The days of chia seeds only being famous as green hair on terra cotta planters are over. Today, they’re famous for a much more important reason: dessert. Or breakfast. Or snacks. Really, chia seeds can be made into a delicious meal that is not just guilt-free, but incredibly nutritious as well.
These tiny little black seeds are a fantastic source of insoluble fiber, healthy fat, and protein. They’re also very versatile, which means you can work them into almost any meal you’d like to add extra nutrition.
So can you eat chia seeds dry? While you can eat chia seeds dry, it might cause you some gastric distress. There are many alternatives, more delicious ways to eat your chia seeds, such as soaking them and baking them. This article goes in-depth on all of them.
What Are Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are, oddly enough, related to mint even though they taste nothing like that flavorful plant. In fact, chia seeds taste like nothing at all. They’re flavorless, but they do have a very distinct texture.
Depending on how long they’re soaked, there will be a tiny crunch surrounded by a gelatinous sphere. In a large serving, the texture is much more noticeable, similar to tapioca or bubble tea.
They’re native to Mexico and were a diet staple of ancient cultures like the Mayans and Aztecs. Lately, they’ve hit the “superfood” scene and are now quite mainstream in their popularity.
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Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds’ nutrition data profile is quite impressive. They are most well known for their high fiber, high protein and high levels of healthy, essential polyunsaturated fats.
They’re also a fantastic source of calcium, magnesium, and iron, all of which are crucial for health. Zinc, copper, manganese, and niacin can also be found in chia seeds, but in smaller levels.
These seeds are highly popular in plant-based diets like vegan and vegetarian because they help replace a lot of vitamins and minerals that are generally consumed through animal products.
That being said, they are so versatile and powerful, they should become a staple in every eater’s diet. That means you, and everyone else on this earth as well.
How to Eat Chia Seeds for Weight Loss
A lot of people look to chia seeds as a miracle weight loss solution and for good reason: depending on the current state of your diet, swapping certain food items for chia seeds can help you lose weight. But there’s a lot more to the equation.
While most people are worried about whether they’re eating too much or too little protein or fat, very few people are paying attention to how much fiber they’re consuming. The result is that more than 90% of Americans are fiber deficit.
Adequate fiber intake reduces your risk for nearly every chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. It also helps manage weight.
Fiber makes you feel fuller for a longer period of time and it also helps to balance blood glucose levels, so just by adding more fiber to your eating plan, you will be less inclined to over-eat.
Chia seeds happen to have a whopping 34 grams for dietary fiber for every 100 grams of weight. They also have 31 grams of fat, albeit healthy fats that are crucial to a balanced diet.
If your diet consists of a lot of processed foods you’re probably not getting enough fiber and adding chia seeds can help you balance at least that one very important area of your nutrition.
As with most things in life, miracles are usually too good to be true. Chia seeds come close to miraculous, but only when used as part of an overall healthy living and weight management plan.
Keto, Paleo and Chia Seeds
While chia seeds are certainly popular in plant-based diets, they’re creating a similar stir in Keto and Paleo diets.
Chia seeds are considered pseudo-grains, naturally gluten-free, unprocessed and usually non-GMO, which makes them perfect for a Paleo eating plan.
We’ve already talked about the high fat and protein count, which makes them appealing to a Keto diet, but it’s important to be aware that they do have carbs as well. The vast majority of the carbs are fiber, however, which don’t count if you’re calculating net carbs only (total grams of carbs – grams of fiber = net carbs).
For example, for every 100 grams of chia seeds, there are 42 grams of carbohydrates, but 34 of them are fiber, which leaves you with a net carb count of only 8 grams, which is completely within the parameters of a nutrition-focused Keto diet.
Dry Chia Seeds
In general, chia seeds are nothing short of powerhouses, but you do want to eat them with a certain amount of forethought. Simply chewing them dry like you might eat a sunflower seed is not the best way to consume these little black nuggets of nutrition.
