Superfood of the Aztecs
The first “super food” I want to talk to you about is Salvia hispanica, commonly known as chia. In Born to Run, Christopher McDougall talks about the nutritional properties and health benefits of the humble seed that has become known as the “running food”:
Months later, I’d learn that iskiate is otherwise known as chia fresca—“chilly chia.” It’s brewed up by dissolving chia seeds in water a little sugar and a squirt of lime. In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone. As tiny as those seeds are, they’re super-packed with omega-3s, omega-6s, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber, and antioxidants. If you had to pick just one desert-island food, you couldn’t do much better than chia, at least if you were interested in building muscle, lowering cholesterol, and reducing your risk of heart disease; after a few months on the chia diet, you could probably swim home. Chia was once so treasured, the Aztecs used to deliver it to their king in homage. Aztec runners used to chomp chia seeds as they went into battle, and the Hopis fueled themselves on chia during their epic runs from Arizona to the Pacific Ocean
The use of chia as a high energy endurance food has been recorded as far back as the ancient Aztec warriors who subsisted on it during their conquests, and used it medicinally to relieve joint pain and skin conditions. When mixed with water, chia seeds form a gel that, when consumed, creates a physical barrier in the stomach between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar. This causes a slower insulin reaction and therefore allows your body to use up the sugars as energy as opposed to being deposited as fat.
This also offers the ability for creating endurance: prolonging the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar stabilizes metabolic changes. Chia’s hydrophilic properties—the seeds can absorb 12 times their weight in water—provide cells with prolonged hydration, allowing the body to more efficiently regulate absorption of nutrients and fluids, thus maintaining a more stable electrolyte balance.
As a source of protein, chia is very easily digested and absorbed, resulting in rapid transport to tissues and utilization by cells. Another unique quality of the chia seed is its high oil content: it is the richest vegetable source of the essential omega-3 fatty acid. It has approximately three to ten times the oil concentrations of most grains and one-and-a-half to two times the protein concentrations of other grains. These unsaturated fatty acids are the essential oils your body needs to help emulsify and absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, & K.
Chia seeds contain beneficial long-chain triglycerides (LCT) in the right proportion to reduce cholesterol on arterial walls. They are also a rich source of calcium as they contain the important mineral boron, which acts as catalyst for the absorption and utilization of calcium by the body.
There are limitless ways to incorporate the chia seed into your diet. When it is mixed with foods, it displaces calories and fat without diluting flavour. In fact, I have found that because chia gel displaces rather than dilutes, it creates more surface area and can actually enhance the flavour rather than dilute it. You can add 50-70 % more volume to your food and displace calories and fat by incorporating an ingredient that is 90% water!
I consume about 2 tablespoons of chia seeds every day in a variety of ways: I sprinkle them on my hot cereals, in my shakes or smoothies, on top of yogurt or kefir, in a little fruit juice, on salads, in special energy cookies that I prepare and other ways like a chia fresca. You can sprinkle them as seeds directly or create a gel before using it.
According to nutrition expert Dr. Weil, chia seeds, unlike flaxseed, can be stored for long periods without becoming rancid and don’t require grinding. He cites a study from the University of Toronto in which researchers fed 21 diabetics either a supplement made from chia or grains with similar fiber content. After 3 months, blood pressure in patients taking chia dropped while the grain group’s pressure remained steady.
Dr. Oz is quoted as saying that chia seeds may be one of the healthiest things around because they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and they have among the highest antioxidant activity of any whole food—even more than fresh blueberries. Chia is one of the most useful and beneficial foods and is destined to be the Ancient Food of the Future.
When our family ran across Canada and the US we made our own energy drinks and foods using chia seeds as one important ingredient.
Check out my other articles where I share information on another super food that I’ve discovered and also use regularly.
Thank you and have fun with chia.
Dr. Ed Chicoine, Chiropractor
The information provided is for education purposes only. It`s not meant to diagnose or treat any health condition. If you have health problems, please consult with your doctor or other health professional before you make any major changes in your lifestyle.