By Barrie Rogers, Debbie Dooly

Chia always comes from the plant, Salvia hispanica L, but by the time it makes it to your grocery store shelves, it can be presented in different forms: ground or milled chia, white chia, and chia that has been hydrated prior to sale.

Ground or milled chia

Whole chia seeds are what come naturally form the Salvia hispanica L plant. These tiny black and white seeds can be eaten whole. However, chia is sometimes sold as milled or ground seed. When chia is milled, it’s done using very specialized milling machinery that doesn’t get hot during the milling process. This is to ensure that the omega-3 oils aren’t damaged in any way.

The only reason chia is sold in milled form is to satisfy people’s preference for texture. Milled chia can also be used instead of or mixed with other flours.

Whole and milled chia seeds are the exact same nutritionally, but some people simply prefer a powder-like texture because it can be stirred into liquid or foods and it completely disappears. Milled chia seeds are great in smoothies or for sneaking chia into kids’ food.

It really doesn’t matter which you choose to use — milled or whole seeds. Both are highly nutritious and easily absorbable.

The only disadvantage with buying ground or milled chia is that you can’t see the quality of the seeds. You can’t tell if the milled seed was made up of immature brown seeds before it was milled. For this reason, it pays to buy your chia seeds from a reputable brand such as Chia bia or AZChia.

You can grind your own seeds at home using a coffee grinder. This way, you can ensure that your milled chia is coming from high-quality seeds.

White chia

Some brands of chia sell only white chia seeds. They’re able to do this by isolating the few white seeds that occur naturally throughout the black. They then plant only these seeds, which produce crops having only white chia seeds.

The white seeds are comparable to the black nutritionally. The black seeds are a tiny bit higher in antioxidants.

Some people like the white seeds because the color isn’t as pronounced in foods — white disappears more easily than black. Usually, the white seeds are more expensive than the black, so if you’re buying chia and you don’t care about the color, you might as well choose the black seeds.

Pre-hydrated chia

You may see pre-hydrated chia seeds on the market. This just means that the seeds have already absorbed liquid. You’re more likely to see this in drinks, puddings, and other foods that are already mixed with chia and ready to use.

Chia has been a great addition to sports drinks. Many different chia-enhanced drinks are on the market, helping athletes prolong hydration, increase endurance, and speed muscle recovery. For athletes who prefer less sugar and want to avoid synthetic ingredients, these chia sports drinks are beneficial. Just be sure to look at the other ingredients in the drinks to ensure that you’re not getting not too much sugar or additives alongside the chia.

Pre-hydrated chia seeds don’t last as long as the dry seeds, so pay attention to the use-by dates.