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Forget the Chia Pet – Eat the Chia Seeds – They'll Do Your Body Good!

[30 Dec 2011 | No Comments | | Author: ]
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chia seedsFor those who associate Chia seeds with funny Chia Pets, a discussion of the health benefits of Chia seeds may seem a little odd. But Chia seeds are actually healthy and nutritious, and are said to have many health benefits.

What Are Chia Seeds?

Chia seeds come from a type of sage, Salvia hispanica, which grows in South America and Mexico. They come in a white or black variety, and there is said to be no nutritional difference between the colors. Chia seeds were a staple food among the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, and it is said that the men would eat Chia seeds before going on a hunt in order to increase endurance. Natives are also reported to have used Chia seeds to stave off hunger on long journeys.

What Makes Chia Seeds So Healthy?

Probably the most familiar health benefit of Chia seeds is their healthy fat content. Chia seeds contain Omega-3 fatty acids (some sources claim they also contain Omega-6 fatty acids), the health benefits of which are numerous. Omega-3s have been shown to have positive benefits in promoting cardiovascular health, reducing inflammation, regulating hormones, and improving mood.

Here are some of Chia’s other reported healthful qualities.  

* Blood sugar regulation – If you put Chia seeds in water and stir them, in about 25 minutes they will form a gel-like substance that can become quite thick. Research in this area has implicated that a similar gel forms in your stomach when you eat Chia seeds and drink liquid (or mix the seeds with liquid and ingest them that way). This gel may slow the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugars, helping to stabilize blood sugar.

* Intestinal health – The smooth, gelatinous quality of Chia seeds and their fiber content are strongly implicated in intestinal health. The gel-like consistency and fiber content may act as a sort of toxin-absorbing mass that moves through the intestinal tract with minimal irritation.

* Endurance and energy – As noted above, ancient peoples used Chia seeds to promote endurance and energy. The word “Chia” is said to be derived from the Mayan word for strength. Chia’s reputation for generating energy and endurance may be due to its nutrients, its slowing of the digestion of sugars, or its gel-like qualities.

* Weight loss – Due to the gel it forms and its high fiber, Chia may slow the rate of digestion, helping you feel fuller longer. Also, its blood sugar stabilizing effects and energy-boosting properties may contribute to weight loss.

* Nutrients – In addition to fiber, Chia seeds contain calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and zinc.

Now that you know about the health benefits of Chia seeds, the next question is,  how can we use them? Many people don’t even know they’re edible (associating them with Chia Pets), much less how they taste or recipes to prepare them. If Chia seeds have you curious or if you just need some new ideas on how to eat them, here are some ideas and recipes.

1. Chocolate “Tapioca” Pudding

Chia has a natural gelling quality that makes it perfect for making a pudding. Here is a simple recipe for Chia chocolate pudding that is reminiscent of tapioca.

Ingredients:

* 1/4 cup Chia seeds
* 1 1/2 cups chocolate nut milk or chocolate cow’s milk
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
* Sweetener of your choice to taste (Stevia is a popular choice)
* Pinch of salt

Directions:

Simply stir all ingredients together in a bowl and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. It will thicken and the Chia seeds will swell into soft, tapioca-like balls. You can refrigerate this during the gelling process.

2. Chia Granola

Think of this recipe as a springboard for making your own granola, or adding Chia seeds to your favorite granola recipe.

Ingredients:

* 1 cup rolled oats
* 1 tablespoons Chia seeds
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 2 tablespoons raw honey
* 1 tablespoon safflower or canola oil
* Pinch of salt

Directions:

Combine and stir dry ingredients together in a bowl. Stir in the honey and oil, stirring well until the dry ingredients are coated evenly. Spread the mixture on a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet and back at 300 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Cool thoroughly (it will get crunchy) before eating.

3. Yogurt Swirl

Mixing fruity Chia gel into yogurt makes a nutritious and flavorful breakfast food.

Ingredients:

* 1 tablespoon Chia seeds
* 1 cup unsweetened fruit juice, such as apple, berry, orange, etc.

Directions:

Stir the Chia seeds into the juice. Let them sit for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent clumping. When the gel has formed, top your yogurt with it and swirl it gently into the yogurt.

4. Raw Almond-Chia Cookies

These cookies need no baking!

Ingredients:

* 1 cup almond butter (you could substitute peanut butter)
* 1 1/2 tablespoons raw honey
* 1 tablespoon safflower or canola oil
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
* 2 tablespoons ground Chia seeds

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a food processor or electric mixer and form mixture into balls. Roll balls in chopped nuts or shredded coconut if desired. Refrigerate or freeze and enjoy as a snack or dessert.

General Tips

Try adding a few tablespoons of Chia seeds to your favorite baked goods, or sprinkle them over cereal or yogurt. Add them to smoothies or sprinkle them on peanut butter.

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