Well Being

The Aztec Diet’s Use of Healthy Chia Seeds: A Fad That I Actually Really Like

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Chia: not the pet—the seed.

Chia: not the pet—the seed.

Firstly, I'm going to refrain from what seems like the obligatory Chia Pet comment. Yes, we get it. It's the same word.

Let's move on: I first tried chia seed, which comes from the desert plant Salvia Hispanica, while living in Mexico a while back. One morning, during a stay in a beautiful, kind of hippie-ish, health-conscious village outside of Mexico City, I was given chia fresca (ground chia, water and lime) for breakfast. I thought perhaps the trend had made its way throughout the world, but in reality, chia seeds were used by the Aztecs in order to bolster their strength and vitality.

Though the seeds—which, for the most part are totally tasteless—have definitely been part of a health-food fad (they even made their way onto Oprah), they seem to have attained a legitamate place in our diets. They've become a main staple in the “Aztec Diet”-a diet that centers on the seed and includes fish, corn, vegetables, turkey, fruit, grains and quinoa.

Dr. Bob Arnot's book, The Aztec Diet: Chia Power: The Superfood that Gets You Skinny and Keeps You Healthy, suggests the chia seed can really go a long way for our health. He suggests three phases, drinking chia-rich smoothies, moving on to a mixture of smoothies and balanced meals and finally integrating recipes using chia seed as part of your diet.

There's been a great deal of talk about chia seeds as a tool for weight loss, but the seeds are only shown to boast weight loss promotion in indivdiduals who aren't actually overweight. That said, the seeds are thought to contribute to satiety, due their high fiber and protein, which may totally help control cravings.

If you want to lose weight, a work out routine might be in order-not a seed, sorry. A rich antioxidant and source of protein, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, the seeds work as a colon cleanser and can help relieve indigestion and heartburn. Plus, the seeds are said to stabalize blood sugar levels, which can be helpful for diabetics.

You can literally put chia into almost anything in order to reap the benefits. You can pick up a bag of chia seeds at your local health food or organic grocery. I usually get mine from Trader Joes—the price tag can be a bit on the higher side, but you can use the seeds (raw or not) in or on almost any meal. And if you don't want to cook them, you can pick them up in drinks and food bars. Take a cue from Mexico and make a chia fresca each morning. I'm one of those people who find water a bit boring, so this really helps to convince me to drink enough of it.

If you're wondering how to use the seeds, it's pretty easy. Say you're making blueberry or chocolate or raisin muffins—yay!-take your recipe, and add about a tablespoon or two of ground or whole chia seeds. Whatever you make takes on a new healthy edge. You can sprinkle chia seeds into salads, stir-fry, baking bread, homemade pizza, soups, yogurt and oatmeal. You get my drift. They're good for you.

Do you have any good recipes?