Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia! Whenever I saw the commercials for the Chia Pet, I wanted one. Maybe it was the Ch-Ch-Chia catch phrase, maybe it was the time lapse growth of the chia sprout "hair", but I found them fascinating. I never got one but my sister did, and I realized as I watched her spread the little seeds on the ridges of the terra cotta ram and wait for the gelatinous coat to start sprouting, that it's really not as entertaining as the commercial would lead you to believe!
(Although the newest Chia-Pet, the Chia-Obama might be kind of fun!)
Flash forward to present day and how lately I keep hearing conversations and seeing articles about Chia Seeds, as a "SuperFood". Full of omega-3s, (according to Clean Living Magazine, 3 1/2 ounces of chia seeds contain the same amount of omega-3s as 28-ounces of salmon and as much iron as 5 cups of spinach). In addition, the seeds also provide fiber with 1-ounce of chia containing 11 grams of dietary fiber, (that's almost half of the recommended daily amount for women), as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, niacin, and zinc. Figure in the protein content and antioxidants plus the fact that it is gluten-free and low on the glycemic scale, and this is one powerful, healthy little super seed!
Chias are a member of the mint family and the seeds were a big staple of the Aztec and Mayan diets and used medicinally. Aztec warriors valued it as a source of energy and endurance and it was believed that one tablespoon could sustain a warrior for an entire day. The omega-3s that they are loaded with are thought to reduce inflammation and lower the risk factors associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis, among other diseases and health problems. Chia seeds are said to be able to absorb more than 12 times their weight in water, making them great for hydration.
Chia seeds have a subtle, slightly nutty flavor and can be sprinkled on food like cereal or salads, added to baked goods like muffins or power bars, and of course they can sprouted and the sprouts eaten. The magic happens when you soak them in water, as they form a gel that adds a unique texture to beverages. The seeds start to form the gel after about 10 minutes and the longer they sit, the thicker the gel. They are not cheap, a pound of Chia seeds can cost you around $12 or more depending on where you live, but they can be stored up to two years and you don't need to use a lot of them to get a big impact.
The latest Clean Eating magazine had two recipes using chia seeds. The first was for a beverage called a Chia Fizz, that I am featuring today. (I will be posting their other recipe, Orange Chia Dream Pops, a dreamsicle-like frozen treat, next week). I liked the Chia Fizz and thought it would be fun to experiment with other fruits and flavors so I came up with my own Chia-Melon Cooler, with pureed watermelon, basil and lime. Two supercharged "Simple Saturday Sippers" to enjoy, that taste good and are good for you. Notes/Results for both drinks are below the recipes.
Clean Eating, July/August 2009
12 fresh mint leaves
1/2 lime, left unpeeled and cut in thirds, divided
1 tsp light agave syrup
1 Tbsp chia seeds
8 oz seltzer or natural sparkling water
In a large glass, muddle mint leaves and two lime wedges with a muddler or back of a spoon. Add agave, seeds, and seltzer. Stir. Chill in fridge for 10 minutes to allow the seeds to gel. Garnish with remaining lime wedge, stir and serve.
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
6 large basil leaves, plus 1 or 2 for garnish
1/2 lime cut into thirds
1/2 cup seedless watermelon, cubed
1 Tbsp chia seeds
4 oz seltzer
In a large glass, muddle 6 of the basil leaves and two of the lime wedges with a muddler or the back of a spoon. Puree the watermelon chunks until smooth and pour over a sieve into glass with basil and lime. Add chia seeds and seltzer, stir and chill in fridge for 10 minutes to allow the seeds to gel. Stir well and serve garnished with extra basil leaves and lime wedge.
Notes/Results: Refreshing and good! Since I sometimes have "texture issues," I wasn't sure how much I would like having the gelatinous seeds floating in my drink but although it is a bit different, it is kind of fun. The seeds and gel are "cooling" and are small enough to easily go up a straw. The Chia Fizz was tangy and good, reminding me of a mojito, and my Chia-Melon Cooler was sweeter and refreshing and really delicious with the herbal taste of the basil.
A fun thing to experiment with and a good way to get some excellent nutritional benefits. I plan to play around with my chia seeds using other fruits, juices and herbs in beverages and to try some smoothies with the seeds too. I am also going to do some healthy baking with them and will post what I come up with.