We've all heard the catchy jingle, ♫ Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia ♫, sung during a television commercial for Chia Pets, the kitschy Christmas gift that sprouts plant-like hair. Yes, the same chia seeds that puts hair on a terra-cotta replica of Homer Simpson's head is also an amazing ancient seed full of nutritional benefits.
Super Food: Chia Seeds
Chia seeds were originally cultivated by the Toltec and Teotiahuán civilizations. Later with the arrival of the Atzecs and Mayans in Mexico, chia became a dietary staple. Chia was not only recognized for its nutritional qualities but also for its invigorating properties and viewed as a sacred food and medicine.
Aztecs used flour made from roasted chia seeds in a variety of energizing gruels, beverages, and food bars. Along with other Nahua natives, they also used chia whole, ground, raw, and roasted for a variety of ailments. They combined chia with many other herbs for medicinal purposes and used chia oil as an emollient for skin.
Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, and protein. These little seeds have the highest-known percentage of omega-3 among plants.
- Chia seeds are an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and copper.
- They have six times more calcium, eleven times more phosphorus, and five times more potassium than milk.
- Chia is so enriched with antioxidants they can be stored unrefrigerated with no concern of the oils going rancid.
- The most important antioxidants in chia are chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, myricetin, quercetin and kaempferol flavonols. These antioxidants are more effective than both vitamin C and E in their protective qualities.
The health benefits from regular consumption of chia seeds are wide and varied. Some of these include:
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Relief from fatigue/low energy
- Supports healthy digestion & detoxification
- Regulates blood pressure
- Reduces cholesterol
- Stabilizes blood sugar
- Reduces pre-menstrual & menopausal symptoms
- Reduces cravings for sweets & carbohydrates
- and many more…..
Where to Find
I recently spotted a 2 lb. bag of organic chia seeds at Costco. It was the first time I have purchased them there. If your Costco doesn't carry chia or if you aren't a member, health food stores, vitamin stores, food co-ops and Whole Foods carries them. If you still can't find them, then your next option is to buy them online, this is a good reputable brand.
How to Use
Chia seeds are water-loving and will soak up ten to twelve times their weight. The seeds are very mild tasting and actually quite fun to eat. Chia will help bind and thicken smoothies, jams and puddings. Chia gel, which is just water mixed with chia seeds, can be used as an egg replacer. My favorite way to use chia is to make a pudding with almond milk or coconut milk, vanilla and some sweetener.