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    Ask The Chef: Chia

    By Julie Morris, Superfood Chef | January 4, 2013

    Question:

    I got some chia but I don't know what to do with it. How much should I use per serving in a drink, and do I need to soak [the seeds] first?
    -Dini H.

    Answer:
    There's a good reason chia is one of the most popular superfoods we carry. Aside from its tremendous health benefits (Omega 3's, minerals, protein, and fiber), it's also one of the most versatile superfoods to have on hand. The reason?It doesn't really taste like anything! This makes chia a breeze to add into almost any kind of smoothie… you can literally add it into any one of the recipes we have featured here in the Smoothment - incorporating it is just that easy!

    In terms of quantity, being a food, there's no official set parameter as to how much a person should or can use a day - there certainly haven't been any reported cases of a chia “overdose.†That said, keep in mind chia is enormously high in fiber - just 2 tablespoons contain almost a quarter of your daily-recommended fiber allotment. So, if you are not accustomed to consuming large quantities of fiber (which can be a healthy habit to acquire … slowly), it's recommended that you start small and work your way up. A tablespoon per serving is a good place to start.

    Chia has many of the same qualities as flaxseed, so if you've ever used flax before, chia makes an excellent substitute. One advantage chia has over flax is that you don't need to grind it before using - it is perfectly digestible in its whole form. For those who prefer a smoother drink viscosity and even greater digestibility, the Navitas Naturals Sprouted Chia Powder is a great product to use.

    A final note on using chia for smoothies: while it is not necessary to soak chia before using, doing so will provide a very unique benefit! Chia is enormously high in mucilage - the substance in plants that allow them to retain water - so when chia is submerged in water/liquid for 5-15 minutes, it will swell up, forming a gelatinous membrane around itself. Known as “chia gel,†this pudding-like substance created out of soaked chia makes a great low-calorie thickener and textural treat when added to smoothies. (Do note that any smoothie made with “dry†chia will thicken substantially if not consumed within 5-10 minutes. Using the pre-soaked chia gel alleviates this problem.)

    Have a superfood smoothie question of your own? Ask away! Just post it below and we may feature it in an upcoming segment of Ask The Chef.