In the book, Born to Run, during the stories of the running people (tarahumara) the author recounts a particular beverage that they have, based on a seed that has been grown for many many years. You have almost certainly heard of it, as it is called Chia and is in fact the same stuff as those clay animals that grow a grass like plant as hair. It turns out that this seed has some pretty powerful health benefits. Recently I picked up a bag of Chia seeds at a whole foods and started adding them to my morning smoothie. So I thought I would answer the three important questions about chia.
- What is Chia?
- Why is it healthy?
- How to eat it
What is it?
Chia also known as Salvia hispanica and is related to mint plants. It is native to Central & South America and was held in high regard by both Aztec and Mayans as a main dietary staple. It is still used today in a ground powder mixed as a drink commonly called iskiate or chia fresca. The word chia is derived from the Nahuatl word chian, which means oily (wikipedia) The seeds are very small, 2mm in length, <1mm in diameter, and vary in color from light off-white to very dark and spotted.
Why is it healthy?
Chia is purported to have many health benefits for general dietary needs and even extreme endurance athletes. It is high in omega-3 acids (?-linolenic acid). According to the wikipedia article, one ounce of chia has the following:
- 9% of the Daily Value for protein
- 13% oil (57% of which is ALA)
- 42% dietary fiber
- phytochemicals: chlorogenic and caffeic acids, myricetin, quercetin, kaempferol
- minerals: phosphorus and manganese, moderate calcium content, and trace levels of potassium and sodium.
How to use it
I started off simply adding chia seeds (1tbsp) to my morning smoothie, but quickly realized that it would blend much better if I pre-ground it in my coffee grinder much like a flax meal. It turns out that grinding the seeds helps release the oils.
It can also be made into the traditional drink of the Tarahumara indians of the copper canyons in mexico…iskiate or chia fresca. Here’s a recipe from the nomathlete.com site (link)
- about 10 oz of water
- 1 Tbsp dry chia seeds
- a few teaspoons lemon or lime juice
- honey or agave nectar, to taste (optional)
Sources for more reading