Chia seeds soak up liquid like it’s their reason for being, absorbing nearly 30 times their own weight in liquid. If you were to swallow a tablespoon of dry chia seeds, they will go to work soaking up all the liquid in your intestines as they travel through your digestive system and dry out your stomach too. While they’re taking in all this liquid, they’re also expanding in size.
None of this is ideal for your health and has sent at least one man to the hospital when his esophagus became completely blocked by expanding chia seeds.
There’s no need to panic though because all the enjoyable ways of eating chia seeds are also completely safe, and chia related distress is extremely rare.
There are two common ways to use chia seeds dry.
- Grind them into a fine powder-like consistency
- Use them in foods that will have liquid added to them before you eat them
Any time that you add dry chia seeds, whether ground or whole, to foods that have liquid in them, even if you don’t specifically soak the seeds, they’ll still soak up enough liquid before you eat them that they’ll be completely safe and healthy.
How to Eat Chia Seeds Dry
For the purposes of the rest of this article, “dry” means you haven’t soaked your seeds, but will eat them in a meal that is prepared with liquid.
Chia seeds don’t have any flavor, so they can be added to pretty much anything you eat. Their use is limited solely by your culinary imagination. To kickstart the process, here are some of the most common and easy ways to eat dry chia seeds.
Chia for Breakfast
Chia seeds can be added to all your breakfasts, making it easier to last until lunch without starving. The healthy fats are also a great way to boost your brain activity, so eating chia first thing in the morning is a popular trend.
The simplest solution is to sprinkle a tablespoon of chia, whole or ground, onto your cereal, oatmeal or breakfast smoothie. It’s even great in yogurt or cottage cheese if that’s more your speed.
You can add ground chia to your pancake or waffle batter, but you’ll have to adjust your recipe a bit. Chia seeds are binding agents (like an egg), so they’re actually a really useful way to make your pancakes completely plant-based by swapping the egg and butter for 3 tablespoons of chia.
Baking with Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are great additions to just about any baked good, as an additive or as a substitute for eggs and dairy. They’re nice and light, so they’re great for cakes and muffins, but do remember that they soak up a lot of liquid, so you may have to adjust your recipe a bit.
You can also sprinkle seeds on the tops of your baking, similar to poppy seeds.
If you make your own burgers, meatballs, and meatloaves, you can add chia to add bulk to your blend and act as a binder so you don’t need egg or breadcrumbs.
Other Ways to Use Dry Chia Seeds
Chia seeds work really well for protein snacks or bliss balls. You can use ground chia, processed with dates, nuts, chocolate and any other ingredients of your choice. The same process works well for granola bars and no-cook cookies.
Soaking Chia Seeds
Another very common way to enjoy chia seeds is to soak them before eating them. If you give them enough liquid to soak up so that they can’t take in any more, they become a little gelatinous ball which sort of pops when you chew it. They don’t gush liquid into your mouth, but are definitely and interesting experience, texture-wise.
How to Eat Soaked Chia Seeds
Soaking chia seeds can take anywhere from 10 minutes to multiple hours, depending mainly on your schedule. You can soak them in nearly any liquid you want to use for your meal, ranging from water to milk or juice or even broths for a savory dish.
Soaking them ahead of time helps to give you a bit more control over the outcome of your recipe because they’ll already be full of liquid, and won’t soak up the main ingredients of your recipes.
There are many fun and delicious ways to use soaked chia seeds, giving you plenty of excuses to try a new option every day.
Drinking Chia Seeds
I’m going to get the most obvious and least exciting option out of the way upfront: you can add chia to water and simply drink it like this. They’re flavorless, so what you end up with is textured water, which might be more or less appealing than plain water, but it’s an easy option if you’re in a rush.
You can do the same with fruit juice or even tea for a little more excitement.
In the name of research, I even added a teaspoon of chia seeds to one of my coffees this morning. In all honesty, they’re hardly noticeable. This would be a great alternative to a bulletproof coffee if you’re looking to add healthy fat and protein to your diet but aren’t in love with the experience of adding butter or MCT oil to your coffee.
Finally, you can also add chia seeds to any smoothie you ever make. When soaked and blended, they’ll add a nice thickness to your smoothie that’s very pleasing.
