“Cha cha cha chia!” It’s the all-too-familiar commercial jingle played on TV infomercials. When someone says it or you hear it somewhere, it doesn’t leave your head for the rest of the day. Chia Pet, the toy that grows chia seeds into little sprouts. Simply soak your Chia Pet in water, then spread the seeds on the area where they grow, and within days you’ll pretty green vibrant plants. Transform a dog, cat, horse, Garfield, Simpsons character, Hello Kitty, gnome, turtle, frog, person, elephant, kung fu panda, even Barak Obama, from bald to a full head of sprouted green hair. Chia seeds have gained huge popularity recently, not only for being a beautiful display of green hair on your ceramic Hello Kitty, but also for being a super food. These tiny little seeds (the size of sesame seeds) are packed full of essential nutrients and can be found on grocery and health food store shelves in resealable packages, energy bars, crackers, and in other fortified foods, and they are growing in popularity among athletes. Where did these little black or white seeds come from? Why are they gaining so much popularity?
I have been eating them for a while now, putting them in smoothies, on top of salads and in desserts such as pudding. I knew they were healthy and provided essential nutrition, but I didn’t realize how many benefits they actually had until I started reading Born To Run by Christopher Mcdougall and doing more research. Since I am a vegan long distance runner and always looking for the best nutrition, I was intrigued by these little seeds. According to the book, the Tarahumara Indians are born runners. They are tucked away and hidden in the remote part of Mexico, deep in the deadly Copper Canyons and very few outsiders have the opportunity to see them. They can run hundreds of miles through the rough hot canyons at amazing speeds just for fun. From toddlers to grandfathers, they run on a daily basis. The Indians are known for their superhuman talent and are often called the “running people”. They don’t have fancy running Nike sneakers, tek shirts, little packs of gu gels, or fancy water bottle belts, but for shoes they wear old tires that are cut in the shape of their feet and tied on with leather string tightly around the ankles, and the running attire is a white cloth around their waists. Tarahumaras are never injured and have uncanny health and serenity. They make an energy drink called the iskiate which consists of chia seeds that are soaked to form a gem like consistency, some fresh lemon juice or lime juice and a sweetener such as honey. This is the drink of choice before running long distances across the canyons. So, what are the health benefits of these little seeds?
According to Runners Connect and Mind Body Green, chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia Hispanica and have been a part of Central America and Mexico since 2600 B.C. They are a great source of carbohydrates and are known to increase athletic performance. The omega 3 fatty acids found in them helps to enhance mood, increase brain function, reduce inflammation which is essential for runners, reduce high cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. The antioxidants in them help protect against free radicals, and regulate insulin. They have both insoluble and soluble fiber that will help to keep you feeling full, and they are gluten-free. Just two table spoons of these seeds contains 7 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 205 milligrams of calcium with is 18% of the DRI, and 5 grams of omega 3. These little tiny seeds are truly a super food.
Below is a delicious recipe for chocolate chia seed pudding that I make all the time for a tasty snack. Also, don’t forget to make your iskiate chia drink for an extra boost in running or for added energy throughout a busy day, as well as many added health benefits. In addition, Chia seeds can be added to many foods including smoothies, salads, oatmeal, and can be used as an egg replacer. Chia seeds can be stored up to two years in the refrigerator. So the next time you go to someone’s house and see a chia kitty sitting on the table with green sprouted locks or hear that all familiar “Cha cha cha chia” jingle, you will know that these little seeds are truly a super food.
- 1/4 cup chia seeds soaked in 1 cup water, for about an hour until they gel
After they have gelled they can be added to the rest of the mix, below.
For pudding mix:
- 1 ½ cups coconut milk (or rice, almond, hazelnut, whatever you like best)
- 2 medjool dates pitted and soaked for about half hour
- ½ of an avocado
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds or any other nut for garnish
- 4 tbsp cacao powder or more if you like it more chocolate
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla
Combine chia seeds and nut milk in a bowl.
In a food processor, combine the dates, avocados, cacao, syrup, and vanilla. Pour in the chia/nut milk mixture and blend together and let it set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Add some sliced almonds or walnuts to top and/or some fresh strawberries if you like.