Chia seeds are amazing. They were a staple crop of the pre-Columbian civilizations in Central America. The Mayans and Aztecs both swore by them but, after conquering Spanish forces took control of the area, they fell out of favor for centuries. It wasn’t until late in the 20th century that they came back onto the scene in a big way. Since their comeback, we’ve learned a lot about chia seeds and why the ancient people in Mesoamerica were so dependent on them.
One of the most amazing things you can do with chia seeds is turn them into chia flour. Not long after modern western society caught on to the benefits of the seed, chia seed flour started making its way into many baked goods. So, what types of delicious things can you make with the flour? And why have chia seeds become so popular?
The main reason that chia seeds have exploded in popularity are their renowned health benefits. Chia seeds are packed with nutrients and contain a nearly unbelievable number of antioxidants. Many people believe that chia seeds are a superfood, partly because they are very high in fiber and a great source of vitamins and minerals but also because of specific antioxidants they contain. The big four antioxidants in chia seeds are quercetin, kaempferol, caffeic acid, and chlorogenic acid. Quercetin has been shown to be very effective in decreasing the risks of heart disease, while caffeic acid is renowned for fighting inflammation in the human body.
These obvious health benefits were known to the Mesoamericans a millennia ago. Now, we are only starting to explore them again, and they are having an impact on our western diets. Using chia flour allows for the further incorporation of this superfood into our diets even further. Adding to the incredible health benefits that chia seeds inherently have is the fact that chia seed flour is also gluten free. It has become a very popular substitute for traditional wheat-based flour in many baking recipes. The tremendous amounts of fiber in chia seeds can help people with many different dietary needs lead a healthier lifestyle. Chia-based flours are a great idea if you have a gluten sensitivity, but chia seeds have also been shown to help people with blood sugar issues. Bread containing flour made from chia seeds triggers a much lower blood sugar response than traditional wheat-based breads.
Chia seeds and the flour that is derived from them are also great thickening agents. One of the most popular ways to consume chia seeds is in a pudding. Chia flour is also wildly popular for vegan baking. The thickening properties make it a perfect substitute for eggs. Chia seeds have become a staple in the diets of many people who have chosen to go vegan. The flour they produce has been nothing short of revolutionary for vegan baking. Don’t believe it? The next time you're at your local artisan bakery, try the vegan options, these days you won’t be able to taste a difference.