The Nutritional Lowdown on Chia Seeds (and 30 Creative Ways to Use Them)

From Chia Pets to a nutritional must-have, chia seeds sure have come a long way. By now you’ve probably heard some good things about chia seeds. You’ve also probably heard some too good to be true things about chia, as well (hint: chia seeds aren't the weight loss miracle you've been waiting for). While others may tout them as the next new superfood, I refuse to use this descriptor as you know how I feel about the S-word. These seeds are not the magical panacea we’ve been looking for but they are pretty nutritious and worth giving a try. And here’s why:

  • One tablespoon of chia seeds contains 2 grams of protein, 4.5 grams of fat (of which 2.5 grams are omega-3 fats), 6 grams of carbohydrates (of which 5 grams are fiber), calcium (9% of daily requirement), magnesium (15% of daily requirement) and a small amount of zinc, B vitamins and antioxidants. Wow, it’s amazing how much nutrition can be packed into those little seeds.

  • Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds can be broken down by our digestive tract. This means there is no need to grind them prior to use in order to benefit from them nutritionally. Just sprinkle or stir into your food. It’s that easy.

  • Chia seeds are a rich source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid also found in flax seeds, walnuts, and canola oil. In fact, over half of chia’s fat content is ALA. ALA is an essential fatty acid, meaning that it cannot be made by our body and must be obtained through diet. In our body, ALA is converted to the other, more active omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA. These two omega-3s are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, as well as cardiovascular and neurological benefits. However, the efficiency of this conversion is poor with only 8-21% of ALA being converted to EPA and 0-9% to DHA. ALA itself does promote cardiovascular health, so despite it’s poor conversion rate to EPA and DHA, it is still worth aiming to get in some ALA rich foods, in addition to those rich in EPA and DHA.

  • Chia seeds are a great source of fiber, offering about 5 grams per tablespoon. That’s 13% and 20% of the recommended fiber intake for men and women, respectively. Much of this fiber is soluble fiber which is why it has such a great capacity to absorb liquids and form a gel like-texture if let to sit long enough in liquids. Soluble fiber is well known for helping stabilize blood sugars and reducing ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.

  • Most of chia’s carbohydrates come from fiber and, as a result, they won’t significantly impact blood sugars.

And while these little seeds are super nutritious, there is still no need to overdo it on them. Due to their small size they can be added to a number of foods; however, you don’t necessarily need to add them to everything you eat. There is no need for all of your foods to be covered in little black chia speckles. Remember variety and moderation should be your mantra.  If you can find them at a decent price, then they are a good way to add a little additional fiber, protein, and omega-3 fats into your diet. Adding chia here and there to you foods can provide you with some additional nutrition, along with some extra variety to your diet. And if you’d like some inspiration on how to use chia seeds, check out these 30 recipes below.

Breakfast

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Breakfast Parfait

Not much tastes better than the combination of peanut butter and banana, unless it’s peanut butter, banana and chocolate! This tasty breakfast parfait is a great way to sneak some chia seeds in first thing in the morning.

Grain-free Hemp Seed Breakfast Cookies with Chia and Coconut

These are great for an on-the-go breakfast. Complete the meal with fruit and some yogurt or milk.

Blackberry Chia Seed Jam

Here’s a creative way to use chia seeds. Who doesn’t love jam on toast, or on pancakes for that matter? Why not add chia seeds to any homemade jam to boost the nutrient content of your breakfast?

Clean Eating Refrigerator Oatmeal

Try this no-cook oatmeal for a quick breakfast. Combine the ingredients the night before and it’ll be ready for you when your alarm rings in the morning.

Mango Coconut Chia Breakfast Pudding

Enjoy this chia-based breakfast pudding with mangoes or any other seasonal fruit. Frozen or fresh fruit could be used to be create countless flavour combinations to keep your breakfast menu interesting.

Lemon Chia Seed Pancakes

You had me at pancakes. Try these chia-infused pancakes when you have a little more time in the morning to sit down and fully relax. Or better yet, impress your friends and family with these pancakes at a weekend brunch.

Lunch and Dinner

Quinoa and Chia Seed Flatbread

This crispy and nutritious flatbread is a great alternative for gluten free pizzas or just for enjoying your favourite dip.

Grain-free Chia Buckwheat Pizza

Another great alternative if you are looking to make a gluten free pizza crust. This crust uses whole grain buckwheat flour, oregano, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds, along with chia seeds to make a flavourful crust that is also a source of protein, and omega-3 fats.

Balsamic Quinoa Salad

Chia seeds are used, along with dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar and olive oil in this salad's dressing. Chia seeds can be an easy addition to most salads, either in the dressing or simply sprinkled on top as a nutrient packed garnish.

