Chia seeds are an excellent source of nutrition and fiber. They can serve as vegan alternatives to eggs and you can sprinkle them over salads and oatmeal for added textural complexity. If you want to increase your fiber intake while making your yogurt and smoothies more interesting, you should definitely consider getting yourself some chia seeds. If you have tried them and did not like them or cannot find them in your local grocery store, consider one of the alternatives.
Your best bet: Flax seeds
Flax seeds come from the flax plant and have a mild nutty taste. The two varieties are brown and golden, with the brown variety having a more earthy flavor than the golden. Both chia and flax seeds contain mucilage, a type of soluble fiber. Mucilage forms a thick gel coating when the seeds are soaked in water. The mucilage allows both seeds to be effective substitutes for eggs. You can also sprinkle both over various different foods to add a crunchy texture.
Nutritionally, they both provide similar benefits but flax seeds must be ground in order to get their benefits while chia seeds are used whole. When using flax seeds in place of chia seeds, note that the flavor of chia is neutral relative to the nuttiness of flax seeds. That nuttiness means that with the flax seeds, there is more of a potential for flavor conflicts. There is also potential to add more flavor to foods that might have been bland had you used chia seeds. When using flax in place of chia as an egg substitute, add 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds to three tablespoons of water and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. The resulting gel will be sufficient to replace a single egg.
A decent second choice: Hemp seeds
Hemp and marijuana do belong to the same species, but are completely different plants aside from that commonality. Hemps seeds deliver none of marijuana’s well-known effects. Hemp seeds are different from both flax and chia seeds in that they are not mucilaginous. They do not provide the same soluble fiber gel that the other two provide. However, they can provide many of the same nutritional benefits including high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain more omega 6 fatty acids when compared to chia and flax. You can sprinkle them into smoothies, salads or oatmeal for a delightful crunch.
Like flax seeds, hemp seeds do have a discernible flavor. In other words, you will have to be mindful of flavor conflicts.
In a pinch: Psyllium husks
Psyllium husks are the outer coating of the seeds from a plant called the Plantago Ovata. It is a low carbohydrate food that can be used in place of ingredients like breadcrumbs that are typically high in carbs. Like chia seeds, psyllium husks are high in soluble fiber. They do not provide the crunch, unlike the two other chia seed substitutes above; however, they can act as a vegan egg alternative and binding agent.
To replace 1 egg, combine 1 tablespoon of the husks and two tablespoons of water. It should thicken in less than a minute.
Wheat germ is the part of the wheat grain that becomes a new plant. When it comes to nutrition, wheat germ is a great substitute for both chia seeds and flax seeds. It provides multiple essential minerals and takes care of a considerable chunk of your daily fiber requirement; however, it may not be suitable for applications where crunch or an egg substitute are needed.
Tapioca starch is made from the root of the cassava plant and you can use it as an egg substitute in many recipes. Like wheat germ, it is not a good substitute if you want the nutritional benefits of chia seeds or their crunch.