Yes, you have heard of them.
Remember those terra cotta animals that you spread magic goo over that then sprouted plant fur? Chia Pets! And then later, the slightly disturbing but still amusing, Chia Heads (I remember the Jerry Garcia one… which one did you have?)
Who knew that that crazy fun fur/hair was actually the product of (another) Maya/Aztec superfood?
Chia seeds are a tiny little bundle of health that you may or may not have seen at the store, depending on where you shop. While the granola set and athletes have known about chia seeds for a while, the general population is just beginning to get on the chia-wagon. Unlike flax seeds, they do not go rancid easily, do not need to be ground up, and can be stored unrefrigerated. I don’t want to overreact, but they could just be the perfect food. (Or at least a really good one to add to your diet…)
Chia seeds (salvia hispanica) are actually a member of the mint family, and is a native plant of Mexico. They are little black and white seeds with a kind of pop-y crunch to them. These curious little babies are hugely high in omega-3 oil, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Hello, vegetarians! And if you’ve got diabetes, heart/cholesterol problems, or tend to stub your toes, this is an exciting food for you:
- Research has shown potency for shielding humans against clogging of arterial walls and other cardiovascular threats.
- Chia seeds are know to boost the activity of (good) HDL cholesterol and diminish the influence of triglycerides and bad cholesteral levels.
- They are anti-carcinogenic.
There are lots of ways to prepare chia seeds, the easiest of which is to open the bag and throw them into/onto something such as cereal or a salad. But beware: chia seeds absorb 9X their body weight in water. If you’re going to use them with something like yogurt or a smoothie, be prepared. They get gooey. You get used to it, and even come to like it, but it’s best to be prepared for it before you dive in.
A very popular way to use them is to turn them gooey on purpose, then use it as a healthy substiute in cooking/baking. Start here:
1-2 Tablespoons of chia seeds
1 cup liquid – you can use water, fruit juice, milk, sauces, soups, dressings, etc…
Mix together and let sit for 30 minutes.
BONUS: Chia seeds were known as “Indian running food” because Mayan messengers would carry a tiny purse of the seeds to boost their energy levels when delivering an urgent message. Also, they’re featured in Born To Run – they story of the amazing Mexican runners. I haven’t read it, but Google doesn’t lie, right?
Modern translation: If you’re a runner or biker or long-distance anything-er, you’re probably aware of the existence of an expensive athletic GU you can buy at the bike shop for a few bucks a pouch that is supposed to rehydrate you better than water. Chia goo is a great and natural substitute for all of those chemicals that I can’t pronounce that you’re getting along with that hydration.
Basic GU recipe: Combine chia with lime juice, some honey to taste, and a bit of water. (Thanks AirForce Ted on Runnersworld.com…)
If you have more time on your hands, here’s a much more complex version.
In summary, chia seeds are your friend. And they’re super easy to incorporate into your diet. I eat a few tablespoons on my yogurt every day. I haven’t tried baking with them yet, mostly because I rarely bake. But dive in, and let me know what your experiences with chia seeds are!