Chia Meatballs

In this recipe, chia works as a binder to keep these rockin’ meatballs together, without the use of eggs. And because chia seeds bind to liquids so well, these meatballs are super moist. Substitute the beef for ground chicken, turkey or pork as an alternative, if you wish.

Zucchini Pesto Pasta with Chia Mushroom ‘Meatballs”

For those of you who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, these ‘meatballs’ are for you. These meatballs combine lentils, mushrooms, pecans, chia seeds and nutritional yeast to create a powerhouse of nutrition. Perfect for a marinara sauce on top of pasta (or zucchini noodles as this recipe suggests) or for use in a vegan pizza sub sandwich.

Cucumber Chia Salad

This cucumber salad is perfect served chilled on a hot, summer day. The chia seeds are added right before serving to provide a little crunchy texture to this side dish.

Sauces and Dips

Shiitake Mushroom Gravy with Chia Seed

This recipe creates a great looking vegetarian gravy using sauteed shiitake mushrooms, garlic, chia seeds and broth. This succulent gravy would be delicious on both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes alike.

Chia Seed Gravy

Here’s another gravy using onions, garlic, fresh herbs and chia seeds. The ground chia seeds replace the need for using a cornstarch or flour thickening agent. Chia seeds are a great thickening option for those needing to follow a gluten free diet.

Cheesy Chia Sauce

Try this dairy-free chia based sauce on your veggies, pasta or as a dip. The possibilities are endless.

Cilantro Chia Hummus

Nothing quite beats a good hummus when you’re in the snacking mood. This recipe puts a twist on the classic hummus with the addition of cilantro, scallions and chia seeds. Yum!

Tzatziki Sauce with Chia Seeds

This super simple 5 ingredient tzatziki would make a wonderful and nutritious accompaniment to freshly barbecued souvlaki or in a pita sandwich. Or simply enjoy it with a spoon, it’s your choice.

Beverages and Desserts

Chia Fresca: A Natural Energy Drink

This may be one of the few energy drinks that is dietitian approved. It doesn’t rely on caffeine, taurine or abundance of sugars to give you the added pep in your step. If you make this with coconut water, you’ll give yourself some additional potassium and natural sugars, along with omega-3 fats, protein, and fiber. Now, I can’t guarantee you’ll be buzzing off this drink like you may with other energy drinks but you will stay hydrated and refreshed.  

Creamy Chocolate Chia Ice Cream

If you’re lucky enough to own an ice cream maker, then this recipe is for you! This delicious looking recipe combines almond milk, chocolate, chia seeds and dates to make a very tempting dessert.

Mango Chia Popsicles

Wanna enjoy chia seeds on a hot summers day? Try adding chia seeds to your popsicles! Whether it is in these delicious mango popsicles or any other fruit popsicle you like making, adding chia seeds is a great option. And it looks pretty cool, too.

Coconut and Lime Chia Pudding

This pudding makes a fun dessert for the family or even for entertaining guests. Just combine, whisk, and cool in the fridge for a few hours. Simple and delicious!

Coffee Chia Smoothie

Enjoy your morning coffee blended with almond milk, banana, chia seeds and vanilla. Who needs Starbucks when you can make a blended coffee drink like this at home!

Matcha Chia Pudding

Love matcha tea? Well, this pudding is for you. Made with matcha green tea, coconut milk, chia seeds and vanilla, this pudding can be enjoyed as a dessert or even for breakfast!

Baked Goods

Chia Seed Egg Substitute

Here is an chia egg substitute for those with egg allergies or simply for those who have started a baking project only to realize that there are no eggs in the fridge.

Lemon Chia Coffee Cake

This chia infused coffee cake is sure to impress your guests. Serve slightly warm with coffee or tea for a perfect afternoon treat.  

Banana Chia Crackers

These 5 ingredient crackers look like they would be a hit with the little ones in the house. Top with peanut butter, cream cheese or simply enjoy alone.

Pumpkin Chia Protein Bars

Don’t be discouraged by the long ingredient list in this recipe. Once you get all the ingredients together it shouldn’t be too hard to assemble. These protein bars have a lot of good stuff in them and would make a great midday snack.

Super Power Chia Bread

Chia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds give this bread a huge protein boost. Combined with savory spices, this bread would be great alone or topped with some herbed butter or cream cheese.

Raspberry Chia Seed Jam Oat Crumble Squares

Wow...that’s a mouthful of a recipe name. Despite the tongue twister name, these squares look awesome.

No Bake Cherry Pecan Chia Energy Bites

You had me at ‘no bake’. Seriously, who doesn’t love ‘no bake’ baked goods? Just mix ingredients, chill and eat!