At first glance, chia seeds are pretty demure in appearance. Tiny and brownish/grey, they almost look more like something you might throw out into your lawn as birdseed. But do not be fooled, these little morsels of goodness have amazing nutritional benefits and are in fact a true superfood!
Chia seed actually comes from a small desert plant called Salvia hispanca which is, believe it or not, in the mint family. Salvia hispanica is an ancient plant dating back to the times of the Aztecs and Mayans where it was included in their diets as a staple food. The warriors of these two cultures used chia as a potent, sustaining energy source. Years ago between 1500 and 900 BC chia was grown as a major staple crop in areas of modern day Mexico and Central America. After the Spanish invasion it was banned due to its association with Aztec and Mayan religious ceremonies. The nutritional powers and intelligence of this plant were all but lost until fairly recently. Now you’ll find chia seeds in everything from breakfast cereal and tortilla chips to raw chocolate bars and kombucha.
The health benefits of chia lie in the omega fatty acid content of these small yet powerful seeds. The importance of healthy omega fats in the diet is something that has gotten a lot of press in recent years. More and more people are getting sick with diseases and conditions that can often be linked to the consumption of the wrong types of food. When it comes to creating a disease state in the body, the wrong types of fat can be one of the worst culprits. The flip side to this is that eating the right kinds can bring about numerous benefits. We need specific types of fat to thrive. Many of our organs absolutely must have specific fatty acids to function properly. The brain in particular has a very high concentration of omega 3 fatty acids and a lack can cause extreme cognitive problems spanning from depression and mood swings to memory loss and nerve damage. Omega 3 fatty acid in particular is often lacking in our diet today and it is an essential fatty acid, meaning that our bodies cannot produce it. Getting proper levels of omega 3’s help encourage the flexibility and permeability of our cell membranes. This is important when it comes to hydration and the import of nutrients and export of toxins in and out of our cells. There must be a cellular fluidity otherwise things stagnate and become toxic. Most nuts and seeds contain omega 6 and 9 but its harder to get enough omega 3 unless we specifically make a point to eat foods rich in this EFA.
Beyond nourishing the organs on the inside of our body omega 3’s also nourish our bodies largest organ which is on the outside, our skin! If you have chronic skin irritations or inflammation one huge piece of advice would be to add a rich source of omega 3 like chia seeds into your diet. More often than not an external skin inflammation has a deeper origin within the body. The reason why this anti-inflammatory aspect of omega 3 is so important is because most if not all diseases within the body can be traced back to some sort of deep rooted inflammation. The more anti-inflammatory substances we can consume the better these days! Getting enough omega 3 will also give the skin an amazing glow and luster by supporting the skin's own oil production. Improve the quality of the oils you consume and watch how the skin transforms! Processed and highly cooked vegetable and animal fats will only act to clog the pores and suffocate the cells of the skin, while unheated omega 3's found in chia will keep the skin supple and hydrated!
Chia contains even more omega 3 fatty acids than flax seed and can be used in a similar way. The seeds themselves have a definite nutty flavor, and do taste similar to flax when ground. Like flax they form a gelatinous quality when soaked in water, and will absorb many times their volume in liquid, forming a thick gel. This quality makes them especially amazing as a thickening agent and binder in recipes like raw crackers, breads, tortillas, puddings and even smoothies. One benefit chia has over flax seed is that the seeds themselves are very rich in antioxidants which not only aid our bodies but also help keep the seed more stable and less likely to go rancid. In fact unlike flax chia can be kept out of the fridge and will last much longer in your pantry.
Chia’s health benefits go beyond their omega 3 content. They are also a rich source of soluble, gentle, colon cleansing soluble fiber that will definitely keep things moving so to speak. It should also be noted that they are a rich source of niacin, zinc, calcium, manganese, magnesium, copper and iron. These aspects along with the omega 3’s to nourish the skin, the brain, the heart, the joints, and fight inflammation makes chia a powerhouse of goodness!
One recipe that you must try to believe is a raw vegan version of tapioca. You may be thinking “how on earth can one make an authentic tasting/feeling tapioca without a) milk b)eggs c) tapioca pearls d) sugar?” Those are the basic ingredients right? Well try this out and i assure you that you wont be disappointed! This is a dessert recipe but also makes a fabulous, quick breakfast that requires very little prep.
3 Cups of fresh Cashew Mylk (Brazil nut mylk will also work but cashew is best)
1 tsp spirulina or blue green algae
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla bean powder or vanilla extract
1-3 tbs liquid sweetener of choice (raw honey, agave, yacon syrup, maple syrup)
1 pinch of himalayan crystal salt
Option 1- dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamon
Option 2 - dash of almond extract
Option 3 - mix in 1/4 cup cocoa powder into your milk for a chocolate chia pudding
Blend your prepared mylk with all ingredients aside from your chia. Pour mixture over your dry chia seeds and let soak for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight. Make this the night before and have breakfast ready to go the next day!
Or try this recipe from chef Tonya Cole Lightfoot!
Written with love by Anna Hays