“As the seed is digested, it slowly releases the water providing a built-in, time-release hydration system.”
What is it?
From the mint family, Salvia Hispanica is the official name of this seed native to southern Mexico and Guatemala. You may have read about it in the National Best Seller, Born to Run or bought a Chia Pet as a gag gift at some point. There are a few different varieties but they’re all from the same family.
These tiny seeds (about the size of a poppy seed) are usually mottled brown and black and come packed with omega-3′s and 6′s, calcium (plus boron, a trace mineral that helps in the transfer of calcium to the bones), fiber, protein (two times the amount of any other seed or grain), potassium and antioxidants to name a few. They have been known to slow the absorption of carbs to aide in weight loss and unlike flax seed, which contain many of the same benefits, they can be stored for longer periods of time without going rancid and don’t require grinding or sprouting. They can also slow the impact of sugars on the system when consumed together.
Chia has a very mild taste. I have taken a spoonful more than once and they barely have a taste. They are gluten free and don’t need to be cooked; both are big bonuses whatever your nutritional needs.
How Does it work?
These little wonders have been praised by distance athletes as a ‘super hydrator’. Here’s why: when exposed to water or any other liquid, tiny micro-fibers covering the chia stand on end and cause a bead of gel to form around the entire seed. It can hold 9 times it’s weight in water and once formed, the water is difficult to remove. I assure you, it looks strange as a gel, but the taste is not at all off-putting. When this ‘chia gel’ is consumed, it takes the digestive process to break down the fiber and absorb the water. As the seed is digested, it slowly releases the water providing a built-in, time-release hydration system.
Where do I get them?
Chia is easy to get both online and in health food stores all over the country. They can be a bit pricey so you’ll need to shop around. I got two pounds on sale at my local health food store for $3.00 lb. but I’ve been eating them generously for about two months now. A little goes a long way since they’re so small. I keep some in an accessible container and the rest in my freezer. Thankfully, people are starting to catch on and I’m seeing a lot more products in the grocery store with chia.
How do I eat them?
Because of the mild, almost non-existent, flavor you can eat them raw or as a garnish on salads. Since they absorb whatever liquid they’re put in, they are an easy add to smoothies and juices but can also be thrown in to everything from bread recipes to stir-fry. In addition to my smoothies, I add them to my yogurt, dressings, salsa and soups. Really, it’s hard to go wrong. The opinion on an amount recommended for a healthy diet varies. Most suggest 3 Tbs., three times a day for the gel form and 2 Tbs. two times a day for the dry. Just remember to drink liquid with the dry form to get the full benefit. Again, the opinion varies, but that being said, there are no known cases of side effects or adverse reactions.