If you’re an experienced cook, then you understand that ingredients are rarely the end-all be-all that people think they are. Just about anything can be replaced when it comes to cooking, and chia seeds are no different.
There are several available chia seed alternative options out there, and understanding how to use them will come a long way in making your cooking experience much easier.
There’s no doubt that chia seeds have become popular in today’s culinary world. They add flavor to dishes and have a lot of health benefits, as well. They’re also pretty versatile and can be used in a variety of meals.
If you’re trying to eat healthily and improve your diet, chia seeds are definitely something you want to have. Unfortunately, there are times when chia seeds might not necessarily cut it for your meal. Below, we’ll look into some of the top chia seeds alternatives and see how you can incorporate them into your meals.
What are Chia Seeds?
Whenever you hear “chia,” you probably think about the famous green chia pets. However, chia seeds have grown in popularity over the past few years and have been widely adopted for people looking to change their eating patterns.
Chia seeds are obtained from Salvia Hispanica, a desert plant that’s part of the mint family. The plant is usually sold under the “chia” name, which has now become common. Many experts believe that the plant comes from Central America, a region where it became notorious after being a staple in the diet of the Aztecs.
Chia seeds have become notable for their high content of omega-3 fatty acids. They also provide a healthy dose of dietary fibers, with 10 grams per ounce (around two tablespoons). Lastly, chia seeds provide an impressive source of calcium, iron, zinc, and several other minerals and proteins.
Some researchers believe that including chia seeds as part of your diet improves your health and lifestyle. It can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and attack pain points like cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides. With such extensive health benefits, it’s easy to see why chia seeds are so popular.
How to Eat Chia Seeds
One of the benefits of chia seeds is the fact that they can be consumed just about any way you want them to be. You can eat chia seeds raw, or you could prepare them in different dishes.
Chia seeds are also famous for their versatility. You can sprinkle whole or ground seeds into your vegetables, cereal, yogurt, or rice. In fact, there’s a Mexican drink known as chia fresca that is simply made by soaking chia seeds in water or juice.
Thanks to their absorbent nature, chia seeds develop a gelatinous structure when soaked in water. So, it’s easy to mix them in cereal, oatmeal, or any other dish. Even chia sprouts are edible. You can add the sprouts to sandwiches, salads, and more.
Chia Seed Alternative Options
Here, we’ll look into ingredients that can serve the same purpose as chia seeds in meals:
Chefs and anyone handy in the kitchen will tell you that sesame seeds work as the most ideal chia seed alternative. They have a much older history of being used in cooking than chia seeds, and they’re just as easy to work with, as well.
Note that sesame seeds have a bit of a stronger taste than chia seeds. Still, they work as perfect chia seed alternatives in a wide array of recipes. From smoothies and salads to granolas and other light dishes, sesame seeds are the ideal go-to.
Sesame seeds can be used to season sweet and salty dishes. They can also be used with tahini, a special kind of paste used in middle eastern meals.
Another major benefit of sesame seeds is that they’re more readily available and cheaper than chia seeds. You don’t need to fork out a fortune to get sesame seeds, and you can definitely get them at a local grocery store.
There’s almost no downside to these seeds, and this is why they’re the best chia seed alternative available.
Admittedly, psyllium husks aren’t quite as popular as sesame seeds as a chia seed alternative. However, they provide a lot of benefits for cooks and people looking to try something different from time to time.
Similar to chia seeds, psyllium husks are an excellent way to increase fiber in your diet. In fact, the most popular use for the husks is for people to help feel less hungry between meals. The fact that the husks also work for just about every meal makes them even more ideal on all fronts.
Psyllium husks are mostly available as supplements or powders. If you’re lucky, you should be able to find them in their whole form, too. Most cooking experts will actually recommend getting the whole husks if you plan to use psyllium husks as a chia seed alternative.
They’re not exactly as versatile as chia seeds, but psyllium husks work spectacularly in smoothies and similar dishes. Thanks to their similar textures, you’ll hardly notice any difference between the husks and the chia seeds when you use them in smoothies.
The nutrients and fiber content will be just about the same.
Sometimes, you just want to get the best substitute for something because you’re a little strapped for cash.
Well, if money is your primary reason for substituting chia seeds, then oat bran is the best option for you. Still, don’t let its affordability fool you. There’s a lot to enjoy from oat bran when you add it to your meals.
Oat bran is an ideal chia seed alternative to use in meat, vegetable patties, and some desserts. You can also use oat bran in energy bars, crackers, smoothies, and other common snacks. They provide a healthy source of fiber, as well, and have a pleasant taste. (Talk about a perfect substitute for people on a budget!)
Like sesame seeds, oat bran is also readily available and easy to find, unlike an option like psyllium husks.
