Product Review: Chia Pods

Chia Pods are a breakfast (or snack) product from The Chia Co., an Australian company. They grow their own chia seeds to use in their products.

chia pods review

I was really excited to try Chia Pods because I had read that some of the flavors contain nothing but chia seeds, real fruit and coconut milk. Some of the flavors have no added sweeteners, while others are lightly sweetened with coconut palm sugar. In other words, they’re real food. And I love coconut anything, so they sounded really good.

The flavors

I saw online that our local Fresh Market carries them, so I headed over last weekend to buy some. Chia Pods come in eight flavors, but our local store had only four.  I bought the ones that sounded best to me: blueberry, mango and banana. (I didn’t buy the vanilla bean flavor.) The bummer: my local Fresh Market didn’t stock any of the flavors I most wanted to try — coffee bean, dark cacao, strawberry or lemon and date. (Yum, right?)

If I get my hands on the other flavors at some point, I’ll write another review.

The pros

The “pods” themselves are pretty cool, and they’d be perfect for taking to work or school. The lids snap on pretty tightly, and each lid has a handy orange spoon that snaps onto it for convenient snacking on the go. The containers are recyclable and contain 30 percent recycled material, according to The Chia Co.’s website.

Other pros: Chia Pods are vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO. At about 130 to 160 calories each, they’re a nutritious, filling, lo-cal breakfast or snack. In fact, I ate one to tide me  over when I was really hungry so I could fit in a bike ride before making dinner last night. It totally did the trick.

The cons

Honestly, the main con, to me, was the flavor. Chia Pods taste okay. I tried the blueberry one first — it’s one of the flavors with no added sweetener — and my reaction was “meh.” It wasn’t bad. It had a nice, substantial texture and whole blueberries in it. But the taste was sort of lackluster. I wondered if adding a little sweetener would help. So, I drizzled some local honey on top. That made it quite good. So, maybe if you don’t ever eat added sugar and your tastes lean toward the less sweet, you’d love it.

I like the mango flavor, which also has no added sugar, quite a bit better than the blueberry. It was smooth, and the mango tasted bright and fresh.

And I liked the banana, also with no added sugar, the best of the three, which surprised me. Banana is not my favorite fruit, but the banana flavor had a creamy texture and a nice natural sweetness.

Also, at $3.59 a pop for a 6 oz. container, Chia Pods are  a little pricy. Unless I fall in love with one or more of the flavors I haven’t tried, I can’t see myself spending that on a regular basis for something I don’t absolutely love. I might buy them for a road trip or some other scenario where I need something healthy, filling and convenient.

Otherwise, I’ll probably stick with making chia seed coconut pudding at home, where it’s cheaper and I can experiment with different flavors, and maybe add a little sweetener.

Though, of course, homemade chia pudding doesn’t come in a nifty pod.

Green Goodness Chia Superfood Smoothie

As part of an overall quest to get healthier, I went to a holistic doctor for the first time last week, and part of my prescription is to eat greens daily. How awesome is that?

A chia seed smoothie full of green goodness
A chia seed smoothie full of green goodness

I’m also supposed to eat vegetables from the cabbage family every day. It was pretty cool to look down at my prescription and see “brussels sprouts.” But I’m a veggie lover, and I’ve been a fan of brussels sprouts since I was a kid, so maybe I’m just weird.

Anyway, I’m trying to incorporate more greens into my smoothies, and this yummy green smoothie with green grapes, baby kale and ginger was the result this morning. It’s very good, and tastes like something you’d pay at least $5 for at a juice bar. It’s easy, and much cheaper, to make at home. So, give it a try.

Green Goodness Chia Superfood Smoothie Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups green grapes
  • 1 large banana
  • 2 large handfuls of baby kale
  • 1 T extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 cup of chia gel plus 1/4 cup water
  • 1 T dry chia seeds
  • 1, one-inch, pinkie-finger width piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 cup of ice
  • 1 T. honey, agave or sweetener of your choice

Instructions:

Throw all the ingredients into a Vitamix or other high-powered blender and blend on medium-high for about a minute.

Enjoy!

Your Questions: Which is Better, Black or White Chia Seeds?

Here’s one question that gets asked a lot: which is better, black or white chia seeds?

Showdown: black vs. white chia seeds -- Photo: Larry Jacobsen
Showdown: black vs. white chia seeds — Photo: Larry Jacobsen

The answer: there is not a whole lot of difference between the two, according to chia researcher and professor emeritus at the University of Arizona, Wayne Coates.

In fact, the University of Arizona did a study to try to answer that very question. The researchers examined two types of chia: Tzotzol, which has black seeds, and Iztac, which has white seeds.

