History of Chia Seed
Chia seed has been cultivated by the Mayans, Aztecs, and Southwestern Native Americans for centuries. Not only used as a food source, chia was also used to boost the endurance of warriors on the march and ancient athletes. These tiny seeds are cultivated today in Mexico, Guatemala, and other North and South American countries as well as Australia.
Chia is a member of the mint family, as all salvias are. Salvia Hispanica L. is the most common variety sold for consumption. Today, sadly, most people recognize chia seeds as the “hair” on clay Chia Pets. However, they are a wonderful food to add to your daily diet.
Chia Seed Types and Uses
The most common types of chia seed are called white and black chia. Both are comparable nutritionally. Oblong and flat, these little superseeds are about a centimeter or so long. Colors of the black seed actually range from off-white, brown, grey, and black. They are very pretty.
The uses for chia range from eating them straight from the bag to grinding them to a flour and then mixing chia flour with other grain flours and baking. The most common use is mixing chia seeds raw with water or juice, forming a gel. The gel is then mixed with other foods (boosting it's fiber and nutrition content) or liquids and consumed. When chia is mixed with a juice it's called chia fresca. Personally, I wouldn't recommend eating them straight from the bag without drinking a lot of liquid. Chia has intense hydrophilic properties, meaning it absorbs high amounts of liquids when raw. When taken with liquids, it has the ability to keep you hydrated, but without, it will draw liquids from your body, possibly leading to dehydration.
Buying and Storing Chia Seed
Chia seeds are unlike flax and other seeds in that they can be stored in room temperature for several years in a sealed container. Glass containers are ideal. Don't store whole seeds in the refrigerator or freezer. Condensation may ruin the seeds. However, ground seeds need to be refrigerated or frozen. Chia gel may be refrigerated for about 2 weeks. A lot of larger grocery stores and nearly all healthfood stores sell chia seed. It can also be ordered online.
Here are a couple of links to nutrition labels of chia seeds. Keep in mind that there isn't any antioxidant limits regulated by the FDA. Also, Boron is one of the trace minerals present in this superseed. It's not regulated, either, although studies have shown it's necessary to boost calcium absorption. It also helps the absorption rate of other minerals. These links will take you off site.
Nutrition information for chia seeds # 1
Nutrition information for chia seeds # 2
Chia and Your Health
Chia seed is a super nutritious food. It is believed to help prevent or lessen the following conditions:
High Blood Pressure
Type II Diabetes
It is important to note that there have not been a lot of studies done on Chia. However, some research suggests that it may thin the blood. Just as cooked turnip , collard, and mustard greens are nature's blood thickeners, chia may very well be her blood thinner.
It is also known as a food extender and a calorie displacer. The gel made from mixing seeds with water is about 90% water. Since it is pretty much tasteless, it can be added to foods to make more food. It is a calorie displacer for the same reason. You are able to eat the same serving size you would normally eat, however, now it will have chia gel added so you are consuming less fat and calories. Chia is said to not dilute the taste of foods it is added to. I haven't had time to experiment with this, but I plan to. It is recommended to take three tablespoons of chia gel at each meal for diabetics.
Chia's hydrophilic properties are good because it can keep you hydrated as well as slowing the digestion of carbohydrates. That means less blood sugar spikes which is definitely a good thing for persons with diabetes or prediabetes. And it also makes one feel full longer. However, that also means it may change the way you digest your medications as well, keeping them in your stomach longer. If you are taking blood thinners,or any medications, proceed with adding chia to your diet with caution. And it would be a good idea to consult a responsible healthcare professional before making drastic changes to your diet.
How to Prepare Chia
Mix chia seeds, either whole or ground, with water in a proportion of 1/3 cup of seeds to 2 cups of water. Stir every few minutes and let sit for about 30 minutes. Store this in a labeled and dated mason jar in the fridge. Now you will have it available for recipes when needed.
Chia Serving Tips
> I keep a jar of chia gel in my fridge and add it to my glass of lemonade or punch. It's especially good after working outside in the heat.
>Add to smoothies and puddings to thicken, boost nutrition and make them more filling.
> Grind it for flour. It has a neutral taste for the most part. Sometimes it can taste slightly nutty. Europe allows chia to be added to commercial baked goods at no more than 5% of the total flour. They must realize it is really packed with fiber. Everyone would be in the loo if too much is eaten!!
>The plain gel reminds me of tapioca. Kinda gelled and kinda in globs. But I like it in drinks such as lemon and limeades.
I have only had time to try one recipe, besides drinks, using my seeds. It was a chocolate smoothie. It was OK, but I really should've looked at smoothie recipes for a guideline. However, here are some links to recipes I would like to try. As I try them or make up my own, I'll update the recipes. All the links go off site except for the lemonade.
Pina Colada This recipe looks like it would be a great breakfast smoothie.
Several great looking recipes This link has quite a few decent recipes on it. I would probably try most of them. It has pancakes, granola, chocolate brittle, goulash, and of course, smoothies! A lot of chia recipes call for stuff that even I don't have such as maca powder. For the most part these have common ingredients in the recipes.
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