Chia Pets™ are how many of us know a little about chia seeds.
Chia is familiar to many of us as a seed used for the novelty of the Chia Pet™, clay animals with sprouted Chia seeds covering their bodies. If you have ever bought a “ready to grow” clay animal with dirt and seeds inside, you know the seeds are easy to grow.
Little is known, however, of the seeds tremendous nutritional value and medicinal properties. In one study people with high blood pressure dropped 10 points diastolic and 5 points systolic after 3 months of steady use. In another study, diabetics found that their glucose levels were significantly reduced. Some call it “nature’s perfect food.” The seeds provide protein, fiber, essential fatty acids (especially omega-3), antioxidants, and magnesium.
It is a desert plant native to Central America whose edible seeds have a pleasing, nutty flavor. A relative of the mint family, the chia plant’s seeds were a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. Known as the running food, its use as a high energy endurance food has been recorded as far back as the ancient Aztecs. The Indians of the south west would eat as little as a teaspoon full when going on a 24hr. forced march.
Chia absorbs a lot of water, in fact a 9 to 1 ratio
If you mix a spoonful of Chia seeds in a glass of water and in less than a half hour, the glass will appear to contain neither seeds nor water, but an almost solid gelatin. This gel-forming reaction is due to the soluble fiber in the Chia.
Researchers believe this same gel-forming phenomenon takes place in the stomach when food containing these gummy fibers, known as mucilages, are eaten. The gel that is formed in the stomach creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar.
In addition to the obvious benefits for diabetics, this slowing in the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar offers the ability for creating endurance. Carbs are the fuel for energy in our bodies. Prolonging their conversion into sugar stabilizes metabolic changes, diminishing the surges of highs and lows creating a longer duration in their fueling effects.
Chia provides fiber (about 2 tablespoons – 25 g – give you 7 grams of fiber) as well as other important nutrients including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, niacin, and zinc.
As a source of protein Chia seeds are digested and absorbed very easily. They have one and a half to two times the protein concentrations of other grains.
Another unique quality if the Chia seed is its high oil content. Also, it is the richest vegetable source for essential omega-3 fatty acids. It has approximately three to ten times the oil concentrations of most grains. These oils, unsaturated fatty acids, are the essential oils your body needs to help emulsify and absorb the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, & K.
Chia is also a rich source of calcium as it contains the important mineral boron, which acts as catalyst for the absorption and utilization of calcium by the body.
Adding Chia to your daily food plan
There are limitless ways to incorporate Chia seed into your diet. However, Chia must be prepared with pure water before using recipes. The seed will absorb 9 times its weight in water in less than 10 minutes and is very simple to prepare.
The author enjoys the seeds’ nutlike flavor and considers them to be a healthful and interesting diet addition. You can sprinkle ground or whole Chia seeds on cereal, yogurt, or salads; eat a handful of whole seeds as a snack; or grind them up and mix with flour when making muffins or other baked goods.
Or make your own “Chia fresca,” a drink popular in Mexico and Central America. Stir 2 teaspoons of the seeds into 9 ounces of water (you’ll end up with a slightly gelatinous liquid). Add lime or lemon juice and sweetening to taste, and enjoy.
You can add this mix to jams, jellies, hot or cold cereals, yogurts, mustard, catsup, tarter sauce, BBQ sauce, etc. Add the gel, between 50% to 75% by volume, to any of the non-bake mentioned foods, mix well and taste. You will notice a very smooth texture with the integrity of the flavor intact. In addition to adding up to 50% to 75% more volume to the foods used, you have displaced calories and fat by incorporating an ingredient that is 90% water.
Use as a fat replacer, for energy and endurance. For added great taste, try substituting the oil in your breads with Chia gel. Top your favorite bread dough before baking with Chia gel (for toping on baked goods, breads, cookies, piecrust, etc., reduce the water ration to 8 parts water to 1 part Chia seed) for added shelf life.
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