There was a good portion of both of our lives where we could have started most stories with, “When I was drunk …” These days lots of our stories begin with “When we were raw…” Such is the case with our introduction to chia seed.
When we were raw we were always thinking about where our next meal was coming from and what we needed to do to prepare it. It also meant we were more game to experiment with new and exotic foods, so when we first heard about chia we decided to give it a try not because it sounded delicious, but because it sounded so exotic. As it turns out it’s not exotic at all.
Most of us have grown up with the Chia Pet commercials and that infectious stammering jingle. Some of us have even purchased the terra cotta heads of our favorite cartoon characters, animals, and even presidents and slathered the seeds on just waiting for that green afro to grow. The Chia Pet was actually born in Mexico, where the seeds are spread on terra cotta to sprout because they are too gloopy to sprout in the conventional manner. Well, as it turns out, those seeds don’t just make great last minute secret Santa gifts.
Chia (salvia hispanica) is a member of the mint family and is an annual herb native to Central America and southern Mexico. It was originally cultivated by the Incas and the Mayas.
You may also come across something called Salba. Salba is white chia seed and there is much debate over whether or not Salba is the better option. Basically, Salba is an heirloom variety of chia and seems to be the more consistent product in terms of nutrition. I use chia because it’s cheaper, pure and simple. Since, I eat it on a daily basis it can get expensive, which is why I buy it in bulk online. If you buy it in a store expect to pay about eight dollars for 6 ounces. Yikes!! Whichever you choose, the information below is relevant to both salba and chia.
So, why should you eat it?
- Chia supplies more omega-3 fatty acids than flax seeds
- Chia contains 20% of readily available protein
- Chia is high in calcium and boron, which increases the bio-availability of calcium
- Chia is high in soluble fiber
- Chia is high in antioxidants
Need some more convincing? How about this?- Chia is hydrophilic, which means water loving and, as such, absorbs more than 12x its weight in water. When it does it forms a gel around the seed making it look a little (ok, a lot) like fish eggs. It sounds gross and to be honest it took us (WT still has a rough go of it) a while to get past this. The point is you should get past it, especially if you’re a carb addict. The chia forms the same gel in your stomach when it comes into contact with stomach acids and acts as a barrier effectively slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose and supplying a source of slow released sustained energy. Diabetics should consider adding this to their diet for this very reason. It also means that it is much harder for that food to get converted into body fat.
The fact that it does absorb so much water adds up to keeping you hydrated much longer. And guess what? Because it absorbs so much water and because it helps to slow the release of energy it also helps to keep you full. Looking to lose some weight? Add some chia.
Sustained energy? Hydration? It’s no wonder the Aztecs referred to chia as the running food. As a runner myself I found chia to be invaluable. I always down a glass of yerba mate and chia before heading out on a long run.
You can easily recreate this with a tall glass of water, some yerba mate tea bags, and of course, chia.
Soak the tea bags in the water for 10-15 minutes. Remove the tea bags, squeezing out any excess water into the glass, and add two tablespoons of chia seed, stirring well. The longer this sits the more water the chia will absorb and the thicker the drink will become. On average, I let it sit for about five minutes and stir again, but if you want to ease into the experience you don’t have to wait at all. Just drink as is. Usually, I pair this with a Lara Bar, but a banana or a high sugar fruit works, too. You’ll notice your energy levels won’t drop off as quickly as they usually do. This is great for any long workout, whether you’re crossfitting, biking, weightlifting, slingin’ those kettlebells, or even just going on a long hike.
For those of you who use energy gels here is a great recipe from No Meat Athlete you can make yourself. I plan on bringing this with me when I run my first marathon, since most of the energy gels available in stores are full of chemical crap and taste like it, too.
If you’re still not convinced you should be eating chia I refer you to 40 ways to use chia seeds. One of my favorite ways to use chia is as a pudding. I’ve also read you can make a truly decadent chocolate dessert by subtracting the berries and adding some cocoa powder and coconut butter. It’s also great sprinkled on salads for a little added crunch (make sure you check your teeth before you talk to your boss).
If you didn’t find a reason here, well, then I have to assume you’re just being difficult and I’m not that sure I wanna be your friend anyway.
Please stay tuned because in a few days I will be putting up a post in which I share our daily breakfast recipe, which relies heavily upon chia.