Chia what?

Work has been so busy, I can barely breathe. But I can eat. The problem is stress has a sneaky way of giving you excuses to splurge. Working late? Oh, yeah, I totally earned that cupcake. And as delicious as it is once it hits your lips, what I really need is not sugar but some serious fuel to keep myself going through all this madness. Enter chia seeds, my latest health food craze.

Let me back up for just a second. I used to think health food was weird. If you asked me to try something like chia seeds a few years back, I probably would have curled my upper lip into an ewww gesture while shaking my head no. But not anymore. Now, I’m the one who goes to the health foods store during my lunch break and searches the aisles for chia seeds just seconds after hearing about their many benefits. It’s almost like a fun science experiment. If I find out something is packed with antioxidants, protein, omega 3s, and 12 grams of fiber per serving (basically half your daily recommended amount), I can’t wait to go home and test it out. Of course I don’t expect one single food to be some kind of miracle cure, but it’s fun to try things out. And with so many health benefits, there’s no harm done.

So what are these chia seeds things anyway? I think they might actually be the same seeds you spread on those good ol’ ceramic planter pets with same name. If you can get past that, these seeds pack a rather impressive bundle of benefits into that tiny, unassuming package.

According to nutsonline.com (yes, there is a site called nutsonline.com), they can help with weight loss by making you feel fuller and reducing cravings, they can help reduce blood pressure, and they can keep you hydrated (great for runners!). Apparently, they also have more omega-3s than salmon, which is pretty impressive. They are full of protein and fiber, easier to digest than flax seeds, and lots more.

I just read a blurb in the June 2010 issue of Food and Wine magazine about them too. There’s an article by Tasting Table editor, Nick Fauchald, a health-conscious foodie triathlete. He eats chia seeds mixed with water and a splash of lime juice as a hydrating gel before long runs. Looks like this little health craze is catching on!

And the best part is, they are fun to eat. You soak them in soy milk, water, almond milk, yogurt or even club soda and they expand into little tapioca-like pearls of good-for-you bliss. Drizzle a little honey on top, and you’ve got yourself a nice nutritious breakfast or snack. You can bake with them too. Or add them to granola. Clearly, there are plenty more recipes to explore.

I’ve had them every morning for the past week (in either soy milk or Greek yogurt with a little bit of honey), and there are no ill-effects to report. So far, I’ve survived the endless hours at work semi-unscathed, at least when it comes to my waistline. Next health food on my list to try: hemp seeds.

Chia seeds breakfast

1/2 cup soy milk, almond milk, regular milk, water, yogurt, you name it

2 tablespoons chia seeds

Drizzle of honey or agave nectar

Directions: Combine chia seeds with milk or water or yogurt. Stir well. Let sit for 10-20 minutes, mixing a few times so the seeds can absorb some of the liquid and form into a gel. Eat!

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