Chia Seeds – A Nutritional Powerhouse for Your Pet (and you!)

Chia seeds. They’re all the rage right now, so you may already know they’re really good for your pet and also for you. But I bet there’s a lot about these little wonders that you don’t know!

Chia seeds date back millennia to the Mayan, Aztec and Inca civilizations. Chia actually means “strength” in Mayan, and it is said that a mere spoonful of these tiny seeds could sustain Aztec warriors and runners for 24 hours. Wow. Even today, the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, featured in the best-selling book, Born To Run, run hundreds of miles barefoot with virtually no rest and are immune to modern-day diseases. Their secret? Part genetics, no doubt, and a lack of junk food and stress; but diet may contribute as well, and one of the staples of their diet is, you guessed it, chia seeds.

Thirty years ago, cute terra cotta Chia Pets were all the rage, but it never occurred to us that the seeds themselves were a nutritional treasure. From Doctors Oz and Weil to Animal Wellness magazine, health experts are singing the praises of chia seeds. Healthy people, healthy pets!

These tiny seeds pack a nutritional punch!

Chia seeds have an impressive nutritional profile. They’re loaded with

  • B vitamins
  • calcium (6 times more than whole milk)
  • copper
  • iron (3 times more than spinach)
  • magnesium (15 times more than broccoli)
  • manganese and phosphorus
  • potassium (2 times more than bananas)
  • protein and zinc.

They also pack in 

  • antioxidants (3 times more than blueberries),
  • Omega-3’s (more than salmon)
  • and fiber (11 grams per ounce). 

And they’re non-allergenic to boot. Wow.

Good for Dogs, Cats and people, too.

These tiny titans are said to reduce stress and inflammation, and strengthen bones and joints. As one of the highest known sources of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs, including Omega-3, 6 and 9) chias give a huge boost to the immune system and help dogs in endurance training (as well as human athletes) to burn fat and accelerate post-run recovery. Chias also help sustain energy, increase lean muscle, and combat dehydration. 

Chias’ high fiber content contributes to better digestion and regularity, and also helps stabilize blood sugar levels.  One human study indicates that chia seeds may be an effective treatment for allergies, angina, cancer, coronary heart disease and heart attack, as well as hormonal disorders. 

Because chias absorb 10 times their weight in water, they act as a natural colon cleanser, absorbing toxins, lubricating the colon and facilitating the movement of food through the digestive tract. You and your pet will also feel fuller longer.  In other words, chias are a great natural detox and will help keep both of you regular and at a healthy weight.

How to use ‘em and store ‘em

You want to buy black or white chia seeds, not red ones, as the red aren’t fully matured. Look for milled, certified organic and non-GMO seeds whenever possible.

Another word of warning: chia seeds should always be mixed with food or soaked for several minutes in liquid. They should never be consumed dry.

For dogs and cats: Use ¼ teaspoon for every 10 pounds of weight. Sprinkle on top of or mix into moist food. Soaking the seeds first for several minutes will make them more digestible.

For you:  Chia seeds may be eaten raw or sprouted like alfalfa sprouts (sprouting actually unleashes even more nutrients).  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon on just about anything -- salads, toast, smoothies, even ice cream – or add to meatballs in place of bread crumbs. They absorb 10 times their weight in liquids, so they become rather gelatinous when wet (you can actually make some killer tapioca-like puddings that are super healthy!)

Chia seeds are so rich in antioxidants that they can be stored for up to four years without deterioration!

Recipes!!  

While Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run, compares a tablespoon of chia seeds to “a smoothie made from salmon, spinach and human growth hormone” (yuck) there are far more appetizing ways to get the nutritional wallop of chias. (For more people recipes, check out Dr. Josh Axe’s “21 Chia Seed Recipes You’re Going to Crave!”) 

The following two recipes may be enjoyed by both pups and people. For us cat parents, I suggest simply mixing chias with your moist canned cat food.  

Chia Ice Pops 

These pops will cool off your pup in the heat of the summer. If you're a summer runner, you'll love them, too! From runnersconnect.net.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup water

Process all ingredients in a high-powered blender and liquefy.  Pour into ice-cube or popsicle molds and freeze.

Lemon Muffins with Chia Seeds 

If you love lemon poppy seed muffins, give this recipe a try! We’ve substituted healthy sugars and coconut milk for less healthy options, giving you a yummy and nutritious treat. Feel free to share these with your pup! Just don’t overdo it, as they do have sugar in them. Adapted from pinchofyum.net.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large lemons (yields ¼ c zest and 1/3 c juice)
  • ½ cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 ½ cups gluten-free flour (you may use all-purpose white flour if you prefer, but it’s best to avoid wheat when you can, particularly the processed kind!)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 2 tablespoons honey (raw local honey is always best!)

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the lemon zest and the sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Rub together with your fingers for a few minutes to release the lemon flavor from the zest. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir to combine.

2.  In a separate bowl, whisk the lemon juice, vanilla, eggs, oil, yogurt, milk, chia seeds, poppy seeds, and honey. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients; stir until just combined.

3.  Pour batter into greased muffin tins; you should be able to get 8 large muffins. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the tops spring back when touched.

SOURCES for this article:

“Chia Seed Improves Energy and Metabolism.” No date. http://draxe.com/ancient-superseed-chia-increases-energy-and-metabolism/

Bannan, Patricia.  "7 Healthy and Delicious Seeds." No date. http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/nutrition-101/seed-nutrition/wheat-germ-guide

Callahan, Maureen.  “Fifty-Something Diet: 5 Seeds You Need to Eat.” May 12, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/12/seeds-to-eat_n_3248618.html

Foster, Valerie.  “Ch-Ch-Chia: Today’s Seeds Taken Seriously. August 8, 2011. http://www.ctpost.com/healthyyou/body/article/Ch-Ch-Chia-Today-s-Seeds-Taken-Seriously-1682120.php

Shepard, Isabell.  “Chia: Crop Potential and Uses.” April 6, 2009. http://permaculturenews.org/2009/04/06/chia-crop-potential-and-uses/

Villanueva, Queny.  “Chia for Pets.” No date. http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/chia-for-pets/