This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 24, 2013.
Anyone who had a Chia Pet as a kid probably didn’t predict that the sticky seeds they were spreading on that terra-cotta cat would be one of the trendiest superfoods today. But chia and flax seeds, which are both vegan, gluten free and rich in nutrients, are gaining popularity as an addition to baked goods, smoothies, cereals and even a substitute for eggs.
Both seeds are very high in fiber – 1 ounce of chia seeds has more than 10 grams, more than 40 percent of the daily recommended fiber intake. An ounce of whole flax has about 7 grams, or 28 percent of the recommended daily fiber intake. And both seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, a nutritional compound that’s good for cholesterol, blood pressure and brain function, but that’s difficult to get if you don’t eat much fish or fish oil. The seeds also have moderate amounts of potassium, magnesium, vitamins B and E, and other nutrients.
Chia seeds can be eaten whole, but the body often doesn’t digest whole flax, so you should buy it ground or grind it yourself in a blender or coffee grinder.
And although the seeds don’t have eggs’ rising properties, they can be an egg substitute in baked goods, meat loaf or hamburger recipes, which use eggs as a binder. To make a flax or chia “egg,” mix 1 tablespoon of whole chia seeds or ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons of warm water and let the mixture sit for five minutes.