Thursday, June 05, 2008

Gluten-Free Chia Seeds : SuperFood Status

Chia Seeds : Gluten-Free Superfood

Chia Seeds (hydrated)
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).

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!

Chia Seed Nutritional Values
Chia Seed Nutritional Values
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.

In 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.

In Drinks:

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.

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.


Anonymous said...

OMG! Now I've seen everything! Chia seed is really good in lemonade, but coffee?? Guess I'll have to try it.

If you're looking for other ways to use chia seed, or places to buy them, please visit my website

I've been compiling chia recipes and photos and links for over a year now.

I hope you don't mind if I feature your photo in my next post.

Thanks in advance.

Mike Eberhart said...

I see you are into Chia in a BIG way. I am a Chia-newbie by comparison, but I am definitely seeing its potential. Thanks for stopping by, and yes, I'm quite OK with you using the photo and linking to my site. M.

Dianne said...

Hi Mike

I've tried to buy these, but have had no luck so far. From your post I see they are way more versatile than I thought!

I'll have to have another go at getting some!

D :)

Sarah said...

Do you know if these can be ground up? I added them to my morning green food drink, but was unsure of whether I should just add them dry, or pre-hydrate them and add them whole after blending.

Mike Eberhart said...

I *always* pre-hydrate them and allow them plenty of time to soak and get all swollen up to their potential. Then, I add them to drinks, either whole (as pictured) or as a component of a drink I then blend (with my Vitamixer) until smooth. Love the effect they give to smoothies all blended in.

Now, I have yet to try to make "flour" or such with the dry seeds, but I intend to. Then I will see what they work like. Fact is, the chia absorbs a LOT of water. As such, watch out for what it can do to recipes if not pre-hydrated :)

stuartk said...

I just ordered a couple of pounds of chia seeds from along with some dried fruit.

I'm going to try to have some chia seeds every day and then reduce the number of fish oil capsules I take per day. (The fish oil tends to repeat on me.) :)

Mike Eberhart said...

Congrats! You can have all sorts of fun with these seeds. I tend not to take the fish oil capsules often for similar reasons - you end up tasting fish all day, which isn't very nice. :)

The Chia seeds are working out absolutely wonderfully in my daily coffee, tea, and pancakes, and also in my occasional smoothies (last night's was chocolate-PB... yum!) I need more time to experiment with breads / cakes yet, but given the pancake success, I bet they will work wonders once the proper levels are obtained.

Definitely want to "pre-hydrate" these things regardless. I'm actually getting quite used to keeping a nice pint or quart of pre-hydrated Chia seeds around for my various gluten-free creations now. They come in very handy!


Anonymous said...

Good news for everyone trying to cook with chia -- there is a ready made Chia seed flour available on the market! It is made by Nuchia Foods and is certified gluten-free. It is an actual flour, not just ground chia seed and can replace traditional bleached wheat flour on a 1:1 basis. Best of all, it is affordable at only $6.89 for a 22oz bag. You can find it online at Good luck with your gluten-free cooking!

Mike Eberhart said...

I normally don't let product-promotion links through, but I did for now - only because the CHIA FLOUR sounded neat, for the current price you show (which, I have to wonder if it is just a teaser that will go away).

BUT, your price on the chia seeds is EXTREMELY OVERPRICED compared to Nuts Online for example, who sells the chia seed for less than ONE THIRD THE PRICE. So, I recommend that anyone looking for seed get it from instead, as there is no justification for that huge of a difference in price.

pb said...

i would love to try the chia seeds as flower - would probably much prefer to use them blended with something other than rice flour, though, as i find rice flour to be too gritty in most recipes(+ my mother wears dentures and just can't deal with the mouth-feel).
i think i'll try blending it with tapioca flour, since you report the two products have such similar qualities!
Mike, i love this blog!

Mike Eberhart said...

I use chia seed, sorta indirectly, as a *flour* by making a slurry of the hydrated chia seed - easy to grind in a blender that way. But, you could probably grind the seeds too... I know they sell chia flour at some places, though have not tried yet.

As for rice flour: there is nothing gritty about rice flour IF it is a fine enough grind to begin with. If you happen to have access to the super-fine Asian rice flours, trust me: no grittiness at all. *Any* flour would be "gritty" if it was not ground fine enough to begin with. So, I suggest shopping around (and, I avoid those "stnore ground" varieties that tend to be coarser).

Enjoy! And, thanks for the comments. m

Anonymous said...

I use chia seed every morning since a month as it give me more energy and activeness with the great taste. A perfect food supplements as compare to other expensive product.

taichinut said...

I am wondering if anyone has had issues with dehydration and or magnesium depletion after adding chia seeds to their diet. My son had been taking 2 scoops of chia seeds daily for a few weeks, he developed a muscle twitch in his neck which became so severe it would cause his head to jerk backward uncontrollably. Someone suggested a magnesium deficiency, so I stopped the chia seeds and added almonds, and other seeds and nuts high in magnesium. The symptoms seem to abate very quickly.
Has anyone else had an experience like this after taking chia seeds?

Anonymous said...

taichinut- You need to make sure you drinnk LOTS of water with these. If you dont then they will start to take the water out of your body's cells causing dehydration and other conditions. If you are unsure of how much water to drink with them, then pre-soak them before consuming them. Then drink a glass of water once they are consumed pre-soaked, just to ensure proper absorbtion. Chia seeds can be put in water to soak and stays fresh in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. So make a big batch then just leave it in the fridge and then all you have to do reach for it every morning. I hope this helps. I dont want any misleading info on chia seeds getting around because they are wonderful. They just need to be consumed correctly.

Jane said...

@ stuark, i tried chia seeds and it is effective on my diet. I bought mine in Hidalgo foods. They offer a much cheaper price per pound

Anonymous said...

I live in KC, Ks and have Chia and Quinoa coming up in my garden. They need thinning now, I intend to transplant and make several more rows of each. I'm eating cooked mash right now containing Chia, Quinoa, Buckwheat groats, corn meal and oats, topped with a sliced bananna and sweetened with honey. Just great!

p.s. I planted both types of seed by hand in rows, barely covered them and " walked them in." I didn't buy the seeds special, they came from the same containers that my mash came from. Looks like the germination rate must be about 90%. We will see if they make a crop.

Deb said...

Wondering if there is a connection between Chia seeds and muscle twitching. I've been eating Chia seens on and off for a few months and have developed twitches during that time. Adding Chia seeds are the only thing that I changed. I'm trying to find info on the web that supports this, but haven't had any luck. I'm going to stop the chia seeds and see if my twitches go away.