This month, we are featuring a very special, versatile food: chia seeds!
While Red Rabbit is still the same nut-and-seed-free facility we have always been (so we won't be featuring this on our menu), we can't help but spread the news about this wonderful little food that you can enjoy in your own homes.
Native to Mexico and Guatemala, chia is an edible seed from a flowering plant in the mint family. It was used as a staple crop for Aztec and Mayan cultures, believed by some to be as heavily cultivated as maize (corn)! Today, chia is grown throughout southern Mexico and Central America, and has become increasingly popular in the health food industry in North America.
Fun fact: Yes, the famed Chia Pets you may remember from the 1980's can thank the versatile chia seed for their lush, grassy furs! Indeed, sprouting chia seeds were responsible for the coats of our green friends. Who knew chia seeds could serve so many purposes?
How are Chia Seeds Good for Me?
Chia means “strength,” most likely stemming from ancient cultures’ use of the grain for energy and stamina. Still today, chia are praised for their nutrient-dense properties. Chia seeds are similar in nutritional benefits to another edible seed...the flax seed. The difference is that there is no need to grind the chia seed to take advantage of the nutritional benefits, and they do not go rancid the way flax does. While the total health benefits of the seeds are still being researched and discovered, this much we do know: chia are a source of dietary fiber and protein, and provide substantial amounts of minerals, including calcium and phosphorus. Ounce for ounce, they contain more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon! All of this makes it a great addition to our respective diets in that it carries the potential for fighting heart disease, as well as preventing diabetes and other chronic diseases.
TIP: Due to their high fiber content, it is recommended not to consume more than 1 ounce a day of these filling seeds.
How can we use them? The seeds’ mild flavor makes them easy to add into a host of recipes. They can be eaten raw or added into beverages, baked goods, or porridge. They become gelatinous when soaked in liquid, which can form a slimy texture that may take some getting used to, but is also very useful in making puddings! Also try sprinkling raw chia seeds onto salads, adding them to smoothies, dropping them into drinking water, or baking them into health bars, muffins, oatmeal, cookies, breads and granola.
How do I buy Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds come in both black and white varieties. The seeds are available in packages or in the bulk section of most health foods stores and increasingly in many grocery stores. Chia seeds can be expensive, but remember, a little bit goes a very long way!
Have fun experimenting with these little guys, and please feel free to share any successful recipes!