The only slight issue with oat bran is that it contains some gluten. So, if you’re worried about your gluten intake or you’ve chosen to live a gluten-free lifestyle, this choice might not work for you.
Quinoa is a great food option for anyone who loves to eat healthily. It’s one of the biggest obsessions for young people looking to improve their diets.
Many people think of quinoa as being a grain. However, it’s actually a seed, which makes it an almost perfect substitute for chia seeds. With it, you get an impressive amount of proteins and fiber.
Quinoa works best in vegetable patties and salads. Just add some of it to your meal and see how it works for you. It can also be used as a substitute for chia seeds in puddings. You don’t need to adjust proportions as quinoa can be served in the same quantity as chia seeds.
Note that you will need to cook the quinoa in water before you serve it. Usually, you need to cook it for anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes, then add it to your milk and you’re ready to enjoy your meal. Easy peasy.
Perhaps the most important use of chia seeds is to make meals combine better. Typically, you would need to get these ingredients and mix them in water, then leave them for some time to make a highly viscous gel. With flax seeds, you get just as much efficiency in making meal ingredients come together.
Another benefit of flax seeds is that you’ll need less water to get the job done. Most recipes will ask that you use three portions of water for every portion of chia seeds. Well, for flax seeds, you only need 2 and a half tablespoons of water. Anything more than this, and your gel will lose its sticky value.
Whole flax seeds don’t work quite well as a chia seed alternative, so you’ll have to be careful and aim to buy ground flax seeds.
There are actually a few substitutes for chia seeds that are relatively easy to find. Believe it or not, one of them is bananas.
Mashed bananas are a great substitute for anyone looking to create and use chia gel. It’s an excellent source of natural sugars, and its taste is also pretty great. So, bananas offer that desired one-two punch of great taste and good health.
When it comes to proportions, you want to be careful. Instead of one tablespoon of chia seeds, you can use a quarter cup of mashed bananas. They deliver just about the same results and health benefits, although they don’t exactly taste the same.
Note that you want to use ripe bananas instead of unripe ones in your recipe. This is pretty important.
If you’re using bananas, then you can add less sugar. Remember that bananas are naturally sweet, so you don’t want to overwhelm the dish with sweetness.
If you’re looking to make gel and you can’t find chia seeds or flax seeds, eggs are a great substitute. This isn’t exactly what most people will think of when they try to find a chia seed alternative, but it’s a great option nonetheless.
Initially, people used the chia seed as egg replacements for people who are vegans. However, it can be pretty versatile in its application, as well. So, if your recipe asks that you mix one tablespoon of chia seeds with water, you could just jump the step and add an egg instead.
Eggs work best as a substitute for chia seeds if you’re making a dessert, including healthy desserts. This baking alternative for chia seeds is just awesome.
If the goal is to make overnight oats and you have some yogurts, you’re in luck. Yogurts can easily replace chia seeds in overnight oats.
Typically, with chia seeds, you add the seeds to the milk to get a creamy texture. While you still need milk when using yogurt, you’ll need only half as much as your regular measure when using chia seeds.
When using yogurt for overnight oats, make sure to reduce the milk by half and replace the other half with yogurt. If you have authentic, plant-based yogurt, even better. You can also use unflavoured yogurt if you prefer to flavor the meal with spices or fruits.
Why Substitute Chia Seeds?
While chia seeds are awesome, you might also want to watch your intake if you fall into some criteria. Here are some reasons why you might want to substitute chia seeds in your recipe:
While chia seeds improve the health of your digestive system, you need to be careful. Too much of them can actually cause some stomach upset.
Taking too many concentrated fibers can cause issues like abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. You also want to reduce your chia seed intake if you have irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease.
With such a potential for gastrointestinal issues, it’s pretty easy to see why you would want to substitute chia seeds.
Bleeding & Low Blood Pressure
As we pointed out, chia seeds provide an incredible amount of omega-3 fatty acids that help to reduce the risk of developing heart issues and certain cancers.
However, consuming too many omega-3s can also cause your blood to thin out. Note that this is even worse when you’re on blood-thinning medication or if you have low blood pressure.
Blood Sugar Effects
Fibers, such as the ones present in chia seeds, can reduce the pace of food digestion and macronutrient absorption. This includes the digestion of sugars in food. When paired with fats and proteins, this mix can promote the rise and fall in blood sugars.
While this can be a good thing, you need to be careful when taking medication to control your blood sugar levels.
Chia seeds are a part of the mint family. So, if you have allergies to things like sesame seeds, mints, or mustard seeds, you most likely won’t be able to tolerate chia seeds either.
Some symptoms of an intolerance to chia seeds include:
- Itching of your tongue or lips
Chia seeds are an awesome source of nutrition and energy. However, if you don’t have access to them, or can’t eat them for some other reason, you can always get your full energy dose from a chia seed alternative.