We’ve all seen those Chia Pet commercials, and you may have even received one as a secret Santa, white elephant or gag gift at some point. It’s a mystery why anyone thought we needed terra cotta animals that you spread magical seeds over the top of to watch them sprout and grow. Have you ever wondered where those seeds come from and if they could have other uses besides being a pop culture flash back to early-80’s décor?
We first learned of chia seed consumption from Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run. In it, McDougall describes the Tarahumara Indians, a hidden tribe that lives in Northern Mexico’s Copper Canyons area. If they aren’t drinking their other favorite refresher – corn beer – they’re drinking a chia seed concoction called Iskiat or chia fresca. They make chia fresca out of those As Seen on TV chia seeds, also known as Salvia hispanica, which they mix with water, sugar and a squeeze of lime. It’s refreshing, if a bit textured. Before, during, and after runs, the Tarahumara recharge by eating Pinole – chia, corn meal, some form of sugar and cinnamon – kept in pouches at their waists. The chia seeds are high in protein and fiber that will keep any long distance runner feeling full without feeling bloated.
Once the seeds mix with water or fruit juice they become gelatinous. It’s similar to the gel packs that runners use when they need a quick jolt of energy on long runs. The seeds are very healthy, full of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and amino acids. The seeds themselves have been around in culinary use for hundreds of years used in baking, in drinks, or eaten raw. They can even be sprouted and added to salad and sandwiches in lieu of alfalfa sprouts. We add them to fruit and yogurt smoothies, sprinkle them on top of yogurt and fruit, and add them to our oatmeal.
Our running habits have been a bit hit or miss this year. Every night we plan to wake early for a quick morning jog, but end up sleeping too late for even a quick morning stretch before Steve has to get on his first call of the day. Then, at night, during our free time, we’re either too tired, hungry, thirsty, or lazy to get out the door and into the park for a good run. It’s the end of the year and our lives are about to change for the better. Time for a fresh start. As Madonna sings, “Are you ready to jump? Get ready to jump.”
We ask, “How high?”
Even if you’re not a runner you should give these seeds a try. Who knows, you might even start sprouting green hair on top of your head!
Pina Colada Smoothie
1 cup pineapple, fresh or canned, unsweetened, (or almost any other soft fruit)
1 banana, peeled and broken into pieces
4-6 frozen coconut water cubes*
½ cup keffir or plain yogurt
2 tablespoons chia seeds
Add everything into a blender and mix until smooth consistency. Pour into a glass and enjoy.
*Freeze coconut water in ice cube trays overnight.