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Power up your day with a daily dose of chia!
Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber are the superstars of cardiovascular health, and chia seeds contain them both in spades. They're also great sources of iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, and have been linked to better cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure levels. It's no wonder they've been a staple in Central American diets since the Aztecs, and are once again growing in popularity. Chia is truly a superfood, both nutritious ...
Power up your day with a daily dose of chia!
Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber are the superstars of cardiovascular health, and chia seeds contain them both in spades. They're also great sources of iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, and have been linked to better cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure levels. It's no wonder they've been a staple in Central American diets since the Aztecs, and are once again growing in popularity. Chia is truly a superfood, both nutritious and versatile. Both the seeds and sprouts are edible, but there's so much more to chia than that!
Cooking With Chia For Dummies explores the benefits and many uses of the chia seed, and guides you through a multitude of ways to add chia to your diet. Featuring over 125 recipes, you'll learn how to choose among the different types of chia options, how to use and how to use it, and exactly how much you need to reap the health benefits.
Learn why you shouldn't harvest the sprouts from your Chia pet, and where to buy high-quality seeds to eat. Chia is already fueling endurance athletes and is beloved by dietitians. You deserve to feel great, and there's no reason your taste buds should suffer for it. Chia is a delicious addition to any meal, and there's no reason for you to miss out. Cooking With Chia For Dummies is your comprehensive guide to adding chia to your diet, and your companion on the journey to ultimate health.
Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia: An Introduction to the Nutrient-Dense Chia Seed
In This Chapter
* Finding out what chia is
* Delving into the history of chia
* Discovering why chia is the ultimate superfood
Gone are the days when chia was known only because of the Chia Pet. Few people realized the huge nutritional power of those novelty gifts until recently. Chia's popularity has a whole different meaning now, as athletes, nutritionists, and raw food enthusiasts have encouraged its comeback. Chia is a highly nutritious food that can prolong endurance, improve heart health, and encourage good digestion, among many other health benefits that more and more people are discovering every day.
An ancient food that was used by the Aztecs, Mayans, and other cultures, chia has been used for strength, endurance, medicine, currency, and in religious ceremonies as a tribute to gods. It disappeared 500 years ago when the Spanish invaded Central America, but thanks to Dr. Wayne Coates's research efforts, it's back and produced commercially so that people around the world can benefit from these powerful seeds.
Chia is fast becoming the go-to ultimate superfood for athletes, busy moms, people suffering inflammation or digestion problems, and anyone who needs more energy. It packs loads of nutrients into a tiny space and is proving to be easy for all kinds of people to add to their diets and improve their health and well-being.
In this chapter, we fill you in on where chia came from, how it's grown, and why it's making its way to more tables across the United States and around the world. We also compare chia to other seeds. (Spoiler alert: Chia comes out ahead.)
A Simple Seed Brimming with Nutrients
Simple is a great word for chia. The seeds are tiny but powerful, and adding them to your foods is simple. Within these small, black and white seeds are great levels of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, and getting these valuable nutrients into your body has never been simpler. The subtle taste of chia means you can add it to anything you already enjoy and it won't affect the flavor whatsoever. This is only one of the many reasons why chia has become so popular as a health food.
Nowadays chia is available in health food stores and supermarkets everywhere. Chia is also becoming an ingredient in more branded foodstuff worldwide. So, you may be asking, "Why this sudden surge in popularity?" Here's why:
[check] Chia is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Chia is among the highest plant sources of omega-3s in the world. Our bodies need omega-3s for brain function, heart health, and many other biological functions, and most people don't get enough. Chia can help provide more of this essential nutrient.
[check] Chia is high in fiber. We need fiber in our diets to keep our digestive systems healthy. Chia provides 5 g of fiber in every 15 g serving. It goes a long way toward keeping digestion running smoothly.
[check] Chia is gluten-free. More people are being diagnosed with gluten intolerance and try to avoid it in their diets. Chia is naturally gluten-free, so it's great for people who have problems with gluten.
