Almost all of us have heard of "chia" because of the catchy infomercial of the beloved growing Chia Pet. But did you know that the chia seed is a power food packed with lavish amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fats, (great for the heart, for lowering blood pressure, and reducing inflammation among other things). It also has twice the amount of protein than any other seed or grain (having all 9 essential amino acids), has 5 times the amount of calcium than milk, and is chock full of fiber (making it excellent for weight loss, diabetics, and improving digestion). It also has more antioxidants and nutrients than the flax seed does and has a neutral taste. The abundant amount of soluble fiber forms a gel which slows down digestion, helping decrease the blood sugar levels (great for diabetics).
The best way to eat chia seeds is to first hydrate them into a gel. Otherwise, they can be a quite dehydrating (as they can soak up to 9 times its volume in water.) Mix 1 part dried (organic) chia seeds with 3 parts liquid (water or milk of choice) and let sit for 20-30 minutes and you have a gel you can store in the refrigerator. Water-based gel can last up to 3 weeks.
Here are some great benefits from chia seeds.
1. Digestive Aid: Use 2-3 tablespoons chia gel with each meal for better assimilation of food, increase nutrient absorption and encourage better elimination. It also prevents indigestion and heartburn without risk of harmful side effects.
2. Diabetes: The chia seed is an exceptional food for diabetics as it slows the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar which stabilizes blood sugar and regulates the body’s absorption of fluids, i.e. electrolyte balance, more efficiently.
3. Energy & Stamina: For centuries the Indians of the Southwest and Mexico used this tiny little seed as a staple food. Known as the running food, its use as a high-energy endurance food has been recorded as far back as the ancient Aztecs.
4. Heart & Cardiovascular Health: High in the good fats (especially Omega-3's, the chia seed can aid in reducing blood pressure, inflammation, and improve elasticity of tissues.
5. Power Food: The chia is a complete protein, has high calcium, antioxidants, and other nutrients. It is an easily digestible, natural, raw, whole food that your body knows what to do with. It is a perfect food to add into your daily diet!
Uses for chia seeds:
1. Food Gel: Make foods gel, creamy, and thicker. Add hydrated gel to fruit spreads and jelly, smoothies, soups, pudding, yogurt, sauces, nut & seed milks and more.
2. Crunchy Topping: Sprinkle the seeds on salads, main dishes, in nut and seed butters, and more.
3. Baking: Mix chia seeds in muffin, cookie, cake, bread batter or pancakes. You can use the egg replacer technique (below) or grind up chia seeds in a coffee grinder and replace a quarter of the flour with the ground chia seeds.
4. Egg Replacer: 1/4 cup of chia gel (1 part chia to 3 parts water) will substitute for eggs in baking (sorry, won't work for omelets!)
If you are interested in learning more about chia seeds, I would love to share more information. Please check out a few recipes below!
You can purchase chia seeds at most local health food stores. Click the Navitas Naturals Chia Seeds to buy them online. I'm locating some "white" chia seeds to make tapioca pudding that actually looks like the real thing!
Chia Fruit Spread
4 T. fruit spread, jam or jelly (strawberry, blueberry, etc.)
2 T. water
1 T. chia seeds
Mix together and let stand for 30 minutes. Spread on toast or bread. If you are using strawberry jam, the chia seeds actually look like strawberry seeds! A great way to disguise this super-food to your kids. And remember the high fiber content will slow the absorption of the sugar!
This is a sweet, comforting and healthy snack, breakfast or dessert that couldn't be easier!
1 c. chia seeds
3 c. milk of choice
3 - 5 T. agave nectar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
pinch of salt
Mix ingredients in a glass bowl and stir well, removing any clumps. Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate. This pudding will keep well in the refrigerator for days.
For CHOCOLATE PUDDING, omit the cinnamon and add 1 tablespoon raw cocao powder to the recipe.
(From "Living Raw Food" by Sarma Melngailis)