What is Chia?
Chia is an edible black (or golden or white) seed that originally comes from the Mayan and Aztec cultures in Mexico. In their culture, chia was considered more valuable than gold. These seeds were used as a mega-energy food, especially by the running messengers, who would carry a small pouch of it with them. In Mayan, the word Chia means “strength” and in Nahautl (Aztec) the word is chian which means “oily” – both two very descriptive words of this little wonder seed.
Chia is a plant of the sage family, which produces purple flowers when, once the season has ended, develops seeds which we eat. Chia is considered a superfood as they are easy to digest and have a spectacular nutritional profile which makes it a near complete food as it provides essential proteins, fats and carbohydrates as well as a wide array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. We have to mention that the main reason chia seeds are so beneficial is that they are mega-rich in fibre and omega-3 fats.
Health benefits of using Chia
Digestive health / treat diabetes / anti-inflammatory / brain health / anti-aging / anti oxidant
Because chia seeds are high in soluble fibre, they soothe the digestive system and slow down the release of sugars into the blood stream, stabilising blood sugar levels. They are also an excellent colon cleanser and clear out the digestive tract so that you may absorb more nutrients and eliminate waste more efficiently. Due to the high fibre content as mentioned earlier, it stands to reason that chia is a must in the Diabetic’s diet.
It’s one of the highest plant-based sources of omega-3 EFA’s (essential fatty acids), outperforming even the flax seed. Due to the excellent omega-3 to omega-6 ratio (3:2), the chia seed makes a great anti-inflammatory food. As omega-3 is also essential for brain function, they are a must to keep the brain healthy and functioning optimally. With five-times the calcium of milk, plus boron, a trace mineral that helps transfer calcium into your bones, chia supports bone health too. All this and we haven’t even touched on weight loss, endurance, longevity, skin health or cardiovascular health.
How to use Chia
Chia has a nutty, mild, pleasant flavour and combines easily with other foods. Chia can be added to recipes as thickener and to increase nutritional density. It can be used as a garnish – yet chewing the small seeds doesn’t necessarily make the omega’s readily available but once soaked it turns to a gel form which makes it easier to digest and aids in the nutrients being better absorbed. It can be enjoyed as porridge or in porridge, added to smoothies, soups, sauces, energy bars, crackers or top fruit with it.
Chia seeds absorb between 10 to 12 times their volume in under a few minutes; i.e. about 1.5 tablespoons chia to one cup of water and let it sit for about 30 minutes to an hour. I prefer to let it soak overnight as I use it in the morning either soaked with oats or added to my smoothie. When using chia as porridge I let it soak overnight and add cinnamon, honey (or a chopped date) and some fruit the next morning and enjoy.
Other ideas for chia is to use it to thicken Cauliflower Soup:
Here’s a great ‘raw foods’ soup [Courtesy of Peter & Beryn Daniel]
Chia and Cauliflower Soup
1 litre hot water
½ cauliflower (covered with hot water to soften)
¼ C chia seeds
¼ C cashews or macadamia nuts
1 garlic clove
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 Tbs hemp oil
2 tsp miso
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper (optional)
Blend everything together (preferably in a high-speed blender) and serve with chia crackers