[check] Chia is a complete protein. Chia has all the essential amino acids needed for growth and repair of body cells. This is unusual in a plant. Chia is a great way for vegetarians to get their complete proteins.
[check] Chia is high in vitamins and minerals. Chia provides high levels of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, folic acid, and many other vitamins and minerals that are needed for various functions in the body.
[check] Chia is 100 percent natural. Chia provides lots of nutrients, completely naturally. Instead of popping pills, you can eat chia to get nutrition that your body needs.
[check] Chia helps to keep your heart healthy. The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber help reduce cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and protect against cardiovascular disease.
[check] Chia helps prolong endurance. Chia has long been known for its endurance benefits. The seeds release energy slowly, helping to prolong endurance.
[check] Chia helps balance blood sugar levels. Chia's hydrophilic (water-absorbing) properties help reduce sugar peaks and troughs, helping people to balance their blood sugar levels naturally.
These are just some of the great benefits that chia can provide, the list goes on (see Chapter 2).
The Endurance Food of Ancient Cultures
Chia seeds have been around a long time. The Aztecs were known to use the seeds, and there is evidence that chia seeds were first used as a food as early as 3500 B.C. The Aztec name for chia was chian, which means "oily." Supposedly, when it was translated from Nahuatl, the native language of the Aztecs, it was shortened to chia. In another version of the story, chia goes back to the Mayans. The Mayan word chia is said to mean "strength." Chia may have been available to the Mayan people, but it was the Aztecs who revered its use and recorded its benefits, so the crop was of utmost importance to the Aztecs. Chia was available to the Aztecs as early as 2600 B.C. Chia went missing for over 500 years, but it's back, and we can all benefit immensely from it.
Chia and the Aztecs
Evidence that the Aztecs used chia appears in codices written 500 years ago. Codices were documents written in Nahuatl, the native language of the Aztecs, as well as in Spanish. A lot of them described life at that time and in them, we can see evidence of why chia was used.
Chia was one of four main crops grown by the Aztec cultures. The other three were amaranth, maize (corn), and beans. These four crops served as the basis for the Aztecs' daily diets. Chia seeds were eaten alone, mixed with other grains, ground into flour, used in drinks, and pressed for oil to be used as body and face paints.
Another use for chia was in religious ceremonies. The Aztecs thought so much of chia that they offered the seeds to their gods as worship. They were also paid as tributes to Aztec rulers from conquered nations. One codex describes how 4,410 tons of chia were paid annually to the Aztec Empire.
Chia was valued by the Aztec cultures because of the strength, stamina, and endurance that it provided to their people. A tablespoon of chia was said to sustain Aztec warriors for an entire day! The seeds were also used as medicine and prescribed for wounds, joint pain, sore throats, and sore eyes. Although the Aztecs didn't have the scientific knowledge we do today, they knew that the seeds were highly nutritious. They valued chia as a hugely important crop that could be used for many purposes.
The disappearance of chia
You may wonder why chia disappeared at all if it was such an important part of the Aztec people's daily lives. The answer lies in the conquest of the land by the Spanish. When the Spanish arrived in South America and came upon the Aztecs, they wanted to overtake everything and get rid of the cultures that were there.
Chia disappeared for a few reasons:
[check] Chia seeds gave the Aztecs such strength that they thought the seeds gave them almost supernatural powers. Cortez, who led the Spanish invasion, felt that if he got rid of chia, the Aztecs wouldn't last long without it.
[check] Because chia was used in religious ceremonies, the friars who came with the Spanish and who wanted to establish their own religions outlawed chia in an attempt to replace the Aztec religions with their own.
[check] The Spanish simply liked what they were used to, so they destroyed the chia crops and replaced them with crops that grew well in Spain. Because chia didn't grow in Spain, they assumed it to be of no value.
These reasons together basically ensured that the chia that had been growing in abundance disappeared almost completely. Some crops survived because people fled to the mountains of Central America and continued to grow chia for use within their own communities.
