Did you know that chia seeds (yes, those sprouting pets) were once used as subsistence food for Aztec warriors? Today, chia seeds are making a comeback, and finally regaining the respect they deserve.
These lovely little seeds come from Salvia hispanica, a desert plant in the mint family, with purple or white flowers atop stalks that grow about 3 feet tall. Ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures cultivated this plant as an important food crop. They offered chia seeds to the gods in religious rituals, and used them to pay taxes and tribute to priests and nobles.
This reverence for chia seeds was well founded. These seeds provide a powerhouse of nutrition. Most notably, they are extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids (4915 mg in 1 ounce of seeds) and the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 is 4915 mg/1620 mg. Chia seed is one of the highest known plant sources of these essential fatty acids, similar to flax seeds. Unlike flax seeds, which have a sharp pointed end, chia seeds are smooth and rounded and more palatable. You can swallow them whole and still obtain the nutrients, and you can store them for long periods of time in your pantry. They don’t go rancid as quickly as flaxseed, because they contain large amounts of anti-oxidants.
Chia seeds are also a great source of protein, with 4.4 grams of complete protein in 1 ounce of seeds. They are very high in calcium, phosphorus, manganese, and zinc.
Chia seed has a low glycemic load of 1, and it is an anti-inflammatory food. Chia seed is also very high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, and its high soluble fiber content makes chia seed mucilaginous. If you mix it with water and let it sit, it will absorb about 10 times its weight in water and form a gel. It seems to do the same thing inside your digestive tract, creating a soothing coating that aids digestion.
You can add raw whole chia seed to soups, smoothies, tomato sauces, rice, quinoa, sandwich spreads, guacamole, or homemade breads. Top a cracker with nut butter and a sprinkle of chia seeds, add ground chia seeds to flours for baking, or sprout the seeds and eat them that way.
I eat about 1 tablespoon full of whole chia seeds each day for lasting energy, stabilized blood sugar levels, brain-healthy omega 3 ALAs, digestive health, and a great source of complete protein for a plant-based diet.
So, it works for warriors, yes, and for veggie yogini moms, too. (You see the connection, right?)
© Copyright 2011, Laura J. Rongé, Ciel Bleu Media, healthiveg.com. All rights reserved. Disclaimer. This article is not intended as medical, nutritional, or other professional advice.