Mayans and Aztecs were big fans of chia seeds; they felt that they could boost their energy levels, improve their stamina, and bolster their strength. In fact, in Mayan, chia means “strength.” Centuries on, and chia seeds are once again being hailed for their potential health benefits, and also their versatility and nutty taste. In 2023, the chia seed market was valued at $203 million, and by 2033, it’s predicted to surge to more than $390 million. But can chia seeds really give us strength and energy? It turns out, the Mesoamericans might have been on to something.

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What are chia seeds?

Chia seeds are tiny, oval-shaped seeds derived from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is a member of the mint family. They are native to Central and South America, where they have been consumed for centuries. Chia Fresca, for example, is a traditional Mexican lemonade with added chia seeds. Chia seeds are a particularly popular pudding ingredient (as you’ll see in our vegan recipe list below!), but due to their neutral, slightly nutty, flavor, they can easily be added to both sweet and savory dishes. In fact, their ability to absorb flavor makes them an incredibly versatile ingredient.

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What are the benefits of chia seeds?

Chia seeds are packed with nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, vitamins (such as B vitamins), and minerals (including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium), all of which may help to boost energy levels.

But that’s not all. Because of their ability to effectively absorb water, forming a gel-like substance, they can help with hydration, too (which makes them a popular choice with athletes). They’re also a good source of antioxidants, which are compounds that may help to tackle harmful oxidative stress in the body.

In December 2023, research from Oregon State University suggested that chia seeds could even play a role in the future of medicine. The study found more than 2,700 genes in chia seeds may create small, health-boosting particles when digested, which could help to tackle issues like diabetes and high blood pressure.

How to cook with chia seeds: 8 vegan recipes

Inspired to eat more chia seeds? Check out the delicious vegan recipes below. We hope you’re in the mood for pudding!

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1 Banana Tahini Chia Pudding 

This nutty, nourishing breakfast pudding offers a delicious balance of bitter and sweet flavors. Prepare it the night before for a satisfying morning treat with berries and coconut flakes.
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2 Vegan Protein Pancakes With Spinach and Chia

Elevate your breakfast with these vegan pancakes, which feature iron-rich spinach and chia seeds. They’re especially tasty when topped with nut butter, vegan whipped cream, and fresh strawberries.
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3 Healthy Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Pudding

This breakfast treat is rich in protein, omega-3s, and plenty of flavor. Enhanced by hazelnuts and dairy-free chocolate hazelnut butter, it’s decadent, nutritious, and indulgent.
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4 Healthy Vegan Strawberry Chia Oat Bites

Mashed bananas, applesauce, and strawberries bring plenty of nutrition and sweet flavor to these tasty oat-based snacks. For a bit of extra indulgence, we suggest dipping them in dark chocolate.
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VegNews.ChiaPuddingEmani Corcran

5 Vegan Mango Milk Chia Seed Pudding

For a nutritious and tasty start to the day, check out this creamy, tropical pudding, which blends mangoes with coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla, and chia seeds. Don’t fancy it in the morning? It’s a great choice for dessert, too.
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6 Healthy Vegan Strawberry-Mango Chia Pudding

This fruity treat combines almond milk, chia seeds, maple syrup, vanilla, strawberries, mango, and dates for a convenient, nutrient-packed breakfast. It’s ideal for meal preppers, as it can be prepared in one go at the beginning of the week.
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7 Vegan Superfood PB+J Açaí Bowl With Berry-Chia Jam

This nutrient-packed bowl, which makes for the perfect breakfast or midday snack, features frozen açaí, raw granola, and a delightful berry-chia jam. Make sure to top with cacao nibs and extra peanut butter.
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VegNews.BrownieBatterChiaPudding Amy Angelo

8 Vegan Brownie Batter Chia Pudding

This quick and easy dessert (or midafternoon snack, no judgment) tastes just like brownie batter. Experiment with toppings like crunchy peanut butter, shredded coconut, or toasted pecans for extra flavor and crunch.
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