Chia and the Tarahumara Indians
Although the Spanish tried their hardest to abolish chia, it did survive in small clusters thanks to small tribes bringing the seeds to the mountains of Central America after the Spanish had invaded. One of those tribes was the Tarahumara Indians of the Copper Canyon of northern Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental.
The Tarahumara are a quiet, private tribe, living miles away from each other in caves or small dirt or wooden dwellings. They're known for their long-distance endurance running through narrow footpaths through the canyons.
The Tarahumara were made famous by Christopher McDougall, who wrote about their amazing athletic achievements in his book Born to Run. McDougall spent time with some of the Tarahumara and, in his book, writes about the many secrets to their running abilities. In addition to running barefoot, the Tarahumara attribute chia seeds for why they're the world's greatest distance runners. They've always used the seeds to help power their runs, and they often bring pouches of chia with them to munch on along the way.
The resurrection of chia as a hugely beneficial functional food is occurring today as more people continue to discover its benefits and rely on it to provide energy, strength, and endurance again. This is thanks to Dr. Wayne Coates's efforts in bringing the seed back to commercialization so that more people can benefit from it.
Coates led a project in the early 1990s in Argentina that had a mission of looking for alternative crops for farmers. He tested a number of different crops to see if any would have commercial value for farmers in the region. When he tested chia and learned about its great nutritional profile and health benefits, he concentrated on chia and spent years researching the seed and developing the techniques and machinery needed to grow it on a commercial scale. It's thanks to Coates's efforts that we can all benefit from chia today.
Coates still has the goal of bringing chia to as many people as possible at reasonable prices, and he's dedicating his research to this goal. He has written books on chia and continues to educate farmers on how to grow the crop well and ensure that it is cleaned properly before it makes its way to market. He is hugely influential in trying to make sure that only high-quality chia makes it to people's tables. His own brand of high-quality chia is AZChia (www.azchia.com), and he sources and approves chia seeds for our company, Chia bia (www.chiabia.com).
Seeds: They Aren't Just for the Birds
Seeds are making a comeback as a nutrient-dense source of food for everyone, not just the birds. Seeds had a bad reputation for many years, probably because of their high fat content. Thankfully, today we're better educated about the good fats that are essential to good health and are in abundance in many seeds. In addition to good fats, seeds provide large amounts of protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Throughout history, seeds have been used as an important nutrient source by many cultures — and rightly so. They provide loads of energy and go a long way toward providing the trace minerals that are often absent in western diets. Seeds also help protect against disease because they provide the phytochemicals that help fight illness.
Not only do seeds provide vegetarians and vegans with a great source of protein, but they offer great nutrition in tiny bundles to everyone, regardless of what kind of diet you like to enjoy. The birds always knew that seeds were a good choice of food, and chia seeds are tops when it comes to the choice of seeds out there.
Comparing common seeds
Most seeds are a great nutrient-dense food, but how does chia compare nutritionally to some of the other seeds available? The most common seeds that people add to foods are sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flaxseeds.
As you can see, chia is very high in omega-3 fatty acids, but where it really surpasses all other seeds is its level of antioxidants. Chia is also higher in fiber than any of the other seeds. So, when compared to other seeds, chia really is the nutritional winner. The only seed that is comparable in nutrient value is flax, but chia has other properties that flax just can't compete with (see the nearby sidebar, "Chia versus flax: Which wins?").
This table only measures the nutrient value of seeds. We discuss chia's other properties in the next section.
Chia: A unique seed with special properties
No other seed has as many great properties in one tiny bundle as chia does.
Here are the unique properties that set chia apart from any other seeds on the market:
[check] Hydrophilic: Chia can absorb up to ten times its weight in water, which is a great property to have when it comes to weight loss. The water it absorbs fills your stomach and helps you feel fuller longer.
[check] Subtle taste: Because chia has little or no taste, it can be added to foods without affecting the flavor.
[check] Slow energy release: The energy that chia provides is released slowly because a physical barrier is formed to slow the conversion of carbohydrates to sugars. This is fantastic for people who want to balance blood sugar levels, such as those who have diabetes.
