Chia seeds seem to be springing up everywhere and in all kinds of foods these days. But what exactly are they and how are they beneficial to us?
Chia is an edible desert plant coming from the mint family. Native to the central and southern parts of Mexico and Guatemala, Salvia Hispanica, or Chia, dates back to the Mayan, Incan, and the Aztec cultures. This amazing little plant was a staple of the times and provided sustained energy for the long trading expeditions and warrior conquests that the people had to endure. It was even used as legal tender for currency in trading and used medicinally to treat wounds as a poultice.
Chia seeds come in white or black and are slightly smaller than a strawberry seed with a mild nutty flavor. With a high antioxidant content, the chia seeds do not deteriorate and can be stored for very long periods without spoiling. Unlike flax seeds, chia does not have to be ground for their nutrients to be fully absorbed.
Chia seeds have the ability to absorb up to ten times its volume in water and retain electrolytes. This helps to prolong hydration, which is perfect for recreational athletes, runners, bicyclists, and anyone exercising in hot weather. With this absorptive quality, the chia can form gels when water is added, making it an excellent egg replacement for binding ingredients or making sugarless fruit jams. To use as an egg replacement, use 1 tablespoon of seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 5 minutes to replace one egg.
Chia has a slow absorptive quality that helps to increase the sensation of fullness, which will decrease appetite. It is packed with protein and is an excellent way to fuel my cross country ski outings, keeping me energized for long trail runs. Enjoy 3 tablespoons in a morning smoothie to fuel you for your workout. For rehydration, check out our Chia Mint Lemonade recipe. Always remember to use your Chia with fluids or foods as it may cause your mouth to dry out if ingested on its own.(Especially important if you are on medication that causes dry mouth already)
Chia is packed with calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, boron, and niacin. It contains all essential amino acids, Vitamins, B, D and E, as well as having a higher concentration of Omega 3’s than flax seed. Coming from the Mayan word for strength, this little seed is truly a superfood.