Let’s break it down to compare the two colors of chia seeds:

1. Nutrition and benefits of black vs. white chia seeds

Black chia seeds and white ones have nearly identical nutritional profiles and composition, according to Coates.

In fact, the University of Arizona study found that the two types of chia seeds have pretty much the same water, oil, protein, and fiber content.

The study also showed the two types of chia have similar fatty acid content — including palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, linolenic and omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. (The researchers did find that when chia seeds vary in fatty acid content, it’s likely due to the environment where they’re grown, rather than the color of the seeds.)

Also, the black and white seeds have virtually the same amounts of antioxidants, the study found. The two seeds had similar levels of the flavonols compounds myricetin, quercetin, caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid.

These antioxidants, which occur naturally in some plants foods, have been linked to various possible health benefits, which are still being studied. For example, some studies have connected myricetin with lower rates of some types of cancer (see: sources below).

The study also discovered that both seeds contain SDG, a lignan compound, which is a phenolic compound. And phenolic compounds have been studied and shown to promote health benefits and cancer prevention, according to the study.

2. Taste of black vs. white chia seeds

They also taste pretty much the same. That’s according to Chiatrition, an Australian brand of chia seeds. I’ve also tried both types and have noticed no difference in flavor or texture between the two.

3. The appearance of black vs. white seeds

You might prefer the look of black chia seeds or white ones based on your personal preference. From my experience, white chia seeds tend to blend in more and be less visible in light-colored foods. So, for example, if you’re making vanilla or coconut or banana chia pudding, you might prefer a light colored seed so it stands out less, or you might like the look of the contrast provided by a dark colored seed. If you have picky kids, light colored seeds might look less “weird” in foods.

So, in the case of chia seeds, you can throw out the rule that says the more colorful a food is, the more nutritious it is. Black chia seeds do not have any real benefits over white ones.

Sources:

“Seed composition of two chia (Salvia hispanica L.) genotypes which differ in seed color” — R. Azeyra, 2103, Emirates Journal of Food and Agriculture

“Flavonoid intake and risk of pancreatic cancer in male smokers” — Gerd Bobe et. al., 2007, Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention

 

 

What Are Chia Seeds?

By now, most people have heard about the health benefits of chia seeds. But many still wonder: what are chia seeds?

In short, chia seeds are seeds that come from a plant, (scientific name: salvia hispanica L.), or chia, that is in the mint family.

"Photo from a dusty roadside in Costa Rica." -- Dick Culbert
Photo from a dusty roadside in Costa Rica.” — Dick Culbert

Chia seeds sometimes are erroneously referred to as a whole grain but they are, in fact, a seed, according to Wayne Coates, a professor and one of the top chia researchers in the country.

So, in summary, chia seeds are edible seeds that come from a plant related to mint.

So, where and how are chia seeds grown?

Chia seeds are cultivated mostly in various countries in Central and South America, including Peru and Argentina, as well as in Australia. There also are some chia seeds grown in the United States. (US Chia grows chia seeds on a farm in Kentucky.)

 What is the history of chia seeds?

Chia seeds have a long, rich history. They were prized in pre-Colombian times as an important food and source of oil. The seeds and other parts of the chia plant also were used to make medicines. With the arrival of the Spanish colonists, the use of chia declined, and the plant was all but forgotten for many years.

Historical texts show that, in pre-Colombian times, chia seeds commonly were roasted and used to make a flour called Chianpinolli. The flour was used to make tortillas and tamales. The Aztecs also used this flour to make a drinks known as Chianatoles.

Chia seeds -- Photo: Seth Anderson
Chia seeds — Photo: Seth Anderson

What are chia seeds good for?

Chia seeds have become popular in the United States and other countries for a variety of reasons. First, they’re generally considered a healthy food and a good addition to the diet. They contain large amounts of  fiber, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, according to registered dietician Angela Stanford.

And chia seeds are used in cooking in many ways. For example, they can be used as an egg substitute in baking. They’re also good for thickening soups, sauces, gravy and fruit smoothies. Here is a guide to how to eat chia seeds.

Chia seeds are classified as a food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, rather than as a drug or supplement, but research has shown benefits for certain health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.

How else is chia used?

chia seed history

In Mexico and Central America, chia seeds are used to make medicinal infusions. Though there is no scientific proof to back up these uses, the chia plant (including the seeds, leaves and roots) has been used throughout history as a folk remedy for conditions such as fever, infections, stomach problems, eye issues and overall health.

In Mexico, after the year 1600, chia fresca or “agua de chia” became popular as a refreshing beverage. The drink contains chia seeds, lemon or lime juice and sugar, and it’s made in homes and sold by street vendors. Recently, this drink has become popular in the United States as well.