[check] No need to grind: Chia has a soft outer shell, so your body can break it down easily and absorb the nutrients inside. You don't need to grind chia seeds before eating them.
[check] Long shelf life: Once harvested, chia has a shelf life of up to five years. Chia versus flax: Which wins?
A relative to the humble mint leaf
Chia seeds are harvested from a flowering plant called Salvia hispanica L. This plant is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae. It's an annual herb that has purple and white flowers that produce the valuable chia seeds. The plant grows to around 3 to 5 feet tall. Salvia hispanica L is native to southern Mexico and northern Guatemala, but today it's grown in Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, and Australia. Trials are happening in a few more countries to test if chia's specific growing conditions can be met elsewhere, so we may see more countries farming chia in the coming years.
Salvia hispanica L loves a sandy soil with good drainage and is grown best in tropical and subtropical conditions. It's a desert plant that is not tolerant of frost. Although the plant needs wet soil to germinate, after that it does well with varying degrees of rainfall. Chia seeds absorb up to ten times their weight in water, which is ideal for a plant that grows in the desert.
The great perk of being related to mint is that insects don't like mint, so they stay away without the use of pesticides. This is fantastic for chia because the seeds are grown in a pesticide-free environment, another bonus for health.
Chia versus flax: Which wins?
Flaxseeds are great seeds to add to your diet — they're very high in the all-important omega-3s that we all need more of and chia is often compared to flax because it has similar amounts of omega 3 and some other nutrients. But we think chia has the edge. Here's why:
[check] Chia is full of antioxidants where flax has only trace levels of antioxidants (refer to Table 1-1).
[check] Chia beats flax in terms of fiber, calcium, and selenium. Flax beats chia in terms of magnesium and potassium.
[check] Chia has less fat and fewer calories than flax.
[check] Chia is hydrophilic, and flax is not.
[check] Chia is bioavailable, and flax is not. You don't need to grind chia seeds — your body is capable of digesting its soft shell and absorbing the nutrients. Flax has a hard, indigestible shell and it needs to be ground down before you eat it in order for your body to be able to absorb the nutrients.
[check] Chia has a longer shelf life than flax. Chia's shelf life is up to five years after it's harvested. Flax has a shelf life of a maximum of two years after it's harvested, but usually flax is ground to release its nutrients, and ground flaxseeds typically last around 6 to 16 weeks if stored correctly.
Excerpted from Cooking with Chia For Dummies by Deborah Dooly. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Excerpted by permission of John Wiley & Sons.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Part I: Getting Started with Chia 5
Chapter 1: Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia: An Introduction to the Nutrient-Dense Chia Seed 7
Chapter 2: Getting Your Nutritional Facts Right: The Tiny Seed with a Mighty Punch 15
Chapter 3: Unleashing the Disease-Fighting Power of Chia 27
Chapter 4: The Endless Versatility of Chia 35
Chapter 5: Buying, Storing, and Using Chia 43
Part II: Starting Your Day the Right Way: Breakfasts 53
Chapter 6: Getting Chia into Your Breakfast Bowl 55
Chapter 7: Taking Your Time in the Morning: Cooked Breakfasts 71
Chapter 8: Smoothies and Juices: Nutrition in a Glass 89
Part III: Appetizers, Main Courses, and Something for Everyone 105
Chapter 9: Let’s Get This Party Started: Before the Main Course 107
Chapter 10: Mouthwatering Main Courses and Sides 127
Chapter 11: Satisfying Dietary Restrictions 149
Chapter 12: Especially for Kids 167
Part IV: Boosting Your Baked Goods with Chia 185
Chapter 13: Delicious Breads, Muffins, and Jams 187
Chapter 14: Chia on the Go 203
Chapter 15: Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too: Chia Desserts 213
Part V: The Part of Tens 231
Chapter 16: Ten Tricks for Get ting Chia into Your Everyday Diet 233
Chapter 17: Ten Ways Chia Is a Superfood 237
Chapter 18: Ten Ways to Sneak Chia into Your Kids’ Food 241
Appendix: Metric Conversion Guide 245