Chia Seed: Aztec Superfood Boosts Energy and Endurance

What’s behind the surging popularity of chia seed? According to nutritional writer Charlotte Bradley, chia grain was “originally grown in Mexico and the Southwest between 1500 and 910 B.C., and the seeds were an important part of the Aztec and Mayan diet. Aztec warriors used chia as their main source of fuel during conquests.”

More recently, research has found chia to be a good source of calcium, a high source of soluble and insoluble fibre, and a significant dietary source of protein and omega 3s. In his book The Magic of Chia: Revival of an Ancient Wonder Food, (Frog, Ltd: North Atlantic Books; 2001), author James Scheer describes chia as a complete protein source, having all of the essential amino acids in an appropriate balance. He further states: “Chia seeds also are rich in the beneficial long-chain triglycerides that help maintain the proper wall flexibility of cells and restore the proper cholesterol /triglyceride ratio.”

A November 2007 study published in Diabetes Care reported that chia (salvia hispanica) “can help regulate blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease in diabetics.” This study involved 20 people with Type II diabetes, and found that 12 weeks of treatment with chia helped reduce systolic blood pressure and inflammation in study participants. And Christopher Westra, author of Harmony Earth 30 Day Diet, lists “Ten Benefits from this Power Food and Brain Food” on his website, benefits which include chia’s energy and endurance enhancement, easy digestibility, and high nutrient density. (icreatewisdom.com/chiaseed.html)

But what elevates chia seed to superfood status is the extra boost of nutrition derived from sprouting it. Promotional literature for a new product called “Sprouted Chia Seed Powder” by Organic Traditions states that sprouting this seed significantly impacts its health benefits:

– increases plant enzyme content
– increases protein bioavailability
– increases soluble fibre
– increases essential fatty acids
– increases vitamin and mineral profiles
– provides better absorption of minerals
– decreases enzyme inhibitors (“anti-nutrients” such as phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors are dramatically reduced, allowing for more effective digestion and absorption of the seed’s nutrition.)

It is important to eat antioxidant rich foods every day in order to combat free radical damage. Sprouting dramatically increases the ORAC value (or antioxidant score) in chia seeds, making them good fighters of free radicals. Due to high ORAC values, these products are more shelf stable and even more heat stable and so can be added to oatmeal, hot drinks, stews and soups.

In fact, this certified organic, GMO-free, Sprouted Chia Seed Powder can be added to any dish in order to enhance its nutrient density and fibre content, while stabilizing blood sugar levels. It has a mild nutty taste and goes well in smoothies, soups, or sprinkled on salads. Jerry Zeifman, owner of Advantage Health Matters, says: “This is terrific for people on the run, who don’t have time to eat properly. By adding the seed powder to sandwiches, shakes, and soups, you get high octane nutrition that is easily digested. Because it ranks low on the glycemic index, sprouted chia seed powder provides a stable and steady source of energy, while at the same time preventing the blood sugar spikes and subsequent afternoon drowsiness that comes from sugary fast foods.”

As a taste test, I whipped up a quick smoothie made with coconut milk, sour cherries, and sprouted chia seed powder.  It turned out thick and creamy, and sustained me for hours while I worked at the computer. I can see how this might be considered a weight loss tool, since the chia seed absorbs seven times its weight in water, making one feel full and satisfied longer, which could theoretically reduce overall calorie consumption.

If you’re looking to bump up the nutrient density of your fast or slow meals, sprinkle on some sprouted chia seed, a superfood with clinically proven health benefits.

Organic Traditions provides nutrient dense superfoods from many healing traditions. They are committed to supporting farmers who are dedicated to the principles of fair trade agriculture. For more information visit: www.organictraditions.com. Sprouted Chia Seed Powder comes in 8 oz bags and can be found at fine health food stores, including the Big Carrot Wholistic Dispensary (348 Danforth Ave, Toronto, call 416-466-8432, or email: dispensary@thebigcarrot.ca)

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