In modern times, chia also is used in beauty products for the skin and hair. It’s extremely versatile, it has many uses, and it’s becoming more and more mainstream.

Sources:

USDA plant taxonomy

National Institutes of Health chia seeds paper, “The Promising Future of Chia”

Ethnobotany of chia, salva hispanica L.” — Joseph Cahill

Mix-and-Match Chia Mash Breakfast

I had some leftover chia coconut pudding (made simply by soaking chia seeds in some leftover coconut milk and adding maple syrup to taste.) Also, I needed breakfast quick.

Make this chia seed breakfast in 5 minutes
Make this chia seed breakfast in 5 minutes

I made up this breakfast mash bowl on the fly, and it is super fast to put together (if you have the chia pudding made already), so good for busy mornings.

The cool thing is you can use any combo of pudding flavor, fruit and topping to make whatever kind of bowl you desire. Hence, the mix-and-match name.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 cup dry oats (use gluten-free oats to make this a gluten-free recipe)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (or soy, rice, dairy, or any milk you choose)
  • Half a banana
  • Chia pudding of your choice (I used coconut)
  • Any fruit (I used frozen mango chunks)
  • Dried unsweetened coconut (or any kind of chopped nuts or seeds)
  • Maple syrup (or honey, or any sweetener you like)

Here’s what to do:

Put the oats in a bowl and mash in the half banana with a fork. Pour the milk on top, stir, and let it sit for five minutes. Top with the chia pudding, fruit, topping and sweetener of your choice.

Here are a few combo ideas:

  • Coconut chia pudding, mango, coconut
  • Chocolate chia pudding, raspberries, coconut
  • Strawberry chia pudding, strawberries, coconut
  • Chocolate chia pudding, cherries, walnuts
  • Coconut chia pudding, kiwi, almonds
  • Raw apples, dried apples, walnuts & cinnamon

You could really mix this up even more, using quinoa or rice as a base instead of oats, and throwing in many different combos of fruit (or dried fruit) and seeds. You could add raisins, dried apricots, dried apples, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, anything you want. It truly is made for mixing and matching with whatever you have in your kitchen.

If you discover a favorite combo, please comment & share. Thanks!

 

Cold Coconut Corn Chia Seed Soup

I’ve been wanting to make cold chia seed soup with chia seeds that have soaked overnight in my homemade veggie broth.

cold chia seed soupTonight, I made a delicious, cooling soup with corn, avocado, red pepper, cucumber and cilantro. Even though September is here, the weather was sultry hot and humid today, so this soup made a perfect end-of-summer evening meal. I served it with cubed tofu, pan fried, finished with soy sauce.

I’ll definitely be making this soup again, and I plan to experiment with many more cold chia seed soups. The chia seeds work very well in chilly soup. They thicken the soup while keeping the texture nice, cool and light.

Here’s the recipe:

Cold Coconut Corn Chia Soup Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups oil-free vegetable broth*
  • 3 T chia seeds

The broth and chia seeds will be mixed to create a chia broth gel that must be made the night before you want to make the soup (see below.)

You also need:

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • Two ears yellow sweet corn, kernels sliced off
  • One red pepper, thinly sliced, with slices cut in half
  • Juice of one lime
  • 5 T chopped cilantro
  • A squirt of sriracha sauce
  • Sea salt to taste

*It’s important to use oil-free broth for a cold soup so the oil doesn’t congeal. I made my own broth by filling a large pot with water and adding 3 carrots, 5 celery stalks, two onions, a few peppercorns, a shake of thyme and some sea salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer with the lid on for 45 minutes. Cool for an hour before adding chia seeds.

To make the chia broth gel:

Put 3 c warm broth in a Ball jar with a lid. Add 3 to 4 T chia seeds. Shake very well. Keep shaking every few minutes until the seeds begin to turn into a gel. Put the jar in the fridge overnight, shaking it again whenever you get a chance.

To make the soup:

The next day, after the broth is cold and the chia seeds have become gelatinous, put the chia  broth gel into a large bowl. Whisk in the coconut milk and lime juice and salt to taste. Add sriracha sauce to taste.

Gently stir in the cucumber, red pepper, corn and avocado. Top with cilantro.

Enjoy.

 

How to Make DIY Chia Seed Juice

Chia seed juices for sale in stores can get pretty pricy. And making chia juice yourself is so easy. It takes just a few minutes of mixing, then you stick it in the fridge and let it sit overnight.

Chia Juice

Voila! Chia juice.

