Enjoying Chia Seed
One of the latest trends in health food is the chia seed. Chia is beginning to “superseed” flax in popularity because chia seeds are more nutritious, easier to use, and stay fresh longer — and they can be eaten whole or ground, or in the form of a gel, while still retaining all of their nutrients. But what is a chia seed and how do you use it?
If your only point of reference for the chia seed is the kitschy novelty Chia Pet, you’re not far off — it’s the same plant. Chia was first cultivated in Mayan and Aztec cultures thousands of years ago. The tiny chia seeds come in both black and white varieties (though there is virtually no difference in the nutrients between the two varieties).
Chia seeds are being touted as a superfood because they are a complete protein and a great source of fiber, antioxidants, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Chia seeds can be enjoyed on all Phases of the South Beach Diet. However, like all seeds, chia seeds are calorie-dense, so we recommend sticking to 3 tablespoons (1 oz.) maximum per day. The flavor of chia is slightly nutty, though it can be so mild that you might not taste it at all. The seeds are extremely versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. When mixed with a liquid like water, juice, or yogurt, chia forms a natural mucilage, or gel, which can be used as a thickening agent.
If you’re looking to boost your fiber, protein, omega-3 or antioxidant intake, here are some interesting ways to start incorporating chia into your daily diet:
Chia seeds can be used as a natural thickener for smoothies. You can soak the whole seeds and add the chia gel to the other ingredients before blending or stir the seeds into your smoothie after blending. The whole chia seeds will add fiber and a crunchy texture to smoothies.
Oatmeal is a great make-ahead meal for Phase 2 dieters that can be prepared overnight in a slow cooker for a quick take-along breakfast in the morning. Chia seeds can help thicken the mixture and provide a neutral-nutty flavor. Enjoy a cup of oatmeal with some chopped dried apples or cranberries, ground cinnamon, fat-free or 1% milk, and vanilla extract.
Soups, Sauces, and Dressings
Add chia seeds or gel to help thicken any soup or stew, sauce, or salad dressing and give it a nutritional boost. For example, chia can create a thicker consistency for a hot and sour soup or a chicken stew. It can be a great addition to yogurt-based sauces. And it can add protein, fiber, and essential fatty acids to your favorite vinaigrette.
You can use chia gel to replace fats like butter or oil in baked goods. Just combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 4 ounces of water to make the gel. It might take some experimenting before you strike the right balance in your baked goods, but chia can be a nutritious addition to whole-wheat breads, muffins, and scones, and even those special-occasion cakes.
Meatballs and Burgers
Chia can also help transform lean meatballs and burgers into more nutritious fare. Just give your chia seeds a spin in the spice grinder, blender, or coffee grinder before adding them.
If you’re looking for a healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth on Phase 2, chia seeds make an excellent ingredient for fruit and yogurt parfaits. Simply combine the chia seeds with fat-free Greek yogurt in a blender, and then layer the yogurt mixture with fruit of your choice in a parfait glass. Or you can simply sprinkle the seeds on top.
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