Chia, kaskas and basil seeds: Know which is which

Coconut, mango and chia seed pudding
Coconut, mango and chia seed pudding. Photo: iStock/Arx0nt

Chia and kaskas seeds are popular choices for adding a nutritional boost to various dishes. They are known for their ability to absorb water and form a gel-like consistency and are often added in refreshers, summer drinks, faloodas and desserts. Despite looking similar, they come from different plants and regions.

Chia seeds are native to Central and South America, kaskas (also known as sabja seeds) are from Southeast Asia. Basil seeds are the same as kaskas, coming from the sweet basil plant. Each seed offers its own unique nutritional benefits and culinary uses

Here's a comparison of them:
Chia seeds

  • Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia Hispanica, which is native to Central and South America.
  • Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, antioxidants, and various vitamins and minerals.
  • Chia seeds can absorb liquid and develop a gel-like consistency, making them suitable for puddings, smoothies, oatmeal, and as an egg substitute in vegan baking.
The antioxidants in chia seeds prevent cancer, maintain blood sugar levels, and improve cardiac health. Photo: Shutterstock/Makistock

Kaskas (sabja) or basil seeds

  • Kaskas seeds, also known as sabja seeds or basil seeds, come from the plant Ocimum basilicum, commonly known as sweet basil. They are native to Southeast Asia.
  • Kaskas seeds are a good source of fibre, protein, and various nutrients. They are particularly known for their cooling properties in Ayurvedic and traditional medicine.
  • Kaskas seeds are often used in beverages like falooda and sherbet, as well as in desserts and puddings. When soaked in water, they develop a gel-like coating similar to chia seeds.
Soaked basil seeds
Soaked basil seeds. Photo: iStock/mirzamlk

Khus khus (poppy seeds)
There is another seed, commonly found in Indian kitchens, that often gets confused with kaskas – poppy seeds. Poppy seeds, used as an ingredient in many dishes, are commonly known as 'kus khus'.

Poppy seeds
Poppy seeds. Photo: iStock/Arnav Ray
  • They are derived from the opium poppy plant (Papaver somniferum).
  • They are tiny, round seeds with a wheatish colour.
  • They are commonly used as a thickening agent in gravies, curries, and desserts. Also used as a garnish or topping for bread and pastries.
  • Poppy seeds are rich in healthy fats, dietary fibre, protein, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. However, they are also high in calories.
  • Poppy seeds contain compounds like linoleic acid and oleic acid, which may have beneficial effects on heart health. They also contain small amounts of morphine and codeine, although these are not present in quantities significant enough to have psychoactive effects when consumed in culinary amounts.
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