You've heard that chia is amazingly healthy, but how can you use it? Health's food director shares her favorite ways.

Early one morning recently, I was out running with a friend and the subject of food came up. (It never takes long with me.) I mentioned tossing chia seeds into a smoothie.

"Is chia really all that great?" he asked. "What do you do with it?"

My answers were yes, and lots. Chia seeds are trendy for good reason: They're loaded with fiber, omega-3s, protein, calcium and other minerals. Plus, they absorb up to 12 times their weight in water, so they can help keep you hydrated. No wonder they're all over the grocery store in granola, crackers, chips, drinks and energy bars.

I'm a believer. I try to get at least a tablespoon or two of whole chia seeds into my diet every day. I find that I have more energy, as well as more stamina while running. Who doesn't want that? Here's how I like to eat them.

Sprinkle away
Chia seeds bring nice crunch to yogurt, oatmeal and salad dressing. But beware: Once they sit in liquid for a while, they form little gelatinous balls. Some people (like me) don't care for that texture; I eat up right away.

Mix 'em in
I put a spoonful of whole seeds into pancake and muffin batters, my homemade granola and the breading mix for oven-fried fish and vegetables. With their neutral flavor, the seeds work in almost anything.

Drink up
In parts of Mexico they sip chia fresca: Shake up water, chia seeds, a bit of sugar and lemon or lime juice and let stand. You'll like this if you're into bubble tea or tapioca.

Hit the bar
Chia-packed, 100-calorie Health Warrior energy bars ($2 each; at Whole Foods) are good fuel and don't weigh me down during runs. My favorite flavor is acai berry.

Jam out
I've been experimenting with adding chia to my refrigerator jams. The jams are really easy to make and last about a week covered and chilled. Chia's binding power means you won't need pectin—just a bit of sweetener (how much depends on the fruit). For blueberry jam, for example, I add a few tablespoons of maple syrup or honey and 1/4 cup chia seeds to a few cups of berries and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until it thickens. So delicious and healthy.