Health Benefits of Chia

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds seem to be sprouting up everywhere these days in a variety of health foods. Although the chia  seed seems like a “new” food, chia has actually been around for over 3500 years. Chia is a seed native to southern Mexico from a plant called Salvia hisipanica. In Mexico, the Aztecs and Mayans consumed chia seeds to give them strength for battle and relieve pain. The Aztecs also used chia as a high energy-density food they could consume during long travels or during times when food was not as readily available. Now much of the chia in the world is grown in Australia, instead of Mexico, and Australia may soon become the biggest producer of chia seeds internationally.

Chia has several health benefits. These powerful seeds contain a significant amount of the omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), even more than flax seeds. ALA may help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and even symptoms of asthma. The seeds also have an extra benefit in that the omega-3 fat is protected by a large amount of antioxidants, which prevents the heart-healthy fat from becoming rancid.  Chia seeds are also very high in fiber, providing 10g per ounce.  Chia is a high calcium seed, as it provides 179 mg of calcium per serving. That’s not all for their nutritional benefits, they are also chock full of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and zinc all of which are minerals vital to health.

Omega-3s and calcium have been shown to help with weight loss and chia seeds provide large doses of both nutrients. But chia seeds actually have an additional weight-loss boosting benefit other than their nutritional profile. When mixed with water, chia seeds grow to 10x their size, forming a gel that is high soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is not digested by our bodies and therefore is calorie-free. The gel also grows in the stomach, making us feel full and leading to a reduced overall calorie consumption. Soluble fiber traps fat and cholesterol, possibly lowering calorie absorption from a meal. Less calories being absorbed, means less calories are stored as unwanted fat!

Not sure how to eat chia seeds? When mixed with water, they have a rubbery, gel- like consistency. Chia seeds are 100% gluten free so are safe to eat on a gluten or grain free diet. If you want to lose weight, add them to water or tea to help fill you up before a meal, so you feel full and eat less overall. Sprinkle them on salads, blend them into smoothies, or add them to your favorite soup as a thickener. Add them to hot cereal, yogurt, or grind them to add to muffins or breads. Many people use chia as an egg replacer in baked goods to add omega-3 fats and reduce cholesterol. As chia becomes more popular, you are sure to see it pop up in a variety of health foods and they are a great addition to any diet.

Here is a recipe for you adapted from Simple Bites. This recipe is GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE, LOW SUGAR, LOW GLYCAEMIC and HIGH CALCIUM

 

Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond or coconut milk (you can also use 1% cow’s milk)
  • 2 tbsp xylitol or Stevia (you can also use coconut sugar, agave, or honey- although these contain real sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

 

Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a pint jar. Cover the jar with a lid and give it a vigorous shake.
  2. Chill for about an hour, then return to the jar and shake it up. Let chill for at least 4 hours and overnight is even better.
  3. Chia seeds will expand and turn into pudding the consistency of applesauce (it won’t get really thick).
  4. Serve cold with sliced fruit or toasted nuts on top.

 

 

Coconut and Almond Rice Pudding

I’ve always loved rice pudding or ‘rizogolo’ in Greek as my wonderful mother-in-law calls it (and I should note her more traditional cinnamon and vanilla version is to diet for…and she has made this for me MANY times in the last decade).  This rice pudding just has a little dairy free and coco-nutty twist!  This is a great little dessert but I ate it for breakfast too! It is so creamy and tasty you wouldn’t guess it is dairy free, gluten free and low in added sugar too.  Perfect for the adults and the kids.

Now that I’ve made it, I think this would also be divine made with quinoa instead of the rice which would make it higher in protein, fibre and lower glycaemic index too.

This creamy deliciousness is GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE, LOW ADDED SUGAR, MODERATE GI LOW FODMAP20130407-140452.jpg

What you need…

  • 1 cup (250g) arborio rice
  • 1 x 400ml Can Coconut Milk
  • 3 cups Almond Breeze, unsweetened
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded and scraped (or 1 tsp Vanilla bean paste)
  • ¼ cup Stevia, Xylitol (these are the sugar free options)…OR… Coconut sugar or Rapadura (these are sugar alternatives but still contain sugar but in a less processed form)
  • 1 cinnamon pod
  • 1 tsp Almond Extract (optional)
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted slightly
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds

 

How the magic happens…

…on the Stovetop:

1. Start by rinsing the rice with water. Add rice to a medium saucepan. Add sugar substitute, vanilla bean and pod (or paste) and coconut milk.

2. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Gradually add 2 more cups of almond milk, about 1/2 cup at a time. Let the milk absorb before adding more.

3. After 25 minutes, the rice pudding will be thick and creamy.

4. Let cool slightly and stir in the last cup of milk. Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon pod.

5. Serve. Garnish with fresh coconut flakes, almonds, berries and ground cinnamon.

 

…in the Slow cooker or Rice cooker:

1. Turn the slow/rice cooker on.

2. Add rice, coconut milk, almond milk, vanilla paste, sugar substitute, almond extract (if using) and cinnamon to the slow cooker. Set to high for 2-2 ½ hours or low for 4 hours.

3. Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon pod if used. Allow to cool slightly.

4. Serve. Garnish with fresh coconut flakes, almonds, berries and ground cinnamon.

 

…in the Thermomix (adapted from the fabulous Quirky Cooking)

1. In your Thermomix, grind up the sugar and vanilla bean for 1 minute on speed 9.

2. Scrape down lid and sides and add remaining ingredients. Cook for 25 minutes at 90 degrees, reverse, speed 1 1/2.

3. Allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes before serving (it will thicken slightly).

4. Serve. Garnish with fresh coconut flakes, almonds, berries and ground cinnamon.