By Julie Morris, Superfood Chef
From chia seed pudding to smoothies, chia has become a popular superfood utilized in an assortment of recipes. If you've used the edible seed before, you may have noticed that the chia seed can actually be found in both seed and powder form. Considering the ingredients of both Chia Powder and Chia Seeds are one and the same – Chia – many people assume that both products can be used interchangeably, which is an understandable assumption! Chia seeds are nothing more than the whole, raw seeds, while chia powder is created by grinding up these seeds into a fine powder. From a technical standpoint, that's the only difference between the two (there is no nutrition or absorption difference). Yet, because each product has such a separate role in the kitchen, you may want to consider actually having both of these superfood ingredients on hand.
Despite their tiny and unassuming look, organic chia seeds are dense with nutrients, making them a popular superfood. Since chia seeds and chia powder are essentially one and the same, it's important to consider the health benefits gained from incorporating either into your diet.
1. Organic Chia Seeds are High in Fiber
One serving (or one tablespoon) of Navitas Organics Chia Seeds contains three grams of fiber, which is 11% of your daily recommended intake. Fiber supports gut health by promoting the flow of materials through the digestive organs.
2. Rich with Antioxidants
Antioxidants help fight free radicals that can damage cells in the body and weaken immunity. A diet containing foods rich in antioxidant content also supports healthy and resilient skin, hair, and nails.
3. High in Omega-3 Fatty Acid Content
Omega-3 fatty acids have powerful health benefits for the brain and body. Omega-3s have been scientifically shown to reduce inflammation and support healthy blood pressure levels in those with high blood pressure.
With an understanding of the nutritional benefits of the chia seed, let's take a closer look at specifically how they're used.
Versatile Chia Seeds
Whole chia seeds are one of the most versatile superfoods on the planet. When used straight out of the bag, their small size and mild flavor make them an unnoticeable addition to just about any kind of dish. You can sprinkle them on salads, garnish some pasta or swirl them into yogurt – they can go everywhere!
Aside from dry chia seeds' versatility, chia seeds are also hydrophilic, meaning they absorb water when soaked. When surrounded in liquid for as little as 15 minutes, they develop a jelly-like coating and can expand up to 10 times their normal size! These swollen chia seeds (aka chia gel) are often used as a fun textural agent in things like sauces and drinks, and it’s this same feature that makes chia seeds so slippery and fun to eat.
Flavorful Chia Powder
When the chia seeds are ground into a powder, you'll notice some surprising changes. The first difference is the flavor: chia powder exhibits a slightly stronger nutty flavor over whole chia seeds (although, it is still relatively mild). This enhancement is simply due to the chia oils being more exposed, so our taste buds have a better chance to explore them. Ground chia is also powderier so it's not quite as conducive to the ubiquitous garnish feature that whole chia enjoys (just the way you might top a salad with almonds, but not with almond flour).
What Sets Them Apart
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two forms of chia is found back in the subject of it being a gelatinous food. When whole chia seeds are hydrated, each seed attracts liquid to itself, forming an individual gel “bubble,” which is what makes it slippery. When ground chia seeds are hydrated, rather than a bubble, the entire surrounding liquid is infused with this gelatinous material, thickening the liquid mixture as a whole. This is why ground chia seeds are considered to be a binder, like eggs, in baking recipes, whereas whole chia seeds are not. Therefore, the best way to use chia powder is in liquids that need to be thickened and baking recipes that need binding (and, of course, as a superfood boost). Navitas Organics Chia Powder makes an especially great egg replacement in batters for vegan pancakes and baked goods!
All differences aside, you can always feel confident that however you choose to enjoy it, chia is one of the most nutritious superfoods nature has to offer! Check out the recipe section of our website for some of our favorite ways to use both chia seeds and chia powder.