Now that you know the most basic options, let’s have a bit more fun.
Chia Seeds in Gravy, Sauces, and Dressings
Chia works really great to add depth and texture to your sauces and soups, not to mention nutrition of course. Any time you reach for flour to thicken a sauce, like a gravy, consider using chia instead. If you don’t want the signature chia texture, just use ground seeds.
Adding chia seeds to your stir-fry dishes it a great way to amp up the proteins and healthy fats, you just need to make sure you add extra liquid. They are also helpful in soaking up liquid if you accidentally add too much water to your veggies. A great garlic stir-fry sauce is perfect for chia seeds. (I personally love to include pumpkin seeds in my stir-fry’s for extra nutrients.)
If you’re making a soup or chili, this is a perfect opportunity to let the seeds soak without really having to wait on them. They’ll soak while the rest of your food is cooking. They make great filler content that doesn’t have a lot of taste, so it won’t change the subtleties of your recipe.
Chia seeds are a great addition to pasta sauces as well. If you’ve got picky eaters in your family, or plant-based dietary restrictions, throwing chia seeds in everything is a handy way to make sure they’re getting all the protein and healthy fats they need, but most importantly fiber.
Processed foods lack fiber, but even a simple meal of pasta with red sauce can get a boost if you just add your seeds to the pasta sauce.
They also add pretty flair to homemade salad dressings or even store-bought ones. Just add a tablespoon to your jar and give it a really good shake to spread out the seeds so they don’t clump together.
Other Ways to Use Soaked Chia Seeds
If you’re cooking up rice, quinoa or other grains, or even oatmeal, consider adding some chia as well. You can wait until your grains are 90% cooked and then toss in some chia seeds, remembering to compensate with extra cooking liquid if needed.
If you happen to make your own jam, you can use chia seeds to replace some or all of the pectin or gelatin. This has an added benefit of meaning your recipe will need less sugar to overpower the taste of the pectin!
I saved the best for last. Chia. Pudding. This should become a new food group all on its own, it’s so delicious and nutritious, there is no downside. You can eat this for dessert, but it also makes a really energizing and filling breakfast.
To make chia pudding all you have to do is add a ratio of ¼ cup of chia seeds to 1 cup of liquid, generally a milk or milk alternative. Flavor-wise, choosing coconut milk or almond milk adds a nice undertone to whatever additional flavorings you feel like using.
You mix it up well and then let it sit for an hour in your fridge. The seeds soak up all the milk and turn into a thick, tapioca-like pudding.
At this point, the sky is the limit. You can add nearly any flavoring you want, and you can leave it textured or you can blend it up for a nice, creamy smooth and silky pudding. These are some of my favorite flavorings:
- Apple and cinnamon
- Chocolate Raspberry
- Pineapple Mango
- Vanilla Blueberry
- Banana Orange
- Pumpkin Spice
Can chia seeds reduce belly fat?
A balanced diet and exercise plan can help you reduce belly fat, and chia seeds can play a pivotal part in this goal. On their own, if you make no other changes but to add chia seeds to your diet, you may see a small decrease in weight overall, but it’s not an effective weight management plan.
Do chia seeds make you poop?
Chia seeds are high in fiber, particularly insoluble fiber, which passes through your digestive system without being absorbed and adding bulk to the rest of the waste in your gut. For this reason, chia seeds are thought to help you establish regularity with your bowel movements.
However, if you eat too much fiber when you’re not accustomed to it, and don’t drink enough water, it can get stuck, leaving you feeling bloated, gassy and constipated. Drink enough water with your chia seeds and you’re gut with thank you!
Can chia seeds reduce blood sugar?
The insoluble fiber in chia seeds helps to slow the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream, which can help regulate and balance blood sugar levels, yes. They’re a great way to help you avoid sugar highs and lows and energy crashes throughout your day.
However, if you have glucose intolerance or diabetes, you shouldn’t rely on chia seeds to manage your disease for you and you should always follow your doctor-recommended treatment protocol.