There are two ways to make chia juice. This first is a little more time consuming: it involves making your own fruit or vegetable juice in a juicer, then adding the chia seeds.

However, I don’t have a juicer at the moment (I hope to get one soon) so I use the ridiculously easy method: buy a good, natural 100 percent juice at the store and add chia seeds.

Here’s my recipe:

Homemade chia seed juice

  • 3 cups juice of your choice
  • 3 T chia seeds (black or white — your choice)
  • A Ball jar with a lid or drink shaker

Just pour the juice into the jar, add the chia seeds and shake hard for about a minute. Let the jar sit on the counter, coming back to shake it again every couple of minutes.

After about 15 minutes, put the jar in the refrigerator and let it sit for at least several hours. I like to let it sit overnight to make sure the chia seeds have absorbed as much liquid as they can.

Pour the juice into a glass or sport bottle, or just chug it out of the jar. That’s it.

So, now you’ll never have to pay almost $4 for a chia juice again, unless you want to.

So, what juices should you use for your chia juice? I made a delicious chia juice a few days ago using blueberry blackberry acai juice.

There are lots of other juices and juice combos that make great chia seed juice. Here are a few of my favorites:

R.W. Knudsen juices I like with chia seeds:

  • Cherry Cider
  • Kiwi Strawberry
  • Pineapple Coconut
  • Mango Peach
  • Razzleberry
  • Spiced Pear

Northland juices that work well for making chia juice:

  • Blueberry Blackberry Acai
  • Raspberry Pomegranate Goji
  • Berry Berry Maqui
  • Purple Power

So, try one of the above juices or use any juice you like. If you make your own juices, you have even more possibilities. Try a watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew chia juice. Or make your favorite combo: I think a lemon ginger orange apple juice would be great with chia seeds added. Or, add some chia seeds to a green juice to make a seriously nutritious beverage.

One other tip: if you save your bottles and lids from iced tea or bottled water, you can make chia juice in single serving bottles. Just fill each bottle almost full with juice and add one to two tablespoons of chia seeds. Then they’re ready to grab in single serving form whenever you’re heading out the door.

Do you have a favorite flavor of chia juice to make? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

Cold Oatmeal Parfait with Blueberry Chia Gel

I’m starting a gluten-free diet this week to see if I can get rid of headaches I’ve had my entire adult life, and also possibly address a few other health issues.

Breakfast in a jar
Breakfast in a jar

This is totally new to me, so I spent quite a bit of time doing research and reading labels in the grocery store. I’ve heard gluten is very sneaky and hides in a lot of places you might not expect it. I bought gluten-free soy sauce and also certified gluten-free rolled oats from Bob’s Red Mill. My grocery store has a pretty good gluten-free section, and it was interesting to see all the stuff that’s available.

I’m keeping it healthy this week since health is my reason for doing this, so I didn’t pounce on the gluten-free cookies, though they looked good. I’ve always loved cold oatmeal with chia seeds, so I decided my first gluten-free recipe would be a pretty oatmeal breakfast parfait using the blueberry chia seed gel I made the other day.

Cold breakfast oatmeal is super easy to make and very tasty. Here’s a recipe that takes less than 10 minutes to put together. Yum.

This recipe serves two. You can just double or triple it to make additional servings.

*It’s a good idea to make the blueberry gel a day ahead of time so it’s ready for this recipe. To make blueberry chia gel, put three cups of natural blueberry juice (I used Northland Superfruits Blueberry Blackberry Acai juice) in a ball jar. Add 3 T chia seeds and shake well. Continue to shake every few minutes to keep the seeds from clumping. In about 15 minutes, put the gel in the fridge. Give it another good shake whenever you open the fridge. Let it sit overnight until it forms a gel with chia seeds suspended in it. Done.

Cold Oatmeal Parfait with Blueberry Chia Gel

  • 1 cup rolled oats (use gluten-free oats to make this recipe gluten free)
  • 1.5 cups Silk Original Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1 cup blueberry chia gel*
  • 2 T pure maple syrup
  • A few drops pure, natural vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries
  • 2 small ball jars with lids

To make:

  1. Mix the oats and the almond milk together in a glass mixing cup with a spout. Add three to four drops of vanilla extract and mix.
  2. Mix the maple syrup with the blueberry chia gel.
  3. Pour a quarter of the oat mixture into each jar.
  4. Pour a quarter of the blueberry chia gel into each jar on top of the oats.
  5. Divide the rest of the oat mixture between the two jars.
  6. Divide the rest of the blueberry chia gel between the two jars.
  7. Put 1/2 cup of blueberries on top of each parfait.
  8. Put the lids on and put the jars in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, take the jars out of the fridge and enjoy!