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Thursday, May 22, 2014
Remember Chia Pets? What ever happened to those things? Nowadays chia is having a second life as a nutritional "it" item. Recently there has been a surge in cia products- Whole and ground chia seeds are being added to fruit drinks, snack foods and cereals; baked in cookies and sprinkled on yogurt now more than ever before! Why the all the rage? Because chia seeds can be a healthful addition to your diet!
Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. Its origin is believed to be in Central America where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. Grown primarily in Mexico and Bolivia, chia, like fish, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, though of a different sort. It also has antioxidants, protein and fiber. Recognition of its nutritional value can be traced as far back as the Aztecs.
Chia seeds have recently gained attention as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid. It's easy to get mixed up between omega-3 and omega-6; basically, omega-3 acids are the fats which are not so easy to come by. They're in fish oils, flax seeds, kiwi seeds, and chia seeds, amongst other things. Omega-6, on the other hand, is found almost everywhere you look: nuts, vegetable oils, avocadoes, etc. As important as omega-6 oils are to our health, the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 is equally important. As it is so easy to consume plenty of omega-6, it is very easy to end up with an unbalanced consumption of the two types of oils, which are also known as essential oils. When it comes to the amount of omega-3 oil in various seed oils, the chia seed has the highest content, just above kiwi seeds, perilla and flax.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, they are also an excellent source of fiber at 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), and contain protein and minerals including as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.
Other notable nutrition assets of chia include:
- It is gluten free
- It boasts 20% protein
- It is high in antioxidants
- It is food for healthy skin, hair and nails
- It has a positive impact balancing blood glucose levels (making it awesome for diabetics)
- It can function as an egg replacement! Just combine with water to form a gel, and add it to recipes that call for egg.
Emerging research suggests that including chia seeds as part of a healthy diet may help improve cardiovascular risk factors such as lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. However, there are not many published studies on the health benefits of consuming chia seeds and much of the available information is based on animal studies or human studies with a small number of research participants.
Yet the bigger question remains…how do I eat these things?!
Chia seeds can be eaten raw or prepared in a number of dishes. Sprinkle ground or whole chia seeds on cereal, rice, yogurt, smoothies, or vegetables. Chia seeds are very absorbent and develop a gelatinous texture when soaked in water making it easy to mix them into cooked cereal or other dishes.
Here is a recipe for a Chocolate Coffee Chia Pudding
- ½ cup brewed coffee (chilled)
- ½ cup milk
- 1 heaping tablespoon almond butter (or other nut or seed butter)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- Blend brewed coffee, milk, almond butter, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and cocoa powder in a blender.
- Place the blended mixture into a resealable large jar (or 2 smaller jars) then add chia seeds. Seal jar and shake.
- Place in refrigerator overnight or for at least 3+ hours.
Adapted from http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442472548