What’s the deal with: Chia Seeds

Even if you’ve only heard of a few of the superfoods in the recent craze, the chances are you’ll have heard of chia seeds.

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The technical bit
The chia plant itself is a herb, originally from Mexico and South America. The leaves can be steeped in boiling water to make a tea, though the internet seems very uncertain as to whether or not they can actually be eaten. I even got in touch with Neal’s Yard to ask about it, and they didn’t know either! They said they were ‘not aware of them being edible – but this doesn’t mean they aren’t’. So if anyone does know, please leave a comment below – I’d love to learn more.

It’s the seeds of the chia plant rather than the leaves, though, which are garnering so much attention at the moment. They contain more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon, and, even though our bodies are less adept at absorbing omega-3 from plants, they are a good source for vegetarians. They are also high in magnesium, manganese and phosphorus, as well as being rich in antioxidants (which help to prevent or slow cell damage, in case you wondered). Some people have claimed that chia seeds contain more antioxidants than blueberries, though there doesn’t seem to be much proof of this.

Is it worth it?
A key thing about chia seeds seems to be their ability to absorb liquid. Once they do this they become jelly-like (search Pinterest for ‘chia pudding’ if you want to see this in action!), so can be used as a binding ingredient in vegan cooking and baking. The amount of liquid they absorb also means you stay more full for longer, so if you’re on any sort of diet they seem ideal.

It has to be said – of all the current superfood trends this is one I’m more on board with. Though some of the nutritional claims are unconfirmed there’s no denying that they’re very good for you, and so convenient to include in everyday cooking.

Verdict
It’s great that chia seeds are easy to incorporate into any kind of cooking. Even if you’re not sold on chia pudding, they can easily be added to breakfast cereal, stirred into salads and generally sprinkled on anything you like.

I love that they can act as a vegan egg-replacement, too – I’m still considering going vegan myself (that’s a post for another time) and have a few friends who already are, so it’s always really exciting to find things like this. Now a regular on my shopping list!

Price: 6/10 – they’re much cheaper to buy online than in stores, so, unless you have a local, independent health food shop you’re supporting, I suggest you get them from Amazon (about £1 per 100g, and cheaper if you buy in bulk).
Taste: 6/10 – to eat them by themselves they’re slightly bitter and almost musty, but when added to something else you can’t really taste them at all – though they add a nice texture.
Super powers: 8/10 – there are so few ways for vegetarians (and especially vegans) to naturally ingest omega-3, that I would definitely recommend them. Even if you eat meat, they’re a great addition for a healthy diet.

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Chia Courgette Fritters

I love courgette fritters, and have tried many, many recipes over the years. These ones are so quick and simple to make, and delicious to boot. If you’re not vegan, feel free to switch the nutritional yeast for 100g crumbled feta cheese.

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Ingredients (makes 6):
– 1 large courgette (about 300g)
– 1-2 tbsp chia seeds
– 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
– 4 spring onions, roughly chopped
– 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
– 2 tbsp plain flour
– handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
– 1 tbsp olive oil, for frying

1. Grate the courgette into a bowl. Stir in the chia seeds and a sprinkle of salt, then leave for 10 minutes.

2. Use a piece of kitchen towel to squeeze out some of the excess water from the courgette mixture, then stir in the rest of the ingredients.

3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Take small handfuls of the mixture and form into patties, then fry for a few minutes on each side. I found that cooking two at a time works best for me, but it depends on the size of your frying pan.

4. Transfer to a plate with kitchen towel to remove any excess olive oil, and serve while still hot.

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