Boost Your Fiber Intake with Chia Seeds

by Amylee Amos MS, RDN

Chia seeds have come a long way since the infamous Chia Pets of the 1980’s. These little seeds are no longer going to waste on terracotta figurines. They have gained massive popularity in recent years, and for good reason.

What are chia seeds?

The chia seed hails from southern Mexico and was a staple food in the Aztec and Mayan diets. Chia seeds are small, hard seeds that expand and gelatinize in water, making them a perfect natural thickener.  Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds can be stored for long periods of time without turning rancid and they can be digested in their whole, as well as ground form.

Health benefits of chia seeds:

The health benefits of chia seeds are numerous. They are rich in antioxidants like quercetin and other flavonoids, which help fight free radical damage to prevent chronic disease (1). Additionally, chia seeds are rich in the plant source of omega 3 fats, Alpha Linolenic Acid (2). When paired with other sources of omega 3s, like those from fish, ALA promotes wellness and prevents chronic disease by reducing inflammation (3). They are also rich in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

But chia seeds are best known for their excellent fiber content. Chia seeds pack as much as 10-11 grams of fiber per ounce. Fiber promotes healthy elimination and when used appropriately, chia seeds are an excellent way to promote regularity in gastrointestinal function. When we have regular bowel movements, we are eliminating toxins that we’ve taken in and expelling cholesterol and excess hormones out of the body. In the functional medicine world, the quantity and quality of stool is as important as vital signs like your body temperature and blood pressure. Eating adequate fiber allows for healthy GI motility and elimination, which is a direct reflection of our overall health. In addition to all of this, fiber helps promote a healthy microbiome by fostering an environment that the ‘good’ bacteria in our gut want to live in. All in all, fiber does wonders for our gut health and in turn, our overall health, and chia seeds are an incredible way to boost your fiber content.

Chia seed pudding is the perfect recipe to showcase the wonders of chia. The chia seeds gelatinize so much that just by adding plant based milk, you end up with a pudding that resembles a tapioca - like consistency. This is also just a great recipe if you’re looking for an egg-free and grain-free breakfast that’s packed with great nutrition (and obviously fiber!). It also makes for a great dessert, since this parfait is creamy and perfectly sweet from the raspberries.

Chia Seed Pudding

This recipe serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup raspberries

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, combine the coconut milk, almond milk, vanilla extract, and chia seeds.
  2. Stir mixture well.
  3. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight, or for several hours to allow it to thicken.
  4. During the first hour, periodically stir mixture to avoid the seeds sinking to the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Once the pudding has set, spoon ¼ of the mixture into a small bowl.
  6. Top with raspberries and serve chilled.

References:

  1. Taga, M.S., Miller, E.E. & Pratt, D.E. (1984), Chia seeds as a source of natural lipid antioxidants. J Am Oil Chem Soc, 61: 928.
  2. Suri, S., Passi, J. S., & Goyat, J. (2016). Chia Seed (Salvia Hispanica L.) – A New Age Functional Food_. International Journal of Advanced Technology in Engineering and Science_, 4(3).
  3. Simopoulos, A.P. (2002). Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Journal of American College of Nutrition, 6: 495-505.