Sunday, 14 July 2013

cheers to chia! and a recipe for a choc- berry antioxidant 'whip'

Cheers to chia!
Chia seeds are champions!
Chuck me some chia seeds!
Let's chomp and chow on chia seeds!

.. Okay, I've run out of relevant "ch" words now. I'll get on with my writing.

But in all honesty, chia seeds really are an amazing superfood. Their nutritional profile is beyond impressive -
  • fifteen times as much magnesium as that in broccoli
  • eight times the omega- 3 content of salmon
  • seven times the vitamin C content of oranges
  • six times the dietary fibre content contained in oat bran
  • five times the calcium content of dairy milk
  • four times the antioxidant capacity of blueberries
  • three times the iron content of spinach
  • two times as much potassium as that found in bananas
  • also contains vitamins A and B12, and the minerals manganese and phosphorus

In addition to being high in protein (protein makes up approximately 20% of their nutritional content by weight), chia seeds are also considered a source of complete protein. In other words, chia seeds contain all eight of the essential amino acids.

All too technical? Let me try to simplify things.

Protein is made up of amino acids - think of lego, and how they're made up of different coloured blocks. Different sources of protein are made up of different combinations of these amino acid 'building blocks'.

When we eat and then digest foods that contain protein, we break the protein down into its raw building materials (i.e. its amino acid 'building blocks'). This makes it easier for us to absorb and utilise the building blocks in our own bodies.

Different substances in our bodies - for example; muscle tissue, enzymes and hormones - are made up of different amino acids. Eating a variety of proteins helps to ensure that we obtain all the amino acids we need. Thankfully, our bodies also know how to build amino acids. There are only eight amino acids that our bodies don't know how to make, and those are the eight 'essential' amino acids.

They are deemed 'essential' because they must be present in our diet in order for us to obtain them. Foods that contain all eight of these amino acids are called 'complete sources of protein'. Chia seeds fall into this class of food.

Another impressive trait is their ability to absorb up to seventeen times their weight in liquid. When mixed with a liquid, chia seeds rapidly (within a matter of minutes) begin to swell up and form a gel- like substance. This gel is responsible for many of their beneficial effects on the body.

When we consume chia seeds with a meal or snack, this gel is formed in our stomach. The gel acts as a barrier between the food we have eaten, and the digestive enzymes that attempt to break down the food. The rate at which we digest (and then absorb) the nutrients contained within the food is therefore slowed.

When chia seeds are eaten with foods that contain carbohydrates, the release (and absorption) of glucose from food is slowed. This reduces the meal's overall glycaemic index, balancing blood sugar levels and making it especially beneficial for people with diabetes. (For more information about the glycaemic index and why a low GI diet is ideal, have a read of my earlier blog posts 'why i choose low g i - and the 411 on diabetes' and 'a lesson and a recipe - an earthy autumn salad'.)

Chia seeds are also rich in soluble and insoluble fibre. This is largely the  result of their ability to absorb water and subsequently create bulk in the digestive tract.

Bulk in the stomach helps to trigger the sensation of fullness sooner after eating. It also helps to maintain that sensation for a longer period of time, potentially reducing the overall consumption of food. People seeking weight loss may find this useful.

Bulk in the intestines helps to regulate bowel movement, maintain bowel health and reduce the risk of colon cancer. The gel's presence in the gut can also act a barrier between digested food and the intestinal wall, reducing the absorption of dietary cholesterol and therefore helping to reduce overall blood cholesterol levels.

If that wasn't enough, the chia seed gel also makes an ideal vegan alternative to eggs in baking! Simply substitute each egg in the recipe for 1 tbsp of chia seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water, left for at least 15 minutes prior to use to allow an adequate gel to form.

Finally, chia seeds contain an outstanding amount of omega- 3. Their omega- 3 content is actually the highest of all natural foods, making them particularly good at the following tasks -

  • maintaining cardiovascular health
  • reducing the risks of cancer and diabetes
  • reducing joint stiffness
  • augmenting treatment for depression, and
  • enhancing memory

So.. What say we all become champions and start chomping and chowing on chia seeds? Haha.. Get it?

Alright, I'll stop..


choc berry antioxidant 'whip'
serves 1

(left to right) a fully- decorated antioxidant whip (in the jar),
some of the topping ingredients (in the shallow plate),
and a half- decorated antioxidant whip (in the glass) -

  • 1/2 cup organic raw (unsalted) cashews
  • 1 cup filtered water (plus extra, for soaking)
  • 2 large handfuls organic frozen mixed berries
  • 1 tbsp organic raw macqui powder
  • 1 tbsp organic raw cacao powder
  • 1 tsp organic raw mesquite powder
  • 1 tsp organic raw maca powder
  • 3 tbsp organic chia seeds
  • 3 tbsp dried goji berries (plus extra, to serve)
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut milk
  • organic raw cacao nibs, shredded (unsweetened) coconut, activated buckwheat groats, puffed amaranth, and puffed millet (to serve)

Place the cashews into a small bowl and cover with clean, filtered water. Leave for at least 1-2 hours, or overnight.

In a larger bowl, combine the macqui, cacao, mesquite and maca powders, chia seeds and filtered water. Whisk well to remove any lumps. Add the frozen berries and goji berries, and stir the combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours, or overnight. The chia seed mixture will become thick and pudding- like.

When ready to serve, drain the cashews, rinse them under clean water and drain them again. Pour them into a blender with the chia seed mixture and the coconut milk. Blend well until smooth and consistent in colour - it should become a pretty shade of mauve.

Pour into a tall glass and sprinkle with the extra goji berries, cacao nibs, shredded coconut buckwheat groats, puffed amaranth and puffed millet. Serve, and enjoy the massive, raw antioxidant hit!

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