Chia Seeds - An Ancient Energy Food

by AngelaJohnson

Chia seeds are making a comeback and being used by athletes, diabetics, dieters, and those suffering from acid reflux; as well as by people who want to have a healthy lifestyle.

Chia is the Mayan word for strength and has been called "Indian Running Food." The Aztec running messengers used chia seeds over 3,000 years ago.

The chia plant (salvia hispanica) belongs to the mint family and is able to be grown organically because insect pests do not like it. Chia is grown commercially in Australia, Latin America, and in the desert areas of the United States.

Why Should We Eat Chia Seeds?

Chia Seeds~~ Chia seeds are gluten free and contain around 15% protein, a higher percentage than most other grains.

~~ Chia seeds are the richest vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acid; even higher than flax seed and have the perfect omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. They also contains calcium, boron and many other minerals, plus vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants.

~~ Chia seeds can absorb more than 9 times their weight in water, which makes you stay hydrated longer. This is great for athletes or people who work outdoors in the heat.

~~ Chia seeds won’t change the taste of any food or drink and don't have to be ground in order to be absorbed into the body like flax seeds do.

~~ Chia seeds are an excellent digestive aid. Eating chia with meals helps prevents indigestion, and heartburn, and acid reflux.

~~ Chia seeds are an excellent food for diabetics. The soluble fiber in the seeds causes carbohydrates to release slowly into the body, slowing down the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar. 

 

Chia seeds photo from Wikipedia Commons

The History of Chia Seeds

chia plant in bloomIn ancient times, chia seeds were a staple food of the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayans. Seeds were carried in a small pouch and eaten by Aztec messengers who ran great distances between villages. 

This seed was so valuable to the Aztecs that the priests and nobility were often paid in chia seed.

According to Jesuit priests, the three most important Aztec food crops were maize (corn), beans, and chia. Chia bread was sometimes used in religious ceremonies.

When the Spanish conquered the Aztecs, they banned chia and certain other native crops because of their use in religious ceremonies. They replaced them with crops like wheat and carrots.

Small groups of Aztec and Mayan people remained in parts of Mexico and they continued using chia seeds.

Beds of chia plants grow where ancient Native American villages were reportedly once located.

Photo of chia plant in bloom from wikipedia commons 

Using Chia Seeds Video

Chia Seeds - An Ancient Energy Food

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How Can You Use Chia Seeds?

chia seed gelThere’s no specific way to use chia seeds. Since the taste of chia is mild, you can add it to other foods without changing the taste much. 

MAKE A CHIA GEL

The most common way to eat chia is to first soak the seeds. They can rapidly absorb 9-10 times their volume in about 10 minutes.

To make a basic chia gel, put 1/3 cup of seeds in 2 cups of water and stir well so it won’t clump. Once the gel is formed, store it in your refrigerator in a sealed jar for up to three weeks.

You can add chia gel to smoothies, mix it with salad dressings, add to puddings, applesauce, yogurt, soups, oatmeal, grits, peanut butter, scrambled eggs – just about anything.

You can make a thicker gel by using one part seeds to two parts water and let it set for about 20 minutes. Then add a little grated ginger and garlic to make a pudding. If you don’t like this combination, try other spices.

Chia will absorb any liquid. You can add it in apple juice, orange juice, lemonade, and other liquids. In Mexico and Central America, they mix seeds in water and add sugar and lime or lemon juice to make a drink called “chia fresca”.

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Chia gel can also be used as an egg substitute in any recipe. Substitute two tablespoons chia seeds and one cup water for one egg.

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GROUND CHIA SEEDS

You can sprinkle ground chia seeds in yogurt, on hot or cold cereal, stir in puddings and applesauce, sprinkle onto peanut butter sandwiches or ice cream, mix with juices, add to flour when making baked goods, and in many other ways. You can buy ground chia seeds or grind your own with a seed / coffee grinder.

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WHOLE CHIA SEEDS

You can also eat whole chia seeds, either by themselves or sprinkling them onto food. The seeds have a crunchy texture and it’s easy to carry dry seeds with you to snack on all through the day.  It would also be a good idea to carry chia seeds with you when you hike or camp as an emergency food.

I put a teaspoon of whole chia seeds in my mouth and chase it down with a cup of water. The seeds go down easily. I’ve tried putting chia seeds in my mouth and chewing them, but some always get stuck in my teeth.

I’ve also put some chia seeds in my mouth and let them absorb my saliva and “melt” in my mouth. That method is good, too, but only in small doses. Putting a whole teaspoon in my mouth and following it with water is quicker.

If you eat whole seeds without mixing them in liquid first, they’ll absorb liquids in your stomach. This actually is helpful if you have acid reflux issues and it'll help you feel fuller so you may not eat as much.  But if you eat a lot of chia seeds, make sure you drink plenty of liquid during the day.

 

Photo of chia gel from flickr commons

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Do You Use Chia Seeds?

Making Chia Seed Crackers

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Updated: 03/02/2015, AngelaJohnson
 
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AngelaJohnson on 06/03/2015

happynutritionist - I remember the chia pet ads on TV, too, but never heard about eating the seeds until a few years ago.

happynutritionist on 06/03/2015

I was just reading someone sharing they were making chia pudding. Obviously the only use I have heard before their comeback as a food is Chia Pets. Nice to see they have more wholesome uses.

AngelaJohnson on 03/03/2015

WriterArtist - many larger grocery stores are now selling chia seeds, maybe where they sell flour and baking goods or maybe in their health food area. And of course, you can find chia seeds online (I show some products on Amazon, but you can do a search on Google and find other online stores). I hope you try them; they are so healthy and versatile.

frankbeswick on 03/03/2015

A very useful article.

WriterArtist on 03/02/2015

I have heard the goodness of chia seeds many times but I haven't tried it yet. I will search for it and perhaps I will be able to incorporate it in my Indian recipes.

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