Chia seeds are an amazing ingredient that have become increasingly common over the last few years. At Delushious we use them in a number of our creations for their textural properties and health benefits.
Here is a quick rundown on what they are and how you can use them.
Chia seeds are from the Salvia plant, native to Mexico. In fact, chia is the Mayan word for “strength” and they have long been eaten as a way to provide energy. They have been cultivated as far back as 3,400BC and wild varieties had been gathered for centuries before.
There is evidence that the Aztecs were cultivating them in the sixteenth century and they are still commonly used in Central and South America. For those of you who have read “Born to Run” (if you haven’t it’s well worth it) you might remember that the Tarahumara, a Mexican tribe known for their incredibly long distance running abilities, use chia seeds as a staple part of their diet as well as for medicinal purposes.
In recent years their popularity has grown significantly and they are now found in health foods all over the world.
As well as being very high in fibre (39%), they contain high levels of B vitamins, protein (14%), and omega-3s. In fact, in an article published on the BBC, chia seeds were ranked fifth in a list of the worlds most nutritious foods (interestingly almonds, which we also like to use came first). Furthermore, they are very low in calories and digestible carbohydrates making them popular with dieters. There have been a range of studies showing they can help to reduce blood sugar levels and heart disease but most of this is inconclusive and as with many of these claims, you would have to eat extremely large amounts to see a significant effect, therefore I wouldn’t recommend using them or any other ingredient, to combat illness. However, they can help to form part of a healthy diet, which in itself is one of the most significant things you can do to avoid diseases.
Part of their popularity is down to how versatile an ingredient they are. They can be sprinkled on cereal, used in cereal bars and flapjacks, baked in cakes (e.g. our Chocolate Coconut Slice) put into bread and mixed into smoothies.
One very interesting property they have is their ability to absorb up to 12 times their weight in water. In doing so they form a sort of jelly which can then be used as a binding agent and thickener, making them popular with vegans as an alternative to eggs. I have also seen them used this way to make a chia pudding with a nut or coconut milk but personally I find the jelly like consistency is a bit unpleasant (in frog spawn kind of way).
At Delushious, we have been taking advantage of its water absorbing properties to create a range of chia fruit spreads which we're hoping to launch soon. Because we don’t use added sugar we needed another way to stop our spreads being too runny without having to add loads of pectin. Along with having an extremely high fruit content (around 68%) our spreads have 16 times more fibre, up to 93% less sugar and 70% less calories than jam – this is in big part down to the magic of chia seeds.