Here's Why Chia Seeds Should Be in Your Pantry and How to Use Them (2024)

Despite their small size, chia seeds are absolute powerhouses in the kitchen and are packed with vital nutrients. Chia seeds first became popular for their ability to grow on miniature terra-cotta figurines (remember Chia Pets?), but now these tiny superfoods are used in lots of recipes including creamy desserts and heart-healthy side dishes. "Chia seeds are consumed like a whole grain, but they're really a pseudo grain," explains Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDN, CDN, adjunct professor of nutrition at NYU, and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim ($22, Amazon). "Chia seeds have a mild taste and take on the flavor of what they are added to, and when chia seeds come in contact with liquid, they expand and form a gel. They are great in yogurt, smoothies, and salads."

Here's Why Chia Seeds Should Be in Your Pantry and How to Use Them (1)

What Is a Chia Seed?

Chia seeds are the edible portion from the Salvia hispanica, a desert plant that grows in Central America. Chia seeds are versatile in recipes since they can be eaten raw, soaked in water, ground into a chia seed powder, baked into recipes, or even used as a thickening agent to replace eggs or dairy in vegan recipes. "Chia seeds have a very mild, subtle flavor, and they typically take on the flavor of the other ingredients in the recipe," explains Elizabeth Adrian, RD, CDN, a former clinical dietitian at NYU Langone Medical Center. "However, their texture will vary significantly depending on whether you eat them raw, ground, or in liquid."

Types of Chia Seeds

Chia seeds can be black or white, yet the taste and nutritional values are virtually the same. Black chia seeds are often a bit smaller than white chia seeds, but both types can be used interchangeably in recipes and, when sprouted, those chia seeds add the extra benefit of chlorophyll. "The nutritional differences between black and white chia seeds are marginal," Adrian adds. "In fact, most chia seeds on the market today are grown as a mix of both black and white chia seeds."

Chia Seed Benefits

The benefits of chia seeds go beyond their unique texture and satisfying crunch. A single-ounce serving of chia seeds contains 138 calories, 4.7 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, and 10 grams of dietary fiber. They are packed with alpha-linolenic acid (i.e., an omega-3 fatty acid) and are a great source of micronutrients, specifically potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. Chia seeds are naturally free of gluten and cholesterol.

"Chia is a good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, which help us form hormones that quell inflammation," explains Celine Beitchman, director of Nutrition at the Institute of Culinary Education. "Using about one tablespoon of whole chia seeds as a guide, chia also provides a healthy dose of fiber, about 5 grams, which is as much as you get from half an avocado. Fiber's role in feeding the microbiome and the metabolites produced from that also point to anti-inflammatory benefits." Chia seeds are often touted for their ability to increase satiety—credit their high fiber content—which may make the body feel fuller longer.

How to Use Chia Seeds

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Chia seeds can be eaten raw or added to recipes. Because the coating of chia seeds soaks up water rapidly, soaking chia seeds in milk or water for a few hours (or overnight) can give the seeds a tapioca pudding-like texture and makes them a great binder to hold baked goods together, like these Coconut-Chia Oat Crisps. The best way of soaking chia seeds is to combine 1 cup of liquid for every ¼ cup of seeds and let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Of course, you can skip soaking and use them other ways. "Pulse them into smoothies, make crackers, sprinkle them toasted into your favorite porridge or pilaf," suggests Beitchman. "For a nuttier profile, you can toast chia seeds in a 325°F oven for about 3 to 5 minutes until they become fragrant. Then add them to foods as you would the raw varieties."

Chia Seeds vs. Flaxseeds

"Whereas flaxseeds need to be ground to be digested and absorbed by the body, chia seeds can be consumed and fully absorbed in any form [whole, raw, ground, sprouted, etc.]," Adrian explains. "Both chia seeds and flaxseeds are high in fiber, omega-3s, and protein, so the biggest difference between chia seeds and flaxseeds is taste; chia seeds are essentially tasteless, and flaxseeds have a slightly nutty flavor."

How to Buy Chia Seeds

Look for chia seeds in your grocery store's health section or at any number of online retailers. Unlike most produce, organic chia seeds are often sold very near the same price point as non-organic brands. So when possible, an organic option is the better route to avoid seeds treated with pesticides, chemicals, or hormones.

How to Store Chia Seeds

Since chia seeds are high in polyunsaturated fats (omega-3s), they will go rancid under extreme conditions. Always store chia seeds in an airtight container ($13, Target). "Chia seeds can be kept for about 6 months to a more than a year, depending on how they are stored," Beitchman says. "You can check chia seeds for any unpleasant smell changes or physical changes to the packaging that might indicate air exchanges, which will shorten their shelf life."

