Cheers for Chia by Laura Edminster

It all started when I was surfing the web and getting fresh and raw recipes, many of which used a mystery ingredient called ‘mila’ that contained the highest levels of fiber, protein and polyunsaturated oil. It sounded great and turned out that ‘mila’ is Salvia Hispanica L. or plain ‘ol chia seed. Surfing a little more I found that chia seeds have a reputation for providing energy, strength and endurance, leveling blood sugar, inducing weight loss and aiding intestinal regularity. That got me really getting hooked and three chia books later, I’m writing about it to all my friends.

Chia is an ancient seed once used by the Aztecs and all their predecessors. It was a highly valued source of nourishment and healing. “Chia” is actually the Mayan word for strength. The seeds were used as a mega-energy food, especially for their running messengers, who would carry a small pouch of chia tied to their waist.

Chia is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acid, which reduces inflammation, promotes a healthy heart and supports brain function. Chia’s abundance of protective antioxidants maintains the freshness and potency of its highly effective essential fats. Compared with flax, chia is more stable (resistant to chemical decomposing), is easier to digest and contains more essential fats. Ounce by ounce chia provides 8 times more Omega-3’s than salmon. Also the all-important Omega-3’s are in proper balance with Omega-6’s (Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio is 3:1) in chia seeds.

Chia is also a balanced source of protein, rich in vitamins and minerals and is a superb source of fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Because of chia’s soluble fiber content, the seeds can absorb 9 to 12 times their weight in water (or juice) to form a hydrating gel. Like other seeds and nuts, this soaking has a sprouting effect, which creates more enzymes and nutrients with great bioavailability so they are easily assimilated in our bodies.

Soaked chia or chia gel slows carbohydrate absorption, helping to balance out sugar swings. Chia gel creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, which delays the conversion of carbohydr ates into simple sugars. It slows down digestion and absorption of nutrients. By reducing the speed of sugar absorption the energy from the food is released steadily, resulting in more endurance, greater emotional stability and feelings of satiety (fullness and feeling nourished). Of
course, this delayed absorption makes you feel less hungry so eating less is easier if you are interested in weight loss. Chia’s ability to retain water also helps to support and prolong hydration in the body. Maintaining hydration plumps out your skin which reduces wrinkles, supports digestion and elimination, promotes good adrenal function, strengthens muscles, balances electrolytes and improves general cellular function.

The basic way to take chia seeds is in the gel form (see below). The gel tastes like water, is easy to eat straight or add to dressings, puddings, cakes, soups, whatever! It can also be used as dry seeds and tossed into your cereal in the morning. I have a chia shaker and I shake it on anything, as chia will not change the taste. Read more about this sublime seed in: Chia Seed by Diana Allen, Woodland Publishing or CHIA by Ricardo Ayerza Jr. & Wayne Coates, University of Arizona Press.

Basic chia gel

Chia can absorb 9-12 times its size

1 TB chia seeds
1 cup water (cold is fine) or herb tea

Put seeds in water. Stir it up. Come back in a few minutes and stir it up again. Don’t let it clump. When it’s done (in about 10 minutes) the seeds will be evenly suspended in the gel. It is ready to use. But to make it more easy to assimilate let it soak for a few hours or just leave it over night. It keeps in the refrigerator  for two weeks.

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