Have you ever wondered how to use chia seeds in smoothies? The little seeds have come a long way from the popular 1980s chia pets that were advertised on TV. I can still hear the song in my head… Ch-ch-ch-CHIA!
That’s right. The chia seeds that have become popular in food are the same ones you spread onto the terra cotta heads to grow crazy hair.
Let’s dig into what chia seeds are, why you should be adding them into your smoothies, and then best ways to use chia seeds in smoothies.
What are chia seeds?
The chia plant (Salvia hispanica) is native to Guatemala and southern Mexico where it is highly valued for its medicinal properties and nutritional value.
Chia seeds were important in the diet of the Mayans and Aztecs. They were prized for the sustained energy they would provide. “Chia” is an ancient Mayan word meaning strength.
The flowering plant can produce two different colors of seeds: black or white. The color of the seed depends on the color of the flower.
When you buy the black seeds, they are a mixture of brown and mottled seeds that overall look black. The white seeds are similar – they are really a mixture of white, grey, and yellow seeds.
Nutrition and health benefits of chia seeds
Below are the nutritional highlights of chia seeds. You can find all the nutrition data of chia seeds here.
Nutrition (serving size 28g or ~1 oz. or ~ 2 tablespoons):
* Recommended daily value
NOTE: there are slight differences between black and white chia seeds in terms of nutritional content. White seeds have a little less fiber and a little more protein than the black seeds. It won’t make much difference which color you use in your smoothie, though. You can use either color or mix the two.
What this means to you
That’s a lot of numbers. What does all of this mean to you and your health?
Chia is a low-calorie food that is packed with nutrients.
Chia seeds are very high in fiber – 11 grams per ounce. Because of this, they can help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion of food. Chia helps you feel full quicker and for longer because it absorbs a good amount of water and expands in the stomach when eaten. This, in turn, can help you snack less and can help with weight loss.
They are high in calcium, with 18% of the recommended daily value in just an ounce. Calcium is important for bone health and can help maintain bone strength and density. This is very important for both men and women as we age and no longer build bone at the rate we did when we were younger.
Chia seeds are one of the top plant-based sources of protein. Protein is important for muscle growth, burning fat, and balancing blood sugar levels.
Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants and are high in the essential minerals calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, iron, and niacin.
Why use chia seeds in smoothies?
The benefits of adding chia seeds in smoothies don’t stop with the powerful nutritional boost they provide. Here are some more reasons to add chia seeds to your smoothies:
- Their taste can vary anywhere from a mild slightly nutty taste to tasteless, making them the perfect nutrient boost to add to any smoothie.
- The fiber and protein in chia seeds can help regulate your blood sugar by slowing down the digestion of food.
- The protein and fiber will also help fill you up faster and for longer, helping you snack less. This can make it easier to lose or maintain your weight.
- They slow down the process of turning sugars and carbohydrates from the seeds into energy. This process, along with the high protein content, can give you an energy boost and endurance.
- Chia seeds make a great thickener. Tired of adding bananas or tons of ice to your smoothies to thicken them? Try adding chia seeds instead. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons to make it thicker. The more you blend them and the longer they sit in your smoothie, the thicker it will become.
- For added texture. Sure, I do love creamy smoothies but sometimes I like some texture. Chia seeds add a bit of crunch to your smoothie because you will end up chewing some of them. And some will get stuck in your teeth…
How to use chia seeds in smoothies
Chia seeds can be added to smoothies raw or pre-soaked. Keep in mind that whichever way you choose to use them, to a certain degree they all will end up soaked in your smoothie.
Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds do not need to be ground in order for our bodies to have access to the nutrients. There is some debate, however, as to whether chia seeds need to be soaked prior to eating them to get the most nutritional benefit from them.
Soaking helps to break the seed open, making it easier to digest and access the nutrients inside the seed. Either way, though, they are an excellent source of nutrition.
Personally, I like to use both methods. Sometimes I enjoy the texture of the raw chia seeds, and sometimes I enjoy the thickness the soaked chia seeds give to the smoothie. Experiment with them to see what you like.
When you add raw chia seeds to your smoothie, you can either put them in the blender along with the other ingredients and blend, or you can stir them into your smoothie glass before you drink it.
If you add them to the blender ingredients, when you add them will make a difference in how thick your smoothie becomes. By adding them to the blender with the other unblended ingredients and then blending, the seeds will be exposed to the liquid in the blender the longest and will thicken the smoothie more.
You can also blend your smoothie ingredients without the chia seeds and add them into the blender for the final few seconds. This method can make a big difference in low powered blenders that take a while to blend the smoothie ingredients.
To expose the raw chia seeds to the least amount of liquid as possible (and therefore not changing the smoothie’s consistency much), first put 1 tablespoon of raw seeds on the bottom of the empty smoothie glass. Pour the smoothie into the glass (as full as you want) and then stir in the chia seeds with a spoon.
Keep in mind that the raw chia seeds will absorb the liquid in your smoothie and will thicken it. Because of this, you want to add only about a tablespoon of chia seeds into your smoothie so it won’t turn into a gelatinous mass. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Eating your smoothie with a spoon is perfectly acceptable.
If you prefer to not eat your smoothie with a spoon, just be sure to drink it relatively quickly. The longer it sits, the thicker it will get.
When chia seeds are mixed with water they turn into a gel that is an excellent smoothie thickener.
In a cup or glass, add 1 tablespoon of whole seeds to about 1/2 cup of the liquid you are going to use in your smoothie (water, almond milk, coconut water, etc…). Stir thoroughly with a spoon and let the mixture sit for 5 – 10 minutes.
After soaking, add the mixture to your blender along with the rest of your smoothie ingredients and blend as you normally would.
How much chia to add to your smoothie
1 tablespoon of chia seeds is all you need.
Adding more than this you could end up with a very thick smoothie. If you like very thick smoothies, have at it!
Experiment with amounts between 1 – 2 tablespoons of chia seeds to thicken your smoothie.
If you’d like to learn more about how to create nutritionally balanced smoothies, download my free guide:
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