Chia Seed, A Small Seed with Big benefits

By Lisa James

Chia is the new kitchen staple, and for good reason: It provides loads of protein and healthy omega-3 fat. The ancient Aztecs knew what they were doing when they used hydrating chia seed as fuel for their athletes and warriors. But now researchers have found a ton of additional upside in this tiny seed, including its use in protein powder.

Ultra-distance runner Wayne Coates, PhD, says that chia “boasts so many benefits and addresses so many health conditions that many people feel it is one of the most beneficial functional foods around.”

According to Coates, author of Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood (Sterling), in addition to vitamins, minerals and fiber, this seed provides:

Protein—Unlike that found in many other plants, chia’s protein is complete, providing all eight essential amino acids.

Omega-3—Coates says that at four grams in every two tablespoons, chia contains more alpha-linolenic acids, an omega-3 fat, “than any other known plant.” Omega-3s have been tied to lower inflammation levels and greater cardiovascular and brain health.

Antioxidants—Phytonutrients such as quercetin not only give chia seed good shelf life but also helps support the body’s efforts in fighting harmful free radicals.

 

Refreshing Chia

Coates offers a recipe for Chia Fresca: Combine a tablespoon of seeds with about eight ounces of cool water; stir to combine and either drink immediately or let it stand for 10 minutes. Add lemon or lime juice and some sweetener if you want.

 

Chia to the Vegan Rescue

It used to be that figuring out what to use instead of eggs in recipes was one of the vegan baker’s biggest challenges. Not anymore: For each egg, substitute one tablespoon of chia seed mixed with three tablespoons of water, whisked together and allowed to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before use.

What else do you need to know about chia?

No GMOs Here: Chia production doesn’t entail the use of genetic modification, a source of concern for many people.

The Dieter’s Friend: The gel chia forms in water helps fill you up.

It Takes Time: Coates recommends lengthening baking times by 5% when using chia.

Go Low: Omega-3s are more delicate than other fats, so bake with chia at temps of 375° or less, and don’t saute or fry with chia.

Hangover Easer: Chia has developed a reputation for taking the edge off a big night out; try drinking a tablespoon of seed in a glass of water before going to bed and again in the morning.

Breakfast Buddy: Coates suggests adding a tablespoon of chia to oatmeal or to yogurt and fruit, or wrapping chia seed, scrambled eggs, black beans, and salsa in a tortilla for a great meal on-the-go.

Blast from the Past

Among the pastel suits on “Miami Vice” and the gold chains in Mr. T’s chest hair, early-80s TV featured ads for the Chia Pet, the first time most Americans had heard of this plant. Accompanied by a jingle you couldn’t get out of your head, they showed someone soaking an earthenware puppy in water, then slathering on wet chia seed and watching it “magically” grow (with an assist from time-lapse photography). You can still get a Chia Pet (chia.com); the company has branched out to emojis, zombies and licensing deals ranging from “Duck Dynasty” to Hello Kitty. Ch-ch-ch-chia!

 

Chia Gazpacho

“Homemade gazpacho is one of life’s great pleasures,” says Wayne Coates. “This savory recipe uses white chia seed for thickening instead of the more traditional breadcrumbs.”

1 46-oz can or jar of tomato juice

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

2 cups finely chopped fresh plum tomatoes

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow or red bell pepper

1/2 cup peeled, seeded finely chopped cucumber

1/2 cup finely chopped red or sweet onion

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup white chia seeds

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 lemon, juice of

1/4 cup minced parsley

1 tsp fresh oregano, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt, black pepper, and hot sauce, to taste

Possible garnishes (optional): chopped parsley or chives, minced red or sweet onion, chopped olives, pepitas

  1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except salt, pepper, hot sauce and garnish. Mix thoroughly.
  2. Taste and season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.
  3. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving. The soup will thicken as the chia seed swells. Serve with garnish, if using.

Serves 8

Reprinted with permission from Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood © 2012 by Wayne Coates, PhD (Sterling)

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 46-oz can or jar of tomato juice
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow or red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup peeled, seeded finely chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red or sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juice of
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt, black pepper, and hot sauce, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except salt, pepper, hot sauce and garnish. Mix thoroughly
  2. Taste and season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.
  3. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving. The soup will thicken as the chia seed swells. Serve with garnish, if using.