Remember when you couldn’t walk into a drugstore without spotting a zoo of Chia critters? Then we discovered that the same gooey seeds we stuck to our terra cotta-shaped turtles and bunnies are actually a superfood. Runners have been extolling their countless health benefits since the days when the Mayans and Aztecs relied on them to fuel their cross-country conquests.
So why should this tiny black dot be a staple in any endurance athlete’s diet? For starters, chia seeds are excellent for hydration. When left in water (or your stomach) these little buggers can absorb 10 times their weight in water. This means that as they’re digested, they slowly release water, helping to maintain proper hydration. They also help stabilize electrolytes. To get the maximum benefits, soak the seeds before ingesting them.
You’ll also find that chia seeds are extremely filling and one tablespoon has a whopping 5 grams of fiber and 3 grams of easily-digested complete protein, which help stabilize blood sugar levels. The seeds are also a terrific source of Omega 3s and are one of the most nutrient-dense foods we can eat because they’re chock-full-of an array of vitamins and minerals.
There are lots of ways to sneak chia seeds into your diet. Sprinkle them on cereal, yogurt, salads or add them to omelets and pancakes. You can also grind them and add them to baked goods. I happen to enjoy the subtle crunch these seeds provide in baked goods, similar to a poppy seed. Here’s one of my favorite chia-inspired recipes—perfect for a jersey pocket.
Recipe: Chocolate banana chia muffins
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose or oat flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 softened butter or coconut oil
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/3 cup mashed bananas – the riper the better
- 1/4 cup milk or milk substitute
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tbsp. chia seeds
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Optional add-ons: 1 cup broken walnuts, , 3 tbsp. ground flax
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda/powder and salt (add flax if desired). In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then beat in eggs and add milk, bananas, vanilla and chia seeds. Add the dry ingredients and then stir until ingredients are just combined. Add chocolate chips or nuts if desired. Spoon into muffin cups and bake for 23 to 30 minutes or until tops are springy and a toothpick is clean when removed from the middle. Remove the muffins and place on wire rack to cool. Makes 9 giant muffins or 12-14 regular ones.
Nutrition (for regular muffins with all ingredients except walnuts and using oat flour and coconut oil): Calories: 204, Carbs: 22g, Fat 11g, Protein 4g, Fiber 3g