How are everyone’s kitchen adventures going? I hope you love these practical ways to include more plant-based foods just as much as I enjoy dishing them out. In fact, in honor of February, the love month, we’re going to be covering foods that are particularly heart healthy. Plant-based foods are naturally great options for your entire well-being but the ones I’m featuring have some extra special goodness.
Today we’re talking about one food I recommend every single day. I find myself recommending this food to athletes to prevent inflammation, to busy professionals to help stay satisfied, and to those following a plant-based diet to include more healthy fats. It’s a game changer guys…and that food? ….drum roll please….chia seeds!
Now chia seeds are tiny little black specks that look similar to a poppyseed but when added to a liquid, they form a gelatinous mixture over time. This is why chia seeds are frequently used in vegan baking – to help with the binding process since eggs aren’t used. You can find chia seeds in most grocery stores generally near where they sell flax seed, hemp seeds, and other whole seeds and nuts (not in the snacking nut section). Otherwise, check them out online or Costco (that’s where we usually get our massive bag).
So likely, your next question is, why do I want to eat them? Omega-3s baby. Chia seeds have one of the highest concentrations of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that helps protect your heart by reducing inflammation, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure while simultaneously increasing the HDL levels in your body. Chia seeds are a fantastic source of soluble fiber (11 grams of fiber in 3 tablespoons). Soluble fiber helps with GI regularity (aka formed comfortable poops on a consistent basis) BUT soluble fiber also helps remove excess cholesterol from the body before it adheres to artery walls. The micronutrients in chia seeds help support cardiovascular health too. In those three tablespoons, you’ll find 20% of your calcium needs and 15% of your iron needs – both of which help with heart regularity. You may not consume three tablespoons at one time (especially if you are new to adding fiber to your diet), but chia seeds remain one of the most nutrient dense foods per weight. Good stuff, right?!
OK, now that we have the nitty gritty basics covered, let’s dive into the good stuff (literally!). Always keep in mind that these are guides meant to give you straightforward everyday uses for the food but feel free to adjust and tailor to your liking! Recipes should never back us into a corner. 😉 Also, I purposely made this week’s post as straightforward as possible – hope you enjoy!
It’s impossible to talk about chia seeds without mentioning overnight oats! This overnight sensation (get it, overnight?! 😉 ) is all over Instagram and Pinterest these days and while you can play around with flavor combinations, I want to give you the general framework and then you can let your creativity (or pantry) do the talking! In a bowl or container (I use a 2 cup container with a lid so it’s a breakfast on the go), mix about ½ cup oats, 1 heaping tablespoon chia seeds, and ½ to 1 cup plant-based milk of choice. That’s it! If you’re unsure how much liquid to start with, start with less and let it sit overnight. Then add more milk or your favorite yogurt depending on your desired texture. I like to switch up the liquid amount. I also like to mix the oats – so maybe I’ll do a concoction of muesli and old fashioned or quick cooking and old fashioned. Buckwheat groats and a dabble of steel cut oats thrown into the mix work well but know that the liquid isn’t going to soften either of them up and you’re going to have more texture. You’ll likely want to add a sweetener or just a ton of fruit (blueberries, raspberries, pomegranate seeds, dried cherries, raisins, peaches, mangoes…). Texture is great too (unless you like smooth gelatinous texture – kind of like tapioca). My favorite texture additives? Unsweetened coconut flakes and roasted almonds. You can throw your additives in the night before or just before serving. Tip: if you forgot to make overnight oats but you’re craving some the next morning, make the mixture and let sit in the fridge for one to two hours. While the oats won’t soften up quite as much, it’s still delish and I do this quite often if I don’t plan ahead the night before.
Instead of other recipes, I’m going to get down and dirty with TEN other awesome ways to eat chia seeds:
- Mix into your peanut butter or jelly jar
- If you don’t want to commit to mixing it into the whole jar, mix into a small bowl before adding on to your toast, pancakes, waffles, bagels, tortillas, English muffins, etc. By premixing it, it saves you time and you can get a ration you like
- Substitute eggs out for chia seeds
- This is perfect for baked goods like banana bread, pancakes, waffles, muffins, etc. You’ll have to add more leavening agent like baking soda or baking powder. If you want to give it a whirl… use 1 heaping tablespoon chia seeds and two – three tablespoons of water for every egg equivalent
- Top nut butter or avocado toast
- Pepper that toast pretty with these morsels of goodness!
- Sprinkle on oatmeal or cold cereal
- Either or Both, your choice but easy enough to add if you have the chia seeds available
- Add a spoonful into taco meat filling
- This works great when using more than one texture. For example, black beans and textured vegetable protein or a ground meat and pinto beans
- Make granola bars (SO good!)
- Mix 2 cups quick oats, ½ cup peanut butter, ½ cup chocolate chips, ¼ cup coconut oil, ¼ cup maple syrup, ¼ cup chia seeds together in a bowl. Press mixture firmly into square baking pan lined with parchment paper and let set in freezer for at least 20 minutes before cutting into bars/squares. Store in fridge or freezer.
- Sprinkle into your yogurt
- One of the easiest, most popular ways for sure
- Top pancakes and waffles with chia seeds for a slight crunch
- If you don’t want to substitute eggs, why not add on top with other nuts and seeds or let the chia seeds rock out solo
- Make Chia Puddding
- Ratio = 3 tablespoons chia seeds and 1 cup of liquid add sweetner, chocolate, fruit, coconut, etc – my husband loves this texture, but if I’m being real, this is my personal least favorite way to eat them and you’re much more likely to catch me doing one of the other nine options 😉
- Add a large spoonful to smoothies
- This is great for anyone who isn’t a fan of chia seed texture as you won’t even notice them, especially if you have a high powered blender
Well, there you have it folks, one recipe plus 10 other ways to include chia seeds! The sustained energy and unparalleled nutrition make chia seeds a powerful little superfood seed. How do you chia seed?