Chia seeds: Banned into obscurity, but back and more popular than ever

Chia seeds. In recent years we find them in smoothies, in breads, crackers, puddings, granola, cereal, even in our juices and drinks. So how did chia migrate from the “fur” on our chia pets to our daily menu?

Chia, salvia hispanica, was a traditional food crop of the Aztecs, and grows native in Mexico and Guatemala. It is high in fiber, protein, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, along with calcium and some other minerals. All these facts make it likely that chia will be confirmed a very healthy addition to the diet. The research is scant, and inconclusive on the health benefits of the chia seeds, but it has been promoted due to its composition as another superfood by various in the health food community.

In spite of its introduction to many of us as a grass-like “fur” on a clay animal, chia seeds have a mild nutty flavor that is easy to eat, and stores well without fear of going rancid. Again, why did it take so long for us to discover the chia seed when it was a popular crop alongside corn for the Aztec and Mayan cultures? Because it was used in religious ceremonies, the Spanish banned it when they conquered the area. Thankfully it remained in use in some regions and has come to popularity again in recent years.

If you are tasting chia for the first time, following are a couple ways to try it and a few recipes to get you started.

1. Chia wildberry water. My current daily use for chia. I have been struggling with dehydration, and the gel like consistency that chia forms in liquid after soaking actually helps your body to gain better hydration from the water that you drink. Mixing the water with frozen wildberries makes it more flavorful.

2. Iskiate or chia fresca (lemon, water, chia drink). This beverage was traditionally used by the Tarahumara of Mexico for stamina/energy. The Tarahumara are known for their long distance running abilities.

3. Chia seed pudding seems to be by far the most popular recipe for chia with many variations, depending on your taste buds and mood. Following is our variation on chia seed pudding.

Lemon coconut chia pudding

Mix 2 cups coconut milk with 2 Tbsp chia seeds, 1 tsp lemon oil, and 1 Tbsp maple syrup. Stir well and refrigerate until it thickens about 2 hours. Serve with fruit of choice.

4. Sprinkle chia on or in just about anything. Yogurt, icecream, oatmeal, cereal, chicken, fish, soup, salad, casserole, smoothies, bread, muffins, juice.

5. Chia lemon cornbread. A variation on a lemon poppyseed bread, this recipe is adaptable to any cornbread recipe or mix. I modified the recipe on the cornbread mix that I used to come up with this delicious recipe.

* 1 Bobs Red Mill gluten free cornbread mix

* 1 1/2 cups kefir

* 2 eggs

* 1/2 cup olive oil or melted coconut oil

* 1/2 cup lemon juice

* fresh zest of 1 lemon

* 1 tsp lemon oil (optional for stronger flavor)

* 4 Tbsp chia seeds

Mix all ingredients together. Bake at 375°F for 55 minutes or until top is golden brown.

There are many interesting recipes for the use of chia seeds. Use your imagination, and share with us some of your ideas in the comment section.

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