What are they?
Chia seeds are tiny, almost tasteless black or white seeds which come from a plant called Salvia Hispanica (Spanish sage), which is a relative of the mint family.
Purple flowered Salvia Hispanica
Why I use them?
They contain a lot of good things including:
- One third of chia seeds are made up of fibre which is great for the digestive and cardiovascular systems and keeps us full for longer. Fibre can also help to slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream. All fibre rich food needs to be accompanied by plenty of liquid, preferably water, drank throughout the day.
- Approximately 20% of chia is made up of protein which is the highest protein content of all grains. Chia contains all the amino acids we need, which makes it a complete protein and it has little impact on blood sugar.
- Chia seeds contain Omega 3 fatty acid, which is good for heart health, but fish oil is probably a better source. It is difficult for the body to extract Omega 3 from plant based foods. Even though it may not be of great in that regard it’s healthy fats are still very beneficial to the body and they also help to stabilize blood sugar. It’s fibre is very beneficial to the heart. Chia seeds form a gel like substance in the gut and attract and trap cholesterol and carry it away before it get absorbed into the bloodstream. Happy heart!
- Chia seeds are high in Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Selenium, Niacin and Copper. These are just some of the micronutrients in Chia. Though very few human studies have been completed on Chia Seeds I believe that their nutrient structure makes them a great addition to the diet particularly anyone who is keeping an eye on their blood sugar.
What they don’t contain:
This is one of the best bits – they contain very little carbohydrate. This coupled with a high protein and fibre content means there is little impact on my blood sugars.
Where to get them:
They are now stocked in all good supermarkets and health food shops. I particularly like the Chia Bia brand because it is an Irish company, based in Waterford. Their product is very good quality and the packaging stays intact and closes tightly after each use. Who wants tiny little Chia seeds rambling around the cupboard? I have used their white, black and milled Chia seeds. They also have little individual sachets, which are handy for work or taking on holidays and these are available from their online shop. Baking with Chia flour is next on my agenda…………..
How I use them:
- My busy day life saver is Chia pudding. I mix almond or coconut milk with chia seeds in a screw top jar and leave it in the fridge overnight. The next morning I add raspberries, strawberries or blueberries to the mix (slice any large fruit), close the lid and give it a shake. I can eat it there and then or take it with me. This breakfast has enough protein, fibre, fat and nutrients to keep me going all morning and I need to take very little insulin, so less chance of getting a hypo. This is my go to breakfast on days where I am driving a lot. Starting off the day with something like this sets me up for good blood sugars all day (most of the time!).
- A similar way of using Chia seeds is to add them to natural yoghurt. My favourite is Glenilen Farm Natural Live Yoghurt (another Irish brand), which has no additives, but has healthy probiotics and only 3.7g of carbohydrate per 100g. I stir in a tablespoon of Chia and leave it a few minutes to thicken. Then I add some fruit and sometimes a few nuts or seeds. Water can be added to make it runnier. This makes a great light healthy breakfast or TV snack.
- I like buckwheat porridge too and add a tablespoon of Chia seeds before cooking. I have an allergy to Oats and Buckwheat doesn’t have as much impact on blood sugar as porridge oats does. The dissolved chia makes the mixture thicker, so I use less Buckwheat flakes and increase the liquid a little.
- Chia seeds are can be used to thicken deserts like chocolate pudding or cheese cakes. Anyone want recipes?
- Chia seeds form a thick gel like substance when they are dissolved in liquid. I use them to thicken soups and stews instead of flour or cornflour (cornstarch). They add nutrition and have much less impact on blood sugar, than flour or cornflour. They are also gluten free. Just add a tablespoon of seeds or milled Chia to the dish towards the end of cooking. Stir through and wait a few minutes for the seeds to expand and thicken the liquid before deciding if any more is needed.
- Dissolved Chia, either seeds or milled can be added to bread and other baked goods. Chia make a good replacement for eggs. Just dissolve 1 tablespoon of Chia in 3 tablespoons of water for each egg. Leave them a few minutes to thicken before adding to your recipe
I am a fan of Chia seeds because of their nutritional value, their kindness to blood sugars, the fact that they thicken soup, stew or desert with no carb counting necessary. What’s not to love?!
Note: All the opinions above are my own and not medical advice. Please check with your Doctor if you are unsure about using the product mentioned in this article. If your diet is low in fibre, a gradual increase is advisable. I don’t think sprinkling dry chia seeds on food is a good idea. I prefer to dissolve Chia in liquid before using.
References: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4926888/ and chiabia.com