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Chia: Ancient Superfood for Modern Day Ailments

By Jess Lewis-Peltier ecomii.com
November 22, 2010
File under: Fitness, Healthy Eating, Seeds

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People are often looking for what may be the ultimate ‘superfood.’ Blueberries, goji berries and acai (ah-sigh-ee) are just a few of the antioxidant-rich contenders.

Chia seeds, a superfood that has been increasing in status and popularity lately has come a long way since the sprouting ‘Chia Pet’ novelty of the 1980’s.  That’s right, chia!  Gram for gram, the humble chia seed packs a hefty nutritional punch.

Chia seeds come from the salvia hispanica plant, which is part of the mint family and were highly prized by the Aztecs who revered them as a potent endurance food. Chia seeds are hydrophilic, which means that they will absorb copious amounts of water. In fact, chia seeds can absorb up to ten times their weight in water and that makes them very popular with health conscious athletes, who eat chia seeds soaked in water to give them a hydration boost.

These hydrating benefits are not just beneficial for athletes. Being well hydrated has positive effects for your skin and hair and will boost energy levels throughout the day.

Chia is rich in antioxidants, high in protein, calcium, soluble fiber, B Vitamins, potassium and zinc. Chia is also a great source of omega-3 for vegetarians and contains the highest level of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) than any other plant source.

These tiny seeds have a balancing effect on blood sugar by actively slowing down the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar in the body. This allows the energy from carbohydrates to be absorbed more slowly and at a consistent rate, giving our bodies a steady release of energy.

Almost 20 percent of the chia seed is protein, a higher level of protein than is found in most other seeds and grains.  What’s more, the protein in the chia seed is a whole protein, which means that the amino acids are perfectly balanced. Protein is essential for our bodies and chia seeds offer an excellent high protein alternative to animal products. Chia seeds break down quickly in the body and their nutrients are rapidly absorbed and assimilated.

Whole, raw chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and are a nutritious addition to cereals, baked goods, salads and smoothies. While grinding is recommended for flax seeds, whole chia seeds are well absorbed by the body. Because of their high antioxidant content, chia doesn’t become rancid as quickly as other seeds and can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to two years.

Jess’s Favorite Easy Chia Tonic

1Tablespoon chia seeds
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
cayenne powder to taste
Pinch of cinnamon
2 cups spring water
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine all dry ingredients then add water and lemon juice. Set aside for 15 minutes.  Shake and enjoy!

Jess Lewis-Peltier, ‘The Holistic Yogini’ is a naturopath, biochemist, herbalist and yoga teacher living in southern California. Facebook Jess and follow her on Twitter.

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