Eat chia every day. Soak it. Grind it. Bake it. Drink it. Plant it? Eat the leaves?! Did you know that chia is easy to grow and that the leaves are edible and nutritious too?
My breakfast today - chia porridge with banana and cinnamon.
Chia grows tall here in the Australian subtropics. It is towering over Maia in our garden right now. It is a drought hardy plant. I do not regularly water this area - it is mostly rain fed.
I’m assuming many of you are already appreciating the amazing versatility of chia - the rediscovered ‘superfood’ staple grown by the Aztecs as early as 3500 BC.
Chia is renowned as a high value food, particularly for vegetarians - to bring energy, to give strength, for stronger bones and teeth, and to help lose weight. It is the highest source of plant based omega 3 and is also rich in protein, calcium, Vitamin C, iron and potassium.
There is so much written about chia, so I’ll just quickly summarise it’s properties here.
Chia seeds have:
2.5 times more protein than kidney beans (20% protein)
3 times the antioxidant strength of blueberries
3 times more iron than spinach
6 times more calcium than milk
7 times more vitamin C than oranges
8 times more omega-3 than salmon
10 times more fibre than rice (25% fibre)
15 times more magnesium than broccoli
and are gluten free
There are many reasons we are encouraged to eat chia….
Eat chia for enhanced strength, energy and endurance
Eat chia to satisfy your hunger and increase metabolism - good for weight loss
Eat for stronger bones, cartilage, and teeth
Eat chia for good digestion and cleansing the colon
Eat chia to prevent dehydration - holds 10x it’s weight in water
Eat chia for heart health
Eat chia to settle an upset stomach
Eat chia to calm the nerves
Eat chia to strengthen your memory
Feed chia to chickens for healthier eggs
Here are 9 easy ways to I integrate chia into my daily diet.
1. Chia porridge
My favourite breakfast is chia porridge. It’s so easy and needs no cooking.
Chia porridge in a jar - overnight I soak 1/4 cup of chia in organic soy milk or cococnut milk with a tsp of cinnamon and a couple of stevia drops and give it a good shake. Put it in the fridge and simply open and eat in the morning.
3. Chia Rice
I cook rice using the absorption method. Just as I take the rice off the stove, I add a few big tablespoons of chia seed into the pot and stir. Let this stand for about 5 mins and the chia swells adding a nicely nutty flavour to the rice, and a whole lot more nutrition. (you can do the same in a rice cooker)
3. Chia Shortbread
Homemade shortbreads are a favourite in our house. Writing a recipe is challenging because it’s one of those automatic things for me now - just working from texture and taste - and creating something slightly different each time.
1 cup coconut
1 cup ground nuts and/or seeds (almond, pepitas, sunflower, chia)
This is one of the chia chocolate cakes we make - a Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar-Free version
1 cup ground nuts and/or seeds (eg: almond & chia, chia and pepita, chia and sunflower)
1 cup soaked chickpeas - soak 1/2 cup dry chickpeas overnight and then rinse
3/4 cup dates - check no stones, simmer in a 1/4 cup water to soften for approx 5-10 mins.
3/4 cup coconut
3/4 cup cacao
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
Blend chickpeas to a smooth paste
Add dates, honey, eggs, oil and blend further
Add rest of ingredients and blend well - add extra liquid if too dry, or more nuts/coconut if too dry (the consistency depends on how much chia used and how moist the dates are)
Bake for approx 30 -40 mins until skewer comes out clean
(NB: 1 cup = 250ml)
This version of our chia chocolate cake has organic flour instead of the chickpeas.
5. Chia as egg replacement in pancakes
Sunday morning is often pancake day at our place. The kids go up and get the eggs and then help make them, slicing fruit for toppings too. Some days there are no eggs. In this case, we simple soak a handful of chia in a little water for 10 minutes then add this gel-like liquid to the pancake mix. Not only does it help to hold the mix together, it adds extra nutritional value.
6. Sprinkle chia seeds on salad
Pretty much every salad that gets served up for lunch here has a sprinkle of chia and sunflower seeds through it for extra protein.
7. Eat chia leaves in salad or use as spinach alternative
The leaves are also high in protein and nutrients, and are therefore a valuable addition to your salad or stir fry. Simply sprinkle some of your organic chia seeds in a pot and water well. After a day or two, they start to sprout - so quick. As soon as the leaves form, start plucking. Rather than harvesting the whole plant, just pluck a leaf or two from each plant.
Young sprouted chia - use leaves in salad.
8. Add leaves and seeds to smoothies
Chia leaves and seeds are a powerful addtion to a green smoothie. We love adding the seeds to banana smoothies too.
9. Table flowers
The lavender blue flower spikes can be used as a table flower. I love my edible bouquets. I quite like to have a little nibble on my table centrepiece of edible flowers and leaves, or pluck some as a garnish.
Chia flowers forming
Choose an organic seed - the one you buy in a health food store is fine. Other imported chia will have been irradiated, or is old, and will not germinate.
Chia grows vigorously. It is heat and pest-resistant. I grow the chia I want to use for salad in pots on the verandah, or in little niches in the garden. The chia I want to grow for seed, I plant in the food forest areas in a clump so they can help each other stand up when they get tall and spindly.
Chia is a warm season annual and requires frost-free growing conditions. In subtropical areas sow late summer to autumn. In tropical areas sow during the dry season. Likes good drainage and needs little water once established. It is self-pollinating, self-seeding, and hardy.
Harvest Chia Seeds
The blue flower spikes are 10cm long; they develop into a seedhead with brown, shiny seeds on plants 80+ cm tall. Harvest the ripe seedheads by bagging and hanging upside down to dry. Separate the seeds from the stems and winnow in a light breeze.