Anyone who lived through the 1990s will remember Chia Pets, the lovable ceramic creatures
whose heads would sprout into lush plants with just a few tiny seeds and a steady influx of water. What most of us didn't realize, however, is that the same seeds that were the key component to such a beloved novelty item, are also edible. Though the seeds were cherished by many groups of Native Americans for hundreds of centuries, they have recently been re-discovered, so to speak, as a modern day superfood.
The pre-Aztec civilizations of Mexico (3500 BCE) considered chia to be a scared food and medicine. It was cultivated as a staple part of their diet and used for many religious ceremonies. The Aztec peoples continued to cultivate chia and it is said that their warriors used the seeds as high-energy supplements, often carrying them in their pockets to eat during their conquests. The Aztecs believed the plant's seeds gave them a mystical and supernatural energy. When Hernando Cortez arrived in Mexico in the 16th century, he destroyed the crops after realizing they were an integral component to Aztec nutrition. Subsequently, chia disappeared as a major food crop. Fortunately, descendants of the pre-colonial cultures of Mexico and Southwest America continued to grow and hunt the plant and have preserved knowledge of its health benefits.
Chia seeds help your body stay hydrated and are believed to assist in weight loss by blocking calorie absorption and supporting feelings of fullness. They also reduce blood pressure and are the richest plant-source of omega-3s! You can check out a Chia website for a complete listing of this miracle seed's health benefits
, but I can tell you that when I consume chia I've noticed an energetic feeling unlike the effects of caffeine or guarana. When I'm feeling lethargic in the afternoon or need a pick-me-up before exercising, I make a shake out of fruit and Chia. I much prefer the steady infusion of energy to the jittery jolt of caffeine. Also the cool and refreshing taste is a perfect relief on a hot summer day.
Try the recipe below for a tasty treat that provides long-lasting health benefits! To maximize this shake's sustainability, make sure to use locally produced products — honey and fruit are especially easy to find at most farmers markets. My honey, juice and yogurt all came from local sources. When you buy local, you reduce the amount of energy and natural resources required to get food from one place to another.
Summer chia shake
Prep Time: 10 min.
Yield: 2 servings (1 cup each)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon locally-produced honey
1 cup organic vanilla yogurt
1 cup sliced strawberries (or whatever fruit is in season in your part of the world!)
1/4 cup apple juice (or anything you can find produced in your state)
5 ice cubes
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. For thicker shakes, use less juice.
I hope you enjoy my chia shake and are inspired to start using this superfood in your everyday cooking. Chia can be found in most health food stores or ordered online. I get mine from Marquis Nutra Foods
, a company based in Southern California which grows its product organically. Health experts recommend two daily doses of about 20 g of chia seeds, or about 2 tablespoons per day. Try adding chia in place of sesame, flax or other seeds, and soon you will have your own list of original recipes.