Now that you've got the scoop on chia, start adding the nutritious seeds to your breakfast muffins, chocolate dessert, and even tuna to taste its versatility.

Here's Why Chia Seeds Should Be in Your Pantry and How to Use Them (2024)


Here's Why Chia Seeds Should Be in Your Pantry and How to Use Them? ›

Chia seeds can also help with digestion and potentially in the management of various diseases, research suggests. Chia seeds are readily available and easy to add to meals, whether it be cereals, baked goods, smoothies, or as a salad topping.

What are chia seeds and how do you use them? ›

Packed with fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants, tiny chia seeds pack a nutritional punch. From adding them to prepared dishes or as a topping on oatmeal, cereals, or smoothies, you can easily incorporate chia seeds into many foods to give them a nutritious boost.

Is 1 tablespoon of chia seeds enough per day? ›

Chia seeds as part of a healthy diet

There is no RDA for chia seeds. Still, they can be safely eaten in amounts of 50 grams daily, which is about five tablespoons. Two tablespoons provide all of the nutritional benefits listed above. Soaked chia seeds have a gel-like texture.

What happens when you start eating chia seeds every day? ›

Limited research in animals and humans has found that taking chia seeds daily can lead to greater weight loss and bone mineral content ( 14 , 24 ). That said, eating too many can cause some side effects, so start with a small dose, like 1 oz (28 g) daily, and make sure to drink plenty of water.

What is the best way to eat chia seeds for maximum benefit? ›

  1. Sprinkle a few teaspoons into breakfast cereal (hot or cold) salads, soups, or stews.
  2. Stir into salad dressings, sauces, marinades, or cake/muffin/bread batter.
  3. Use chia gel as a thickener added to smoothies, puddings, and soups (stir the gel into these foods after they are prepped or cooked).

What not to mix with chia seeds? ›

Omega-3 fatty acids: Chia seeds contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. It is known that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding. Therefore, it is advised to avoid taking chia seeds with foods or supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Do chia seeds reduce belly fat? ›

Both Chia seeds and Ginger have been shown in some studies to help suppress appetite. Feeling fuller for longer may lead to reduced calorie intake, which can contribute to weight loss, including fat loss in the belly area.

Are there any negative effects of chia seeds? ›

Eating too many chia seeds may cause side effects, such as digestive issues, allergic reactions, or weight gain. In moderation, however, chia seeds can be a nutritious addition to a balanced diet. Chia seeds are edible seeds that come from a plant belonging to the mint family, called Salvia hispanica.

Is it better to eat chia seeds before bed or in the morning? ›

The consumption of chia seeds in the morning, especially on an empty stomach is considered the best time to consume them, as they increase the metabolism and support the digestion of every meal of the day. However, some research also supports that eating them at night helps in providing a better sleep pattern.

What does Mayo Clinic say about chia seeds? ›

Chia is rich in lignans and omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular health. These seeds also contain magnesium, an important mineral for brain, digestive tract and heart health. Add chia to cereal, yogurt, salads and smoothies, or use it make puddings for a nutrient-dense snack.

Can I put chia seeds in yogurt? ›

For raw chia seeds, you can soak chia seeds with warm water first and then use them or sprinkle a spoonful of chia seeds directly into yogurt, wait 15-20 minutes for the chia seeds to bloom and then use. Can be used with many other fruits such as watermelon, strawberry, mango, ... to make the dish more attractive.

Can I add chia seeds to coffee? ›

Chia seeds will work their thickening magic on your coffee too, so it will be more richly textured than normal. And similar to how boba can change up the consistency of a normally smooth caffeinated beverage, these seeds will bring an unexpectedly delicious pop to your cup.

How do you eat chia seeds on your own? ›

You can eat chia seeds whole, soaked or ground. Chia seeds taste somewhat nutty with a mild flavor overall and can easily be added whole to most dishes as a garnish. They can also be soaked to create all kinds of delicious recipes such as chia pudding, which is so tasty it's hard to believe it's healthy too.

Do you need to soak chia seeds before eating? ›

Eating them dry can give a crunchy feeling and they're great in smoothies or baking. Just remember to drink enough water when you eat them dry so they don't soak up water in your stomach, which might make you feel thirsty. So, soaking chia seeds is good, but it's not compulsory. You can enjoy them dry too.

What do chia seeds taste like? ›

Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor that works well to complement both sweet and savory dishes. They're very subtle in their taste, though some find the taste to be similar to a poppy seed or an alfalfa sprout.

Can I eat chia seeds directly? ›

People can eat chia seeds raw by adding them to a variety of foods, such as cereal, yogurt, smoothies, and as a topping on salads. It is also possible to soak chia seeds in a liquid, which turns the seeds into a gel-like substance. This can make them useful for thickening desserts, such as chia seed pudding.


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