Friday, March 14, 2014

Chia - It's Not Just for Pets Anymore!

History and Cultivation

Chia seeds were a staple in the diet of ancient Aztecs, Mayans and Indians in the Southwest of the United States. The tiny seed was so revered at one point that they were used as currency.
Chia is currently cultivated and grown in Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia and Australia.  In Australia it is a relatively new crop compared to the seed’s ancient history in other parts of the world. Even though Australia is a relative newcomer to the chia arena, it is predicted they will become the largest producer of the seed.

Superfood Characteristics

The Oxford dictionary defines a superfood as “A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”. This tiny seed truly fits this definition. Chia is a Mayan word that means “strength”.  Many health conscious athletes (especially distance runners) use the mighty chia to keep hydrated and energized during workouts. The unique gel they create allows liquid to stay in the body longer.

·      The health benefits are many:
  • ·      Excellent protein source
  • ·      One of the most concentrated sources of omega – 3 essential fatty acids
  • ·      High in anti-oxidants
  • ·      High in fiber
  • ·      Excellent slow-releasing energy source
  • ·      Support healthy muscle function
  • ·      Anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties
  • ·      Aids in hydration

Chia vs. Flax

Chia can be used in many of the same ways that flax seed is used. As opposed to flax seed, chia is much more stable. Flax seeds go rancid very quickly and must be kept refrigerated or frozen to prevent spoiling. Flax seed are higher in omega-3 fatty acids; however, they must be ground in order to get the full benefit of the nutrients in the seed. Chia does not have to be ground to reap its nutritional benefit (although some research has shown that more nutrients become available when it is ground). Clearly Chia is the winner in the convenience category.

Chia is actually higher in fiber, calcium, phosphorus and selenium than its nutty counterpart. I want to make a point here; flax is still a super food in its own right and should be included in a healthy diet plan. It is higher than Chia in magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B1 and copper. Include them both regularly for well-balanced nutrition.

Here is a side by side compairison of Chia Seed vs. Flax Seed (1 oz. serving)

Data provided by
*Data Provided by
**Data Provided by Chiatrition Chia

Chia Seeds
Flax Seeds
9 g
12 g
Saturated Fat
1 g
1 g
Dietary Fiber
11 g
8 g
12.3 g
8.1 g
4.4 g
5.1 g
177 mg
71.4 mg
1.7 mg**
1.6 mg
265 mg
180 mg
44.8 mg
228 mg
1 mg
1.2 mg
0.6 mg
0.7 mg
15.5 mcg *
7.1 mcg
Omega-3 fatty acids
4915 mg
6388 mg
Omega-6 fatty acids
1620 mg
1655 mg

Chia in Food and Recipes

With all of chia’s health benefits, it is a great idea to add it to your daily eating plan. Here are some great ways to use chia in your kitchen:

  • ·      Chia can be used as a substitute for eggs in many baked goods. To make a chia “egg” grind up 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and combine with 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture sit for at least 10 minutes to thicken.
  • ·      Use chia to thicken stews, soups and gravies.
  • ·      Thicken salad dressings with chia or just sprinkle seeds on top of a salad for extra crunch.
  • ·      Make your own energy gels for working out. They are far healthier than the corn syrup and chemical ridden commercial versions.
  • ·      Puddings are super easy to make with chia. There are plenty of flavor options: chocolate, vanilla and fruit to name a few. Below is a recipe I created with the fresh oranges from my tree.

Orange Dream Chia Pudding

Makes 4 servings

1 can light coconut milk
1/3 cup raw cashews
2 large oranges, peeled and cut into quarters
¼ cup white chia seeds
2 tablespoons organic coconut sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in high-speed blender until smooth. Taste for sweetness. If a sweeter pudding is desired, add another tablespoon of the organic coconut sugar. Pour into serving bowls and chill for at least one hour. Top with chopped fresh fruit and/or nuts as optional garnishes.

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