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.
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 . . .
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
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.
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.