Chia seeds have been growing in popularity in recent years, thanks to its reputation as one of the most nutrient dense functional foods available today. The seeds come from the salvia hispanica plant, originally grown and harvested in Central and South America thousands of years ago by the Mayans. Even then, it was prized so highly by the natives that they used them as a form of currency to pay their taxes and was also offered as tribute to their gods and high priests. Ancient warriors used the seeds to fortify themselves before trekking the unforgiving terrain of the jungles or before going into battle. In modern times, chia seeds have found many more uses: as a weight loss aid, an energy booster, and a natural blood sugar regulator, just to name a few. Chia is as infinitely flexible as it is beneficial to your health. Chia seeds are small and tiny, being only a bit larger than your average sesame seed. They have a mild, nutty, pleasant flavor. This is a major advantage over other health foods, which often have strong flavors and are very limited with regards to how they can be used. Chia seeds come in two colors: black and white. While white seeds are rarer than black seeds, there is no significant nutritional difference between the two. White seeds are often more expensive because of their rarity, but some people prefer them because of aesthetic reasons.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to prepare chia seeds is to turn it into a gel by simply adding it to water or any preferred beverage, such as a juice or sports drink. The complex fiber structure of the seeds will absorb a lot of water, turning into a gel with the passage of about 15 minutes. You won’t need to use too many seeds – the chia will absorb up to 10 times its own weight in water. One cup of chia seeds can absorb 6 cups of water, though more or less can be used depending on your preference. This gel can then be consumed on its own, or used as an additional ingredient in protein shakes, smoothies, and any other blended drinks. This gel can also be used to bulk up the nutritional value of many dishes. It can be used as a thickener for sauces, dips, and salad dressings. It can be mixed in equal parts with jams, jellies, and other fruit preserves. The mild tasting gel will have very little impact on any dish’s flavor, making it an ideal extender. The gel can be made in batches and then stored in plastic containers and refrigerated for up to two weeks.
When ingested, this gel has many additional benefits beyond chia’s nutritional content. Firstly, its high fiber content scrubs the walls and linings of our intestines, increasing nutrient absorption and making our digestive system more efficient. Secondly, the gel allows our bodies to store more water, which is perfect for people who are always active or operate in arid conditions. Third, the gel helps make us feel fuller faster and for longer periods of time, eliminating the desire for snacking or excessive eating. Fourth and most importantly, the gel becomes a permeable barrier between our intestinal walls and any carbohydrates we ingest. This barrier slows down the absorption of carbohydrates – and the resulting sugars – into our blood stream, effectively supplying the body with a steady amount of energy for an extended period of time. Athletes, who are always on the lookout for foods that will give them even the slightest competitive edge, have taken note of this, and many have added chia to their tightly controlled diets. Chia gel can help give an athlete a sustained supply of energy while keeping them better hydrated in the process. Diabetics also stand to benefit from chia gel’s special properties. Because the carbohydrates are fed in gradually to the bloodstream, chia gel helps prevent sudden spikes in blood sugar levels, which are dangerous for diabetics. This all natural method of regulating blood sugar levels is as safe as many medications out there, without the prohibitive cost or side effects. To get the best results, it is recommended that diabetics take at least three tablespoonfuls of chia gel with every meal.
Another way of preparing chia seeds is to grind it into a fine, powdery flour. This makes it easier to mix into many other dishes, and has the effect of releasing the chia seed’s essential oils, which is mainly made up of omega-3 essential fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are well known for their ability to protect the heart, the brain, and the circulatory system. It lowers both blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels. Chia flour is also completely gluten free, making it the perfect ingredient for the gluten intolerant and those suffering from Celiac’s disease. Chia flour can be bought at some stores or made at home. All you need to do is place about half a cup of seeds into a coffee grinder and repeat as needed. Alternatively, an old fashioned mortar and pestle can be used for those who prefer to do it manually. Chia flour can be used just like any regular flour, be it making pancakes or baking cookies or muffins.
For those who are too busy to make any elaborate recipes, chia seeds can also be served without any preparation at all. They can simply be sprinkled directly onto any meal. The seeds are tiny enough to escape notice and don’t affect taste at all. Alternatively, the seeds can also be eaten directly in their raw, dry, form.
- Chia Seed products are available retail at www.HidalgoFoods.com. Hidago Foods (USA) ships to any location within the following countries: USA, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, UK
- For manufacturers looking for Acai Berry and other functional food ingredients in bulk, please visit www.HV22.com.