If your only exposure to chia seeds is spreading them onto a Chia Pet™, you’re not alone. The earliest export of chia seeds in the United States was for use in growing decorative houseplants, but these little seeds, originally from Central and South America, are a also a rich source of nutrients, as a growing number of people in the U.S. are beginning to learn.
The little mottled seeds are from the Salvia hispanica plant, a flowering member of the mint family. The seeds themselves have long been a food staple in Mexico and along portions of the southwestern U.S. border.
Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health, supple joints, and good brain function, among other things. In addition, chia seeds are a good source of dietary fiber, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and manganese.
These little miracle seeds can be eaten raw, but are generally consumed by adding them to recipes, such as smoothies, oatmeal, or muffins.
Another popular way to use chia seeds is to make a gel from them that can be used as a gelatin substitute in recipes. This is popular with vegans and vegetarians, who don’t eat gelatin because it is an animal product.
Here are a few recipes to help you get to know this healthy little treat:
Chia Wheat Pancakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chia seeds
Maple syrup to top
Spray a frying pan with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Beat together egg, milk, and oil. In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder. and salt. Slowly stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Add honey and stir until combined. Stir in chia seeds. Pour batter into the pan using a 1/4 cup scoop and cook until golden brown. Flip and cook until centers are completely done. Top with maple syrup.