After writing about quinoa, I'd like to follow up with another food considered by some to be a superfood: Chia.Of course, most of us associate chia with the chia pets of the 1980s! We dabbed these wonderful fast growing seeds onto clay figures, watered them, and watched as the seeds sprouted into various animals (or even heads of hair). Chia pets continue to be sold, but back then, who would have considered nibbling on one? How did it shift from novelty to superfood? Chia is a flowering plant in the mint family, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. It was cultivated by the Aztec in pre-Columbian times, and was likely as important to them as corn. The USDA tells us that a one-ounce (28 gram) serving of chia seeds contains 9 grams of "good" fat, 5 miligrams of sodium, 11 grams of dietary fiber, and 4 grams of protein. This is similar to other edible seeds like flax and sesame. Chia seeds are the highest known plant source of Omega-3 fatty acids, containing eight times more, per ounce, than salmon. They are loaded with antioxidants; vitamins A, B12 and C; and minerals including calcium, potassium, phosphorous, folate, zinc, and iron. Nutritionists and smart marketers have brought chia to more and more commercial products. Health claims abound, including weight loss through reducing food cravings, hydration for athletes, lowering blood pressure, anti-inflammation for arthritis and heart disease, and better control of blood sugars. While these claims are not far-fetched, the studies have not been done yet to conclusively support them. How do we eat chia seeds? They can be sprinkled on salads, muesli, stir fries, smoothies, muffins, or into bread batter. They can be ground in a spice or coffee grinder to a fine, meal-like consistency. They can be eaten raw, soaked in fruit juice, added to puddings, oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt. Try cooking up an egg, onion, spinach, milk and chia seeds in a frying pan for a hearty chia breakfast. Enjoy exploring this new, but very old food. Dr. Alan Frischer is former chief of staff and former chief of medicine at Downey Regional Medical Center. Write to him in care of this newspaper at 8301 E. Florence Ave., Suite 100, Downey, CA 90240.
********** Published: June 13, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 09