CHIA for Me!
by Mary Louise;Town Jaqua, Health Minister
Chia seed has existed since time immemorial,
but only recently has it been discovered in America.
Call this oversight the result of ignorance, politics,
or mismarketing, the emergence and subsequent
introduction of this ancient superfood to the
American diet is a welcomed sign. Eating habits
are changing. Americans are hungry to be healthy,
and Chia seeds are part of this revolution!
Chia is a member of the mint family, the word itself
being derived from the Pre-Columbian Indian word
chian, meaning oily. Its colorful history can be
traced back over 3,000 years to Central American
civilizations, especially the Aztecs and Mayans
who used it as a primary food source. Because
of its nutritional and medicinal properties, Chia
was valued more than gold and therefore was
often used to pay taxes and tribute to nobility.
Chia was known as the 'running food' by the
Aztecs because it was a high energy endurance
food. Aztec warriors survived on Chia seed
during their conquests, eating as little as 1teaspoon
before embarking on a 24hr. forced march. It is
said that Indians running from the Colorado River
to the California coast to trade turquoise for seashells
would only bring Chia seed for their nourishment. It
is no wonder, then, that Chia, salvia hispanica,
literally means 'strength' in Mayan.
Despite the rich, cultural heritage of Chia, the
Spaniards in their conquest of Central America
all but obliterated this vital seed by replacing it
with convetional crops such as wheat and carrots.
Nevertheless, a small Mayan remnant continued
to cultivate Chia seed for flour, oil, and drinks.
Chia: the nutritional facts
Chia is considered one of the world's most nutritious
foods and is therefore considered a 'superfood.'
Of the small but mighty Chia seed contains
1. a high concentration of essential fatty acids
(EFAs) which are up to four times the amount found
in other grains. Chia is also has the highest omega-3
content of any plant-based source, containing 64
percent alpha linolenic acid (ALA), while flax contains
55 percent ALA. The omega-3 to omega-6 ratio
found in Chia seed is a healthy balance of 3:2.
Chia contains 2530% extractable oil. Of total fat,
the composition of the oil can be 60% omega-3,
15% omega 6, 5% omega 9, and 20% saturated fat.
EFAs are important for the respiration of vital organs,
but since the human body is unable to manufacture
them itself, they must be obtained through diet.
2. a high level of complete protein -about 23 percent
protein per seed which makes it twice the protein
content of any other seed or grain. All essential amino
acids are present
and appropriately balanced within the protein, making it
complete and nutritious in and of itself. Additionally, chia
seeds offer a great protein alternative to soy-based
products that contain harmful plant estrogens that
can severely alter hormonal balance in both men
3. a rich source of essential vitamins and trace
minerals, making it a whole food for any diet. Chia
is a nutritional asset to any diet because it has five
times the calcium of milk plus boron (a trace mineral
that helps transfer calcium into the bones) plus twice
the amount of potassium as bananas and three times
more iron than spinach. A more detailed nutrient
profile of Chia follows:
Chia seeds, dried Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz) Energy 2,034 kJ (486 kcal) Carbohydrates 42.12 g - Dietary fiber 34.4 g Fat 30.74 g - saturated 3.330 - monounsaturated 2.309 - polyunsaturated 23.665 Protein 16.54 g Vitamin A equiv. 54 µg (7%) Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.62 mg (54%) Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.17 mg (14%) Niacin (vit. B3) 8.83 mg (59%) Folate (vit. B9) 49 µg (12%) Vitamin C 1.6 mg (2%) Vitamin E 0.5 mg (3%) Calcium 631 mg (63%) Iron 7.72 mg (59%) Magnesium 335 mg (94%) Manganese 2.723 mg (130%) Phosphorus 860 mg (123%) Potassium 407 mg (9%) Sodium 16 mg (1%) Zinc 4.58 mg (48%)
4. a great source of antioxidants and
phytonutrients. Chia has three times
the reported antioxidant level of blueberries
and provides high levels of chlorogenic acid,
caffeic acid, and flavanol glycosides. These
are all strong polyphenols that maintain proper
function of bodily organs and tissues and that
protect against cancer and cardiovascular
disease through the removal of damaging
5. a high level of fiber, making it easy to digest.
Chia contains a strong source of mucillois soluble
fiber which aids in maintaining healthy digestion and
assimilation of nutrients. Absorbing more than seven
times its weight when placed in water, chia seeds
form a gel that, when eaten, produces a physical
barrier between carbohydrates and digestive
enzymes in the stomach. This process effectively
slows the rate at which carbohydrates are converted
into blood sugar, rendering chia a great addition to
a diabetic diet. Similarly, chia consumption contributes
to maintaining balanced hydration and electrolyte
levels within the body, steadying water intake,
assimilation, and absorption.
