bread for 3 eggs - I would like to incorporate chia seed as my egg replacer - for one or two eggs and then use this egg replacer - 1 tbspl potato flour starch, 1/4 t xanthan gum and 2 tblsp either water or nondairy milk - whisk until gelatinous consistency and then add it to the chia seed mixture maybe with a 1/8 of teasp of baking powder...

Has anyone successfully substituted for 3 eggs? Flax is out for me, soy is out for me and I hate bananas... Thanks for your time, be well ^..^

______________________


Lori, sounds promising. All I can say is give it a try. I think I have heard that chia can replace up to three eggs ... I'd use 2T meal and 1/3 cup water or so.

Let me know ... you may be on to something : )

xo Lexie

February 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLori

I just recently heard about chia seeds. I have been using flax for a little bit and never knew about the negatives of too much flax. I will definitely be trying out some chia seeds soon!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Amy, let us know what you think of chia!

xoLexie

February 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterLexie

Hi-i just found this post as I'm looking for a replacement for xanthan gum. My recipe calls for 1/4 tsp xanthan gum. Do I use 1/4 tsp ground chia? Will I need to add water also? Thanks!

September 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJade

Hi-i just found this post as I'm looking for a replacement for xanthan gum. My recipe calls for 1/4 tsp xanthan gum. Do I use 1/4 tsp ground chia? Will I need to add water also? Thanks!

September 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJade

Hi Jade,

I would use about 2 teaspoons of chia and I would probably mix it in with the we ingredients and let it sit a few minutes, then add in the dry. Other sources say use the same measure, but I don't agree with that. Gums and flax/chia are different beasts. I hope that helps :)

xoLexie

September 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLexie

It is possible for anybody to be allergic to anything, and my sister is allergic to chia. Fortunately, she can tolerate the eggs I'm allergic to. Makes baking something we can both have a bit more challenging. That said, I do find chia goo an improvement over flax goo.

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGeri

Hi Geri, I like chia, too :) xoLexie

March 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLexie

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