Health

What Is Chia Milk — And How Does This Dairy-Free Alternative Boost Gut Health?

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The culprit of your frequent stomach upsets, gassiness, and bloating is most likely poor gut health. It’s been widely reported that processed and sugary foods can cause gut inflammation, leading to those bothersome symptoms. But even dairy products can be hard to digest if the lactase enzyme in your small intestine isn’t able fully break down lactose (the sugar in milk).

Luckily, small diet tweaks can make a huge difference in restoring your gut’s function and keeping it healthy for years to come. To start, consider swapping a fridge staple like whole milk for chia milk instead.

We spoke with registered dietitian Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RDN, to learn more about this dairy-free alternative and why it’s a gut-friendly drink option!

What is chia milk?

As the name suggests, chia seeds are a key ingredient in this plant-based milk. More specifically, a brand such as Seeds of Wellness (Buy a 6-pack from Amazon, $24.99) contains chia seed protein and chia oil. These two nutrients infuse the milk with the seeds’ mild, nutty flavor and health benefits while keeping it smooth and creamy.

Chia seeds come with some amazing health benefits as they’re rich in antioxidants, calcium, and iron. Another perk of regularly consuming these seeds (especially in “milk” form) is that they keep your gut health in tip-top shape.

What are the gut health benefits of drinking chia milk?

Dr. Bazilian tells First for Women the three qualities of this dairy-free milk that make it so good for gut health.

  • This milk won’t disturb your digestive tract. “Chia milk is easy to digest and has no known allergenicity in people (chia seed has not been shown to be an allergen; [it has an] extremely low risk if any) compared to other plant milks from nuts or soy or dairy (three of the nine allergens that must be listed on food labels). Chia milk has none of those,” she explains.
  • It’s a great source of omega-3s. “Uniquely, chia milk also provides plant omega-3 fats which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties,” she notes. “Very often individuals who have increased inflammation or chronic inflammation have digestive issues or symptoms.”
  • Unsweetened chia milk contains about 20 calories and 2 grams of fiber per one cup serving. “Chia milk also provides some fiber — unique in a plant milk — and the fiber is not commonly ‘added fibers’ like inositol and such that some people are sensitive to, but comes from chia itself,” she says. “[Also], chia milk provides a low-calorie, tasty way to increase hydration, which is key to healthy digestion overall.”

As you can see, this plant-based milk is a clear winner for a tasty and healthy dairy swap in your everyday meals!

How can you add this milk to your daily diet?

Chia milk is more of a versatile ingredient than you might think. In fact, Dr. Bazilian notes that you can use it in many of your breakfast, lunch, and dinner favorites. Here are some delicious ways to add it to your diet:

  • Use it to make smoothies 
  • Put it in soups with leeks, potatoes, corn, or other complementary flavors
  • Cook rolled oats or grains in this milk when making morning oatmeal or porridge
  • Make “nice” creams (plant-ice cream alternatives) and other frozen desserts like creamy “milk” shakes
  • Include in baked goods and recipes like French toast
  • Make chia puddings
  • Put in toppings and sauces
  • Use in pureed cauliflower or healthier mac and cheese recipes
  • Substitute it in mashed potatoes and other savory dishes which typically call for real milk
  • Pour it as a creamer into hot or iced coffee

Want to learn about other gut-friendly foods to keep digestive troubles at bay? Take a look at this handy guide on 10 foods that fight constipation and boost gut health!

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