Try Something New: Chia Seeds

Looks gross, tastes fine.

When I say “chia,” what comes to mind? Yep, you’re singing the Chia Pet jingle, aren’t you? Yes, that’s what I’m talking about here. Those seeds are actually edible.

I first read about them in 2009 when I read Born to Run. At the time, the only place you could find chia seeds was through online health food distributors, usually in bulk quantities that would be great if you consumed them by the pound and not by the tablespoon. Fast forward two years, and now they’re in more mainstream markets, although a recent mention by Dr. Oz ensures that you’re going to have a hard time finding them in stock in the bulk foods aisle.

So what are chia seeds? They’re similar to poppy seeds in size, color and texture, but have no obvious taste. They’re high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.

Now, in the original context from Born to Run, the author references the Tarahumara Indians and the fact that they drank a beverage called chia fresca (or iskiate), a sort of all-natural Gatorade: water, lime juice, chia seeds and agave syrup.

Weird? Hell yes! But because it was the simplest and most straightforward preparation, I decided to give it a try.

I mixed 10 ounces of water with 1 Tbsp chia seeds, the juice from half a lime, and a light sprinkle of granulated sugar. As recommended, I let the mix sit for a few minutes and watched the strange transformation as the seeds began to thicken the drink (I told you, it’s weird). I stuck a straw in, took a deep breath and took a drink.

It was… good.

Ok, admittedly, having seeds float in your drink is weird. Really weird. But the flavor was good, very light and refreshing, and the thickened consistency was strangely satisfying. Having said that, though, I haven’t made it again.

An extreme closeup of chia oatmeal.

What I have been doing is adding the seeds to my oatmeal, about a tablespoon per day. Mixed in with the almonds, raisins and dates that are already in there, the chia isn’t even noticeable. Same with smoothies: there’s enough texture to hide the seeds. I’m also planning to make a lemon bread recipe, substituting chia for the poppy seeds. I’ll keep you posted.

Does it make a difference? Not that I can tell in the short term, but presumably the omega-3 fatty acids are working their long-term magic.

Have you ever tried chia seeds? What do you think?

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