Meet Mr. Chia

I am about to head into the kitchen to make Saturday Pancakes (on a Tuesday) but before I do I have a friend I'd like you to meet. He's tiny, versatile and has earned front and center status in my kitchen. Say hello to Mr. Chia!

Chia is a very small member of the mint (sage) family and is native to Mexico and Guatemala. My husband got me hooked on chia seed after reading Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. In his book, McDougall tells of a tribe of endurance runners—the Tarahumara of Northern Mexico—sustaining themselves with chia while running 100-mile ultra marathons. 100 miles! Impressive to say the least.

Black and white chia seed | These little guys can soak up 12 times their weight in water!There is evidence that chia was first used as a food as early as 3500 B.C. So why this nutrient-dense super food is just going mainstream in the American diet boggled me until I watched this video. It's a shame that it's just been "rediscovered"—because we've really been missing out and here's why. In just two tablespoons (your daily requirement) you get:

  • Over 4g of PROTEIN
  • 4g of soluble FIBER—that's approximately 28% of your daily requirement
  • 205 mg of CALCIUM—that's equal to one ounce of cheese or two cups cooked broccoli
  • A perfectly balanced 3:1 ratio of OMEGA-3 and OMEGA-6 for a total of over 3g

To take full advantage of chia's amazing nutritional benefits eat the seeds raw (ground or whole). Blend with your favorite smoothie, sprinkle over yogurt or add some to granola. Or try pinole? Or how about this "meal replacement" shake.

The Aztec nation also used chia to heal. Chia is said to be beneficial in reducing inflammation, weight loss, thyroid conditions, hypoglycemia, diabetes, IBS, celiac disease and even acid reflux!

There are no known allergies to chia seed.

Chia as an Egg and Gluten Replacer

Though best raw, I have found chia to be superior to flax and packaged egg replacers as an egg substitute in baking.

One "chia egg" = 1 tablespoon ground chia whisked with 3 tablespoons water.

Mix chia meal with water and you've got a great egg replacer for use in baking.

What you get is a thick, gelatinous gel.

The binding ability of chia and chia gel is so great that you can often reduce or omit binding gums such as xanthan and guar—often called for in gluten-free recipes. Give it a try. Simply replace xanthan or guar gum with an equal measure of ground chia.

For baking you might prefer white chia (equal in nutritional value as black). When ground to a meal, black chia will speckle baked goods with bits of black.

Chia seeds have little to no flavor and will not affect the taste of foods and beverages.

One tablespoon of chia seed yields 1-1/2 tablespoons ground chia meal. Chia meal is easily made using a coffee/spice grinder, a magic bullet, or a high-powered blender.

A Lesson in Gathering Chia

This video is a tad long, but shows chia being gathered with a fly swatter and a bucket!

More About Mr. Chia

Tarahumara Pinole and Chia post over at Not Meat Athlete

Chia the Ancient Food of the Future over at Living Foods

The Chia "Cheat Sheet" and Ten Raw Chia Recipes over at Natural News

Back to the Pancakes ...

Oh yes, and here are those pancakes. Bound with chia and smothered in guava-lilikoi (passion fruit) syrup. Only a week of vacation left. Our time in paradise has gone too fast!

I order my chia seed from Amazon. Unlike many other seeds, chia does not go rancid and can safely be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for about two years (some sources say up to five!).

Do you have a favorite chia recipe?

How do you incorporate chia into your diet?