chia seedsTwo years ago I was playing backyard badminton with my brother when he started telling me about chia seeds. "They're incredible, they're so good for you. I can't believe you haven't tried them yet!" "Chia seeds, huh? I'll have to check that out," I said, putting it on my mental Oh Hell No list. I mean, chia seeds ... we're talking about cha-cha-cha-chia! Chia pets? The seeds you grow in those little head-shaped pots from the '80s that sprout to look like hair, right? I think I'll let that obscure health food trend pass me on by, thank you very much.

And now here we are, 2013, the summer of chia seeds. Suddenly I'm seeing them everywhere. So fine, my brother was way ahead of the trend. And yes he beat me at badminton. But how do you eat them? What's the big idea with these seeds, anyway?

Let's talk about the health benefits of chia seeds first. Since this is a relatively new food on the market, most of those benefits are anecdotal. We'll have to see how the research pans out. But chia seeds are supposed to deliver a major energy boost. That was the main draw for my athletic brother. Some chia eaters say they're great for digestion and can help lower cholesterol. They're mighty high in fiber -- 11 grams in a one-ounce serving. They're high in omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and protein. They may also help stabilize your blood sugar, which could help people with type-2 diabetes. And they fill you up.

Basically chia seeds, from a plant related to mint that comes from Latin America, do almost everything but wash your dishes.

More from The Stir: Here's What 200 Calories Looks Like in All Your Favorite Foods (VIDEO)

But what do you DO with them? You can eat them raw or cooked, but be sure to buy food-grade seeds. Raw seeds can be sprinkled over salads or granola, stirred into trail mix, baked into cookies, or tossed into just about anything else you can think of. They're bland, so you're not really going to taste them. But when combined with your saliva, they'll dissolve into a somewhat viscous substance.

When cooked into water, they have a sort of tapioca-like effect. You can make a kind of pudding-like substance. You can also use the seeds to thicken other foods. Some even claim they'll work as an egg substitute, but these are obviously people who probably don't like eggs in the first place because please. Here's a few chia seed recipes.

Strawberries and "Cream" Chia Pudding: It's a dairy-free delight! Maybe. I don't know, you try it first and tell me. Seriously, though, the coconut milk in this recipe adds richness so it's probably quite tasty.

Banana Wild Blueberry Chia Smoothie: A popular way to eat chia seeds is in smoothies. This one ups the nutrition with blueberries. You will be invincible after slurping down this concoction!

Chia Fresca: Make a refreshing energy drink with chia seeds and coconut water. Looks like frog eggs, but they're not! Why am I being such a jerk about these seeds? I'm sure this is delicious.

Cinnamon Chia Seed Granola: Great for breakfast or a snack. I would actually try this.

Raw Chocolate Chia Energy Bars: Make your own energy bars with this recipe ... if you have no respect for chocolate. Ha! I'm kidding. (Not really.)

Have you tried chia seeds yet?

 

Image via Stacy/Flickr