Food of the Week: Chia Seeds

“Raw chia = raw energy.”

Quoted from my G.T. Kombucha bottle

After taking a few weeks off from posting a food of the week, I am starting this week with a good one: chia seeds, the “runners food.” The word chia comes from the Mayan word for strengthening. This superfood should become something that’s more than just a food of the week. Chia seeds, which look like little black specks, have recently started growing in popularity. However, they’ve been used by the Mayans and Aztecs since ancient times; it just took the rest of us longer to discover their benefits.

I first thought about trying chia seeds while reading the book Born to Run[1], in which the author narrates his time with the ancient Tarahumara tribe of ultrarunners. This tribe embodies the notion of humans being “born to run,” as they can seemingly run forever in any weather condition (and without shoes!). What are their secrets? The author discovers one of them in iskiate, or “chilly chia.” He describes a tablespoon of chia like “a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone. If you had to pick just one desert-island food, you couldn’t do much better than chia… after a few months on the diet, you could probably swim home” (44). After drinking iskiate, the author and many other runners report feeling a new strength and complete rehydration. That paragraph alone had me racing out the door to buy some chia seeds.

born to run

            Chia seeds really were the “fuel of champions,” as the Aztec runners would eat them while going into battle and the Hopi ran from Arizona to the Pacific Ocean. They were so prized that the seeds were used as gifts to the king. For the endurance athlete, chia seeds should not be overlooked. They contain extremely high amounts of fiber, calcium, and 8 times the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon.[2] They are also higher in antioxidants than berries, which leads to their anti-inflammatory properties. And you really don’t have to eat too many of these seeds to reap all the benefits. It’s easy to sprinkle them over yogurt, in a salad or smoothie, or mix them up with a nut butter. See below for some other chia ideas. I don’t promise magic, but with all the listed benefits and stories, eating more chia certainly can’t hurt.

You can add chia seeds directly to smoothies, but making chia gel gives the smoothie a thicker consistency and is my preference. Here are some smoothie ideas with a recipe for chia gel; it is just chia seeds and water. The seeds are very absorbent, so they become gel-like and soft when added to water.

Mango chia seed pudding was another delicious chia seed recipe I tried in my clean eating challenge. In this recipe the seeds soaked overnight in almond milk.

Iskiate, the drink from Born to Run, is simply chia seeds dissolved in water with some sugar and lime. I’ve never tried this before, I plan on trying this instead of Gu or a granola bar before/during a workout.

Doesn't look great, but apparently does wonders!
Doesn’t look great, but apparently does wonders! From http://www.mobypicture.com/user/mystie/view/8907248

You can add chia to oatmeal, granola (either baked in a homemade recipe or as an addition to your bowl of the store-bought kind), breads, muffins, pancakes, etc… Just add 1-3 tablespoons to any recipe to get an extra shot of energy.

Just found this link if you need a few more (extremely scientific ;)) reasons to try chia:

Reasons Chia Seeds are the World’s Fiercest Food

[1] Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2010.

[2] Synergy G.T’s Kombucha, Millenium Products, Inc

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