You’ve probably seen the ads, or maybe even bottles in the refrigerated section of grocery stores… chia seed drinks are gaining popularity. This new, textured beverage has every right to be popular too, there are so many delicious flavor combinations… and the health benefits are undeniable. If you could have a fruity, fun beverage that kept you feeling full for hours, was loaded with plant protein AND gave you a big dose of your daily fiber, wouldn’t you want to drink it as often as you could? Chia seed beverages are definitely worth looking into, for flavor and for your health… but what if you could make your own in mere minutes for MUCH less money and with custom flavors too?
To learn about chia drinks and making your own, first, you have to know about the chia seed. The chia seed is a very tiny, flavorless seed. It’s this ability to taste like whatever flavored food/beverage you add it to, that both you and companies can love. Next, is the nutrition of these tiny seeds. They are 23% complete protein by weight. (This is one of the highest numbers in the plant world!) They have more calcium by weight than milk, plus the minerals boron & magnesium, to help you absorb it. There are also b vitamins AND healthy omega-3 oils along with antioxidants to keep them fresh. With all of these fantastic benefits, it’s no wonder everyone is scrambling to add chia to beverages.
The third property of chia is its high fiber content. It’s this fiber that gives chia drinks their distinctive texture & their ability to keep people feeling full. Most bottled drinks are thick, closer to a smoothie than to a fruit juice. The seeds have 2 kinds of fiber, soluble & insoluble. Neither type can be digested, so it does not add to the calorie count. Insoluble fiber keeps food moving through the digestive system. Soluble fiber hydrates the digestive system & feeds good bacteria (Probiotic bacteria eat soluble fiber) which further improves your digestive ability. You can actually witness the fiber in action. When you see the seeds floating in little ‘bubbles’ of gel, that’s the hydrated soluble fiber-there’s so much of this normally-invisible micro fiber, that it actually becomes visible to the naked eye. This is called chia gel.
Chia drinks come in many flavors. Everything from fruit juice to tea to kombucha (a fermented flavor) are available. You might wonder why you should make your own, if so many options are available right now. First off is price. Single serve bottles can range in price from 3.18 to 4.56. What if you wanted to use it to replace breakfast or lunch, in a weight-loss effort? That’s between 15.90 and 22.80 per week extra.
Second is flavor. Using chia for your health should be delicious and fun. If there are only 3 or 4 flavors to choose from, you could get bored, or even get ‘turned off’ if none of the brands or flavors are to your liking. What if kombucha just isn’t for you? Making your own means nothing’s off the table: seasonal fruits, fruit & tea mixtures (raspberry tea with a splash of lemon), fruit & veggie mixtures (add a splash of cool with cucumber) as well as your own favorite no-calorie natural sweeteners like stevia and monk-fruit.
What goes into the drink is as important as what comes out of it.
If you see a product on a store shelf or in a refrigerator case, you can be 99% sure it has been pasteurized. (unless otherwise marked on the label) Pasteurization is a safety method that involves heating the product to kill any possible bacteria so that the item is guaranteed to be safe, and have a decent shelf life. However, some plant compounds & important enzymes in fruits or vegetables are killed by heat. Making your own fresh drinks eliminates the need for heat & preserves more nutrition for you.
What sort of juice should you use?
Avoiding less-than-healthy additives like high fructose corn syrup (it’s likely OK in moderation… but then it’s in almost every food which makes “actual moderation” very difficult), aspartame (this can make some people unreasonably hungry) sucralose (gives some people unhealthy food cravings) or lots of added sugar / cane juice (lots of added sugar means lots of added calories), is also easy to do when you go homemade. Real fresh & ripe fruit is often sweet enough on its own-but if it’s not, you can use a natural sweetener like stevia that doesn’t add chemicals or calories and sweeten only as much as you would like. Avoid high fructose corn syrup or artificially sweetened juices.
Making your own drink recipe is super simple. Chia will hydrate in almost anything that’s not too acidic. (You can’t make chia gel in pure lemon juice, for example) One tablespoon of dry chia seeds makes 9 tablespoons of chia gel. With a 1 to 9 ratio, you can see how buying dry chia & then hydrating it yourself can save you so much money. You can make the gel first with plain filtered water (Just add seeds & water in a 9 to 1 ratio, shake or stir to prevent clumping & wait 15 minutes for gel to form) or allow dry seeds to gel in your favorite fruit juice mixture or tea.
You can add even more fiber & freshness when you use fresh fruits instead of juices or concentrates alone in your drinks. A little fruit puree, like blueberry or strawberry in some unsweetened apple or white grape juice with the chia gel & you’re ready to go. (After all, the flavor of a fruit is throughout the whole thing, not just in the juice) You can also make great drinks with watermelon (just put it in the blender or food processor & mix in the chia seeds-how about a twist of lime, or strawberry too?), thawed frozen fruit (so season doesn’t matter) and even healthy coconut water. When you go homemade, you are in charge of the flavor combinations & textures.
Now that you know just how easy, diverse and FUN homemade chia seed drinks can be, why not try some of your own?