As I write this from my desk in Nairobi, I had smoothie with chia seeds, fruit and plant milk. Probably not your traditional African breakfast. For my next meal I will have a vegetable salad with protein and avocado, sprinkled with chia seeds. I like to test these healthy eating ‘bandwagons’ for some time before I write about them. After almost a year of consuming chia seeds, here are my thoughts:
First of all – some background information. Patrick Holford, Founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, reports that the first record of chia’s human consumption is 3500 BC. Location? South America. The word ‘Chia’ means ‘strength’ in the language of the Aztecs. It was so widely respected that by 1500BC, chia had become a cash crop in Mexico. Later, chia dropped out of the Meso-American diet because it was banned by the
Spanish conquistadores as a sacred food. Fast forward to 2010 when the first supplies began to be widely marketed in the U.K and the U.S.A. Today, chia seeds have developed a global foothold among health conscious individuals. In Kenya, both black and white chia seeds are grown organically and are readily available on supermarket shelves and health food shops.
Why chia seeds?
They are more potent than supplements yet they are a real food. Plus they are extremely easy to incorporate into your everyday diet with minimal effort. Apparently the Aztec runners who had to cover long distances to deliver messages would survive on chia as their main fuel. These tiny powerhouses resemble birdfeed and are as nutrient dense as it gets. A handful would literally be enough for a day’s journey. Chia seeds reportedly absorb 27 times their weight in water. So when you eat a teaspoon of chia, it swells and fills you up. Because of the feeling of satiety induced by eating chia seeds, a number of individuals say they helped them lose weight. You really cannot eat that much when your chia seeds are gently ballooning in your stomach all morning.
The main benefits of chia seeds
Three things – proteins, antioxidants, omega 3s. 20% of chia seeds is protein. So if you
would rather not chow through a heavy breakfast or pre-workout meal of steak and eggs,
stir some chia seeds into a liquid medium, swig and go. A quarter of the calories found in
Chia seeds are made up of soluble fibre. Which explains why just a couple of tablespoons
will satisfy and energize you without that heavy bloated feeling. Chia seeds feed the good
bacteria in your gut, contributing to a healthy immune system. Fibre keeps you regular and
wards off a host of illnesses which stem from blockage.
Chia seeds are slow released into the bloodstream, so they are great for
- School Kids
- Nursing Mothers
Chia seeds have a mild taste. They are the richest plant source for Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats – a highly important brain food for children and adults. This is great news for vegans and vegetarians, and anyone who struggles with brain fog. They are grain free, gluten free, dairy free and nut free so they make an ideal food for most people with food sensitivities. Personally, I cannot say I have experienced definitive life-changing miracles since I began consuming chia seeds. However, folks regularly complement me on my weight and muscle tone although I hardly exercise. I am smaller and stronger than I was in my teens and early 20s. Perhaps there is something to these claims.
Here are a few ways you can incorporate chia seeds into your whole family’s diet.
How to consume chia seeds:
- Sprinkle them on your porridge, vegetable salad or fruit salad
- Make a healthy sugar-free jam using chia seeds, blended berries, and raw honey or maple syrup
- Spoon them into your smoothie or protein shake
- Mix with plant or animal milk and honey or stevia for a quick overnight breakfast pudding. Top with nuts and fruits of your choice.
- Mix chia seeds with dried fruit, nuts and seeds for a healthy cereal or ‘granola’ alternative
- Use as an ingredient for healthy cookies and no-bake energy bars.
- Use as an egg substitute or thickener for vegan baking
- Mix with nuts or shredded coconut as a gluten-free ‘breadcrumb’ coating for fish fingers or chicken nuggets.
- Store a jar of chia seed gel (chia seeds + water) in your fridge and spoon it into your soups, smoothies and juices.
In the book You Staying Young, Drs Michael Roizen, and Mehmet Oz, recommend two daily doses, of 20 grams each (a little less than 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds. They note that chia seeds contain more antioxidants per gram than any whole food, even blueberries.
Patrick Holford Total Health Newsletter:
“When consumed with a quarter cup of nuts and berries, a dessertspoon serving at breakfast equals more than half of your ideal daily antioxidant intake.”
Dr Wayne Coates, PHD, author of the complete guide to the CHIA Superfood: “For people trying to lose weight and enhance well-being, it’s a little miracle: chia provides a complete source of dietary protein with more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon and more fibre, but fewer carbs, than rice, grains and corn. In fact, chia is a natural appetite suppressant that helps regenerate muscle, sustain energy and balance blood-sugar.”