The ancient Aztecs of Mexico were known as fierce warriors who exhibited great strength and endurance during battles. The key to their physical prowess had much to do with a particular food they ate as they prepared for battle. This food was so prized by the Aztecs that they bestowed it upon their kings as a sign of tribute because it was considered almost as valuable as gold. In fact, because of the value the Aztecs placed on this food, they used it as currency.
Today in Mexico another tribe of Amerindians are just as renowned as the Aztecs were for their legendary athleticism and endurance. They are the Tarahumara Indians who make their home deep within the Copper Canyons of northern Mexico. The Tarahumara are known as the worlds greatest runners. In traditional Tarahumara culture, running is a way of life for both men and women, and it is not uncommon for both sexes to run at least 50 miles a day through the canyons, and to continue to do so well into old age. Even more remarkable, degenerative diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity that are so common in the United States, are virtually nonexistent among the Tarahumaras who continue to follow their native ways, despite their extreme poverty. Like the Aztecs before them, the secret to the Tarahumaras remarkably good health and endurance is also in large part due to a single wonder food.
What Is This Amazing Food? The Humble Chia Seed.
To most Americans, the chia seed is not known as a food at all, but as the main ingredient behind the novelty item known as the Chia Pet (clay shaped in the form of animals from which chia seeds sprout). Fortunately, that is beginning to change as more and more researchers are discovering the potent combination of health benefits that chia seeds provide when consumed on a regular basis.
Power-Packed Nutrition In A Single Serving
The Tarahumara people, as well as other native peoples of Mexico and the southwestern region of the US, have been known to sustain themselves during day-long runs and marches on just a single serving of chia seeds (between one and 3 tablespoons). Unlikely as that may seem, it becomes more believable when you consider the nutritional properties of chia seeds.
To begin with, chia seeds are a very rich form of easily-digested protein. Unlike most other protein-rich foods, the protein chia seeds contain is digested and absorbed very quickly, allowing the body to rapidly transport it to its cells and tissues. For this reason, chia seeds are an exceptional food source for children and adolescents, a time in which rapid, protein-dependent development of tissue takes place. For the same reason, the seeds are also highly beneficial for woman who are pregnant, as well as for mothers who are breastfeeding. Because of how quickly and efficiently the human body can make use of the protein chia seeds contain, the seeds are also excellent for anyone interested in building and regenerating muscle.
But the benefits of chias seeds do not end there. The seeds also provide a richer source of omega 3 essential fatty acids than either flaxseeds or fish like salmons and sardines. In addition, chia seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber, and consumption of chia seeds has been shown to slow the digestion of carbohydrates, making it an ideal food for people with type 2 diabetes, as well as anyone struggling with blood sugar problems and insulin resistance. Research shows that regular consumption of chia seeds also helps to improve metabolism, increase lean muscle mass, and lower unhealthy cholesterol.
Chia seeds also provide a healthy supply of important vitamins and minerals, including boron, calcium (five times as much as milk and in a far more absorbable form), copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, niacin, phosphorus, and zinc. And, if that is not enough, chia seeds are an excellent food for keeping the body hydrated and lubricated. This last health benefit is important. Chia seeds can absorb more than 12 times their weight in water. Because of this fact, the seeds can significantly prolong your bodys ability to remain properly hydrated, and therefore help your body to more effectively absorb and regulate electrolytes and nutrients, while also maintaining the proper intra and extracellular fluid balance to ensure healthy cell function.
Yet another health benefit that chia seeds provide is that it can improve digestive and other gastrointestinal problems. This, too, is due to the seeds ability to absorb water. When chia seeds are combined with water and gelatinous substance known as a hydrophilic colloid forms. Such colloids are essential for maintaining the health and integrity of the mucosa lining the GI tract. This lining in people who suffer from GI problems such as impaired digestion, heartburn, chronic flatulence, and inflammation of the intestinal tract is almost always damaged to some degree. Regularly consuming chia seeds can help to repair such damage and alleviate related GI disorders.
Start Your Day With A Glass Of Chia Fresca
Now that you are aware of the many health benefits that chia seeds provide, you most likely are ready to add them to your daily diet. The easiest way to do so is to prepare a glass of chia fresca, the traditional drink of the Tarahumara people. Doing so is very easy. Simply add one tablespoon of chia seeds (most health food stores now carry chia seeds; you can also order them online) to 10 tablespoons of pure water. As soon as you add the seeds, stir the combination vigorously for a few moments, then let it sit. Five minutes later, stir it all again, and then wait another 10 minutes. During this time, the seeds will absorb most of the water and turn into a gel. Add a bit of fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice and a pinch of sugar and you will have chia fresca. (Sugar is optional; if you choose to use it, use raw organic cane sugar.) Drinking a glass of chia fresca with breakfast is an excellent way to start your day. You can also store the gel in the refrigerator (minus the sugar and lemon/lime juice) to use it later in cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt. The raw seeds can also be added to baking recipes.
Chia Oat Bars
Here's a delicious, easy to make replacement for snack bars using chia seeds.
- 2 Cups Rolled Oats
- 1/2 Cup Raw Pumpkin Seeds
- 1/2 Cup Raw Sunflower Seeds
- 2-3 Tbsp Raw Chia Seeds
- 1/2 Cup Honey
- 2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
Preheat oven to 325 degree F. Mix oats and seeds and spread them onto baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Add honey to a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce hat to low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes or until the honey starts to condense and thicken.
Add butter and stir, then pour the honey-butter mixture over the oats and seed mix and stir thoroughly. Spread mixture onto an 8-inch buttered baking pan, then cut into individual bars. Once bars are cut, tightly wrap each one in plastic or wax paper.
Caution: Although chia seeds do provide many potential health benefits, they should not be considered a "magic bullet" solution for health. In addition, because of their rich omega-3 content, chia seeds should not be consumed by people who are taking blood-thinning medications without the express consent of their physician. In some cases chia seeds can also cause allergic reactions, although these are rare. As with all dietary and nutritional approaches to health, speak with your doctor first to determine if adding chia seeds to your diet is right for you.
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