CH-CH-CH-CHIA

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©iStockphoto.com/Jessica Rensch

Salvia hispanica, commonly known as chia, is a species of flowering plant in the mint family which are native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. Chia was cultivated by the Aztec in pre-Columbian times; economic historians have suggested that it was as important as maize as a food crop.

Chia is a tiny seed that is smaller than a sesame seed and had virtually no flavor. If you’ve ever tried and failed to love the strong flavour of flaxseeds, chia seeds, with their similar nutritional profile, might be an option to try instead. Chia seeds can be used raw, ground into a powder or soaked. Be careful of buying preground chia seeds as they can become rancid due to the presence of healthy fats.

Here is a list of the plentiful benefits of Chia.

1. Chia is gluten free

2. It is super high in dietary fibre, making it great for digestion and healing digestion issues.

3. It contains 20% Omega 3 ALA, making it a super food for the brain and heart. Chia has eight times more Omega 3 than salmon!

4. It boasts 20% protein

5. The protein is a complete protein with all 8 essential amino acids

6. It is high in antioxidants (It has a four times higher ORAC value than blueberries)

7. Chia contains five times more calcium than milk

8. Chia contains seven times more vitamin C than oranges

9. It contains three times more iron than spinach

10. It contains twice the potassium content of banana

11. It is food for healthy skin, hair and nails

12. It has a positive impact balancing blood glucose levels (making it awesome for diabetics)

13. Chia makes a great egg replacement. Just combine with water to form a gel, and add it to recipes that call for egg.

I sprinkle chia on almost everything as it has a very mild flavour that easily combines with sweet or savoury dishes. You can toss the seeds in smoothies, sprinkle them on yogurt or oatmeal or use them as a salad topper. Chia also has other supercool uses in the kitchen. Like ground flaxseeds, chia seeds will turn gel-like when soaked in liquid (For Example, Chia can be soaked directly in a flavourful milk like almond milk with a bit of spices like cinnamon and a bit of sweeter like coconut sugar or raisins to make a fabulous oatmeal-like meal). They can retain about eight to nine times their weight (which creates a full sensation!) and this gel is a great way to use chia. Search online for chia puddings and you’ll find plenty of recipes to try.

What’s great for vegetarians/vegans is that the gel can also be used as an egg substitute in vegan-friendly baking . Replace one egg with a mixture of two tablespoons of ground chia seed powder with 1/3 cup water or nut milk that has been left to sit for five to 10 minutes (Although this mixture is an excellent binder, unlike eggs, it will not help a recipe rise.)

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