If hearing the word chia brings back images of fuzzy green pets of the 80s and 90s you are not alone. Fortunately this small but mighty seed has come a long way since those days. In recent years the chia seed has been recognized as a super food rather than a super pet, due to its large content of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.
Long before they were marketed as a novelty item, chia seeds were a food staple, along with corn and beans, in the diets of the Mayans and Aztecs. This mighty little seed was considered a power food and was often used by the Mayans before going into battle to give them strength and endurance.
Rich in magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, potassium and vitamins A, B and C, chia also contains 18 per cent of the recommended daily allowance of calcium in a two tablespoon serving. These minerals and vitamins are crucial in the maintenance of bone health and energy levels as well as the integrity of the skin and immune system.
Chia can assist with weight loss and blood sugar management. These low-glycemic and gluten-free seeds contain over 37 per cent fibre and become gelatinous when added to a liquid. This fibrous gel helps the stomach to feel full, lowering the appetite as well as balancing blood sugar levels.
Along with the many minerals and vitamins, chia seeds are also a good source of omega 3 which is essential for the health of the nervous and cardiovascular systems, the brain, and joints.
And containing up to 23 per cent protein and 19 amino acids, chia is an ideal vegetarian source of complete protein. This superfood provides five grams of easily absorbed and digested protein in three tablespoons.
There is no doubt that chia seeds are loaded with nutrition and goodness, but the best part of this tiny seed is its versatility. It can be easily added into the diet as it does not need to be ground before eating, it stores well, and it’s tasteless. It can be added to soups, salads, and puddings or baked into goods such as cookies, breads or cakes.
It also makes an excellent egg replacement. One tablespoon of chia in three tablespoons of warm water or applesauce replaces one egg.
If you have a neglected bag of chia collecting dust on your shelf, a simple way to sample this seed is to make a chia jam. It can be prepared in about 15 minutes and offers a lower sugar alternative to regular jam with added nutritional punch.
3 ¼ cups of fresh or frozen berries of choice (raspberries/blueberries work well)
3-5 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey to taste
2 ½ tbsp white organic chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract ( optional)
Pinch of sea salt
Place the berries and the maple syrup in a small pot on the stove and cook at medium heat until bubbly, about five minutes. Set the heat to low and add the chia seeds. Cook another five to 10 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat and add vanilla (if using) and a pinch of sea salt. Let mixture cool completely before placing it into a glass container. The jam will be syrupy, but it will thicken as it cools. It can be stored in the fridge for up to four days – if it lasts that long. Enjoy!
Sheila Ream, CNP, is a certified nutritionist in the Beach