What is it?

Chia seeds were one of the most popular superfoods in the past few years. But what exactly are they and where do they come from? Chia seeds have been a staple in Mayan and Aztec diets for centuries. They come from a flowering plant in the mint family that is native to Mexico and Guatemala. These seeds were unknown in North America until researcher Wayne Coates began studying them as an alternate crop for farmers in Northern Argentina in 1991. He discovered their great health benefits, which are widespread in North America today. These little seeds come in either white or a dark brown and black color. Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds can be eaten whole and do not have to be ground before consumption in order to access their health benefits.

chia field flowers

Why is it super?

Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact they are one of the richest plant-based sources of these fatty acids. Omega-3’s can help reduce inflammation and enhance cognitive performance.

They are an excellent source of fiber, 2 tablespoons of these seeds pack 1/3 of the daily recommended fiber

These seeds are high in antioxidants.

They also contain necessary minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese, which are all important for energy metabolism and DNA synthesis.

Chia seeds are a great source of vegetarian protein!

toddler eating chia seeds

How to eat it?

Chia seeds are practically tasteless, which makes them easy to incorporate into many different meals.

They are safe to give to toddlers, but may pose a digestive issue for infants. Because of this, start giving chia seeds to your children after 1 year of age. In addition, make sure you do not give your children raw or uncooked chia seeds as this may pose digestion problems for your children as well. Start your child off with 1 teaspoon per day and see how it is tolerated. If tolerated well, you can move up to 2 teaspoons a day for a child.

Chia Seed Energy Bites

Your family will love these energy bites and they are easy and convenient to make and eat as healthy snacks! These are safe for toddlers and children that have already been introduced to nuts and coconut.

Ingredients: (makes approximately 2 dozen depending on size)

  • ½ cup creamy natural peanut butter
  • ¼ cup maple syrup or agave
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups oats - old fashioned or quick cooking
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ¼ cup flax seed meal
  • ¼ cup add-ins, such as almonds, walnuts, or chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together peanut butter and maple syrup until smooth. Stir in cinnamon and salt.
  2. Add oats, chia, coconut and flax seed meal to the bowl and stir until evenly incorporated.
  3. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all ingredients are combined then stir in add-ins, such as nuts or chocolate chips.
  4. Use a cookie scoop to form into bite-sized balls. Can be served immediately or chilled if you prefer them cold.

Energy bites can be kept in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.

chia seed energy bites

Vanilla Chia Pudding:

This makes a great snack, breakfast, or dessert!

Ingredients: (makes 1 large serving)

  • 3/4 cup almond or coconut milk 
  • 2 - 3 tsp maple syrup 
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 
  • 3 - 4 tbsp chia seeds
  • Nuts, berries, fruit, coconut flakes for topping (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a container with a tight lid.
  2. Shake or stir and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. 
  3. When ready to eat, stir and top with favorite toppings: nuts, berries, fruit, coconut flakes etc. 
  4. Adjust the thickness of a pudding with extra milk if desired. Also the amount of sweetener is up to a personal taste.
chia seed pudding

In addition, chia seeds can also act as a great egg replacer! To make the egg replacement, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15-30 minutes, or until the consistency is somewhat gel-like.

Fun fact:

The Ancient Aztecs felt that the seeds were more valuable than gold, hence why they were used in many religious ceremonies!

 

Written by: Dana Stretchberry

Sources:

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/top-10-health-benefits-chia-seeds-6962.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/03/chia-seed-benefits-_n_3379831.html

http://parentinghealthybabies.com/health_benefits_of_chia_seeds_for_kids/

 

Images:

http://greenlitebites.com/2012/05/chia-seeds-for-baby/

http://www.theroastedroot.net/maple-walnut-chia-seed-pudding/

http://thelemonbowl.com/2014/10/chocolate-chia-coconut-energy-bites.html

www.bowlofdelicious.com

www.vivibene.org

 

Recipe Adaptation:

http://ifoodreal.com/vanilla-chia-pudding/

http://thelemonbowl.com/2014/10/chocolate-chia-coconut-energy-bites.html