6. a low level of sodium. Chia contains less than
half the sodium of flax seed per serving. This is
important to those with high blood pressure and
concerned about sodium intake.
7. no cholestrol. As a plant-based source of
Omega-3, Chia is cholesterol-free.
8. a healthy hydration factor. Chia soaks up
water and this promotes hydration and electrolytes
9. a weight loss feature. Chia is very filling.
As more Chia is eaten, there is less room for
higher caloric foods. Thus Chia seeds curb the
appetite which is an asset for weight watchers.
Chia: how to use
Apart from their nutritional excellence, Chia seeds
are valued because of their versatility. They can
used whole or ground. Either way, Chia seeds
act as a nutritiously-dense thickening agent, a
feature that makes it perfect for a gluten-free
as well as an egg substitute. Chia seeds have
a highly absorbent hull, causing them to expand
up to nine times its weight in water, producing a
gelatin-like substance which has a subtle nutty
flavor.This gelatinous characteristic is an attribute
which adds nutrition to foods while making them
easier to mix together. Enjoy Chia seeds in
- Smoothies- add 1-2 tsp or more in your
- Drinks- add 1-2 tsp in your favorite drink
- Soups- 1-2 tsp in a raw or cooked soup
for a creamy smooth consistency
- Salads- add to any salad
- Salad dressings- add to your favorite
dressing to thicken
- Desserts- add to raw or cooked
confections. Can be used as an egg
- Snacks- add to granola, trail mixes,
or dehydrated snacks
- Topping- for salads, desserts, puddings,
Chia seeds also make nutritious sprouts.
However, because of their mucillagenous
nature, special care must be taken when
sprouting. Therefore, consult a sprouting
book for directions.
When moistened, Chia seed has the unique
ability to become gelatinous. This attribute
distinguishes Chia from many other seeds,
making them a versatile, 'flexible food.' Water-
soaked Chia seeds, also known as 'Chia Gel,'
is eaten as a popular food in many parts of the
world. It can be eaten plain, flavored or in
combination with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Either way, Chia Gel is a fun food that is easy
Using one part chia to nine parts water:
Place water in a sealable plastic container and
slowly pour seed into water while briskly mixing
with a wire whisk. This process will avoid any
clumping of the seed. Wait a few minutes,
whisk again and then let stand for 5 to 10
minutes. Whisk again before using or storing
in refrigerator. Gel will keep up to 2 weeks.
Add the gel, between 50% to 75% by volume,
to any foods, mix well and taste. Chia adds a
smooth texture because it displaces rather
than dilutes, enhancing the flavor.
Chia can also be used as a fat replacer by
substituting it for oil in baked goods. Top bread
dough, pie crust, cookies before baking with
Chia gel by reducing the water ration to 8 parts
water to 1 part Chia seed.
Another attribute of Chia is its long shelf life. When
the seeds are stored in their natural, dry state, they
keep well for months and even years. Flax seeds,
however, having a highly impenetrable outer shell,
require them to be ground into a meal that can turn
rancid quickly. Chia seeds can be stored without
refrigeration and eaten just as they are for their full
Chia: additional uses
The remarkable versatility of Chia has been explored
by cultures throughout history. Apart from being a
vital food source, Chia proves valuable medicinally.
1. As a poultice for treating wounds. Used by Indians
and missionaries for gunshot wounds and other serious
injuries. They would pack the wounds with Chia seeds
to avoid infections and promote healing.
2. Cleans eyes. A seed or two in the eyes it will clean
them and help to clear up any infections.
Boosted into popularity via the American media
in the 1970-80's, Chia Pets became a widespread
sensation in households across the country.
While this popularity might be considered
a back-handed introduction to this innocuous but
renown superfood, the awareness of Chia in
America had at least begun. Chia has since grown
beyond being an amusement to where it has
rightfully earned a place in the American diet.
Because of its unique if not profound richness
and versatility, Chia seed is considered the
'ancient food of the future.' Centuries of use
by countless civilizations prove that Chia is
power-packed with possibilities. Whether you use
it as a food, a medicine or a source of your own
creativity, discover Chia today and make it your
References and further reading-
The Magic of Chia: Revival of an Ancient
Wonder Food- by James R. Sheer
Chia seed recipes
Original Chia Pet Commercial
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