Chia Seeds: An Aztec’s Warrior’s Secret Wellness Weapon

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chia seeds in heart bowl

chia petCha-Cha-Cha CHIA! 

We all know that catchy commercial jingle and those absurd little potted creatures that sprout green “hair” thanks to these little black chia seeds, but did you know that these seeds are pretty healthy little buggers? For this week’s Green Divas Foodie-Phile, I’ve decided to dig a little deeper to discover the history and health properties of this super-food. About 500,000 Chia Pets are sold annually in the United States, but I think it’s time to take these little seeds seriously for once. They have a much greater purpose than to sprout on a terra cotta pot.

 

chichen itzaAn Aztec’s Secret Weapon

Chia is an ancient food that was first cultivated by the Aztecs in early 3500 BCE. It was grown throughout the center of Mexico as a cash crop from 1500 BCE to 900 BCE and is known to have been harvested by the Teotihuacan and Toltec people as a primary food in the Aztec diet.

Pre-Columbian civilizations used Chia was used as a raw material for medicines and nutritional compounds by pre-Columbian civilizations. The seeds were mixed with other foods and water, could be ground into flour, pressed for oil and included in medicines.  When ground as a flour, Chia seeds could be easily stored for long periods of time and carried on long journeys as a high-energy food. The seeds were so special to the Aztecs that they were used as offerings to their gods during religious rituals.

After the Spanish conquistadors landed in Central America in 1500 BCE, they repressed the natives and their traditions, including their food choices.  Foods, such as Chia, were banned by the Spanish due to the seed’s strong religious affiliation.  As a result, the seed was consciously eliminated and has only survived in a regional area in Mexico in the last 500 years.

That all changed when a group of Americans and South American scientist, nutritionists and agriculturalists began working together to commercialize Chia in Argentina in the early 1990’s. They hoped to rediscover the lost nutritional plants in the traditional Aztec lifestyle to have a better understanding of the lost civilization. Today, Chia is grown all throughout Central and South America in countries such as Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and Argentina.

keep reading for more about chia seeds and yummy pumpkin chia seed pudding & GD Meg’s coconut chia seed pudding recipe and video . . . 

chia seed close upWhy You Should Follow The Aztec’s Example and Eat Chia Seeds

The USDA says that a one-ounce serving of Chia seeds contain 9 grams of fat,  11 grams of dietary fiber and 4 grams of protein. They also have 18% of the recommended daily amount of calcium, meaning it’s a great way to make your teeth and bones stronger. This one-ounce serving also contains 27% of your daily phosphorus need and 30% of your necessary amount of manganese. Some studies suggest that Chia also has a stabilizing effect on blood sugar and is known to fight insulin resistance which can be linked to an increase in belly fat. An amino acid found in Chia seeds, Tryptophan, helps regulate appetite, sleep and improve mood.

Overall, the seeds are similar nutritionally to that of flax or sesame seeds. Looking for a way to get some added omega 3’s? Chia is a food source to do the trick.

My eye doctor even recommended it to me to eat daily to improve my dry-eye syndrome. By incorporating Chia and flax seeds into my daily routine, I am personally less inclined to reach for my eye drops. While it has not personally eliminated my problem, I am pleased to know that the foods I eat correlate directly with improving my overall health.

Pumpkin Chia Pudding 

(Inspired by Green Diva Antares’ version of the recipe)PumpkinChiaSeedPudding

What’s so great about this recipe is that there is NO baking involved. After combining all the ingredients, just separate it into individual custard dishes and let it thicken in your refrigerator for at least three hours. It could not be any easier. This recipe makes about 6 servings.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup agave syrup (Antares used Maple Syrup, I used Malosses)
1 1/4 cup plain unsweetened almond milk (or coconut milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pumpkin puree

Pumpkin not your thing? Check out Green Diva Meg’s video tutorial on how to make Coconut Chia Seed Pudding. Sounds like  pretty delicious idea to me. 

 

Coconut Mango Chia Seed Pudding
Serves 6
Green Diva Meg's easy peasy, healthy & delicious coconut mango chia seed pudding recipe
Write a review
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Total Time
5 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Total Time
5 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup lite coconut milk
  2. 3/4 cup fresh mango diced into bite-sized pieces
  3. 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  4. 1 tablespoon sweetened, shredded coconut
  5. 4 – 6 drops liquid stevia (or sweeten w/ your favorite sweetener to taste)
Instructions
  1. Mix it all up and chill for at least 5 – 6 hours.
The Green Divas http://thegreendivas.com/

Chia Seed in Heart Bowl Image via Shutterstock
Chichen Itza Image via Shutterstock
P
umpkin Pie Image via SlenderKitchen
C
hia Pet Image via WatchItGrow
Chia Seed close-up image via  Shutterstock

About the author / 

Green Diva Gina
gina@thegreendivas.com'

Green Diva Gina (aka Gina Gioldassis) is fondly referred to as the “Happy” Booker & Foodie-Phile Editor. She was producing and hosting the Eco-Radio show at Drew University when we met her, and we were thrilled that she chose to come work with us after she graduated. Having been brought up in New Hampshire in a Greek family, she is a natural food explorer and enthusiastic green diva. Previously, she worked as a production intern for both WNYC's Soundcheck and New Hampshire Public Radio's All Thing's Considered. While not in the studio, she spends her time traveling, eating, doing yoga and working full-time as a finance writer. At the moment, aspires to one day master her grandmother's homemade doughnut recipe.

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6 Comments

  1. aliskylar@gmail.com'
    Ali Skylar November 4, 2013 at 10:42 am -  Reply

    Love Chia! But one of the important elements people don’t take into account is soaking these amazing seeds before eating. IF just sprinkled onto foods they will then absorb much of the water within your system and can then dehydrate the person – according to my health practitioner…..:)

    • roxanneengle@yahoo.com'
      roxanne November 4, 2013 at 3:56 pm -  Reply

      Thanks for this. I have been sprinkling them on. Do you have any recipes to use these tiny seeds?
      Roxanne

  2. megan@thegreendivas.com'
    Green Diva Meg November 4, 2013 at 5:50 pm -  Reply

    @Roxanne – there are two recipes at the end of this article. hope you will check them out. ;)

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