Chia Seeds : Gluten-Free Superfood
If I hadn't entitled this blog posting "Gluten-Free Chia Seeds" would you have been able to guess what ingredient was lurking in the above pictured drink? Perhaps they remind you a bit of pearl tapioca? There are some similarities in texture, though tapioca can not even come close to the awesome nutrition Chia Seeds offer to those of us on a gluten-free diet.
The initial picture above shows Chia seeds (aka, Salvia Hispanica seeds) I have in my morning coffee (before adding some gluten-free soymilk; the post-soymilk picture is next). These offer an incredible burst of fiber and healthful Omega-3 Fatty Acids, with a fair dose of protein as well. They are a perfect diet food, and a great gluten-free baking ingredient too since they add nearly zero flavor to a recipe while introducing a "binding capacity"! I'll discuss their nutrition breakdown in more detail below...
And, this is how they arrive, when ordered online from Nuts Online Chia Seeds web page (they have the best price I could find, and I am quite pleased with their fast shipping and nice packaging).
NUTRITION - AWESOME!
Here's a summary from what Wikipedia says, and I can't say it much better. I'll give specifics about the product above immediately after this quote:
Chia seeds are typically small ovals with a diameter of about one millimeter. They are mottle-colored with brown, gray, black and white. Chia seeds typically contain 20% protein, 34% oil, 25% dietary fiber (mostly soluble with high molecular weight), and significant levels of antioxidants (chlorogenic and caffeic acids, myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol flavonols). The oil from chia seeds contains a very high concentration of omega-3 fatty acid — approximately 64%. Chia seeds contain no gluten and trace levels of sodium. There are no known toxic components of chia.Wow! Doesn't that just sound like a near-perfect food?
Now, here's the nutrition data for a one ounce serving of these lovely seeds. You'll notice they are incredibly low in calories, and even though a high percentage of calories is from "fat", it's *good* fat (Omega 3's). Notice there are NEARLY ZERO NET CARBS (of 12g carbs, only 1g is not fiber!) Amazing stuff!
In addition to "just the numbers", the gluten-free Chia Seeds offer other potential health benefits. I have heard some people claim they have used Chia Seeds as part of a very successful weight-loss strategy (makes sense, given the facts above). Also, there is some discussion about how the Chia Seeds may also slow absorption of other carbohydrates, thus being a good thing for diabetics and people watching their blood-sugar. Certainly an easy thing to try out and see what happens.
Amount Per Serving Calories 137 Calories From Fat 72
% Daily Value * Total Fat 9g 13% Saturated Fat 1g 4% Cholesterol 0mg 0% Sodium 5mg 0% Total Carbohydrate 12g 4% Dietary Fiber 11g 42% Sugars 0g Protein 4g
Vitamin A 0% Calcium 18%
Vitamin C 0% Iron 0%
USING CHIA SEEDS IN RECIPESIn short: these things are amazing in recipes!! They offer not just nutrition, but an amazing moisture-holding and binding ability. And, it does not take very much of the product to really make a difference in a recipe. They can add much-desired "bounce" or sponginess to recipes like breads and pancakes and the like, as such recipes should have.
Not that it is much of a "recipe", but I'll start with the simplest gluten-free treat that I like using Chia Seeds in: coffee! (or Tea) I simply add a tablespoon or two of the Chia Seed to my (large - 16oz+) glass of hot coffee, and let them soak for a few minutes before adding soy milk or whatever else. The seeds expand like pearl tapioca, and get that "fish egg" type of feel. I find them enjoyable, and much like tapioca drinks called "boba" or "bubble tea", but unlike pure-carbohydrate tapioca, these Chia Seeds add significant nutrition to a drink.
In Other Recipes:
You will want to start out by pre-hydrating the seeds. Simply place them in a bowl and add water (cold or hot) and allow them to soak for a while (15 minutes perhaps). This pre-soak yields nice results for baking recipes where liquids are used. Vary the liquid-to-chia proportion as needed to create a thicker/thinner "gel" of sorts to add to your recipes where liquids are typically added.
I have made some of the most incredible pancakes ever, by altering my existing pancake formula(s) to include pre-hydrated chia seed. I am rather certain these pancakes could rival any "real" ones. I still need to experiment more with bread and dessert recipes (especially cakes!), though my initial trials are quite promising. I will post variation-instructions on my book-sales site once I get the proportions nailed down, for anyone else that wants to try Chia in such recipes. If you can't wait - just experiment; I don't think it'll be too tough to add a bit of Chia to a recipe and get decent results.
Note: I recommend drinking plenty of fluid with these. The dietary fiber concentration is so incredibly high, the demand for complementary fluids is going to be rather high too. This should be easy enough to achieve, especially if using them in coffee or tea, and should be part of any diet plan with proper hydration.
Thank you to Kelly Smith for recommending these! Kelly has a gluten-free baking operation in Mansfield, Ohio (North-Central Ohio area) where she has been gaining quite a reputation as an awesome gluten-free baker, catering to multiple-allergy clients too. She mainly gets business by word of mouth, but here is a link to her Mansfield Ohio Gluten-Free Bakery website, which she is working to expand on (with online orders possible later this year). Kelly even bakes some desserts from our Gluten-Free Desserts cookbook to help non-bakers acquire tasty treats with a bit less effort :)
Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available for free.