By Archana Ram, DETAILS
Raise your hand if you knew that the eighties' most annoying jingle-"Chi, chi, chi, chia"-was a prescient ode to this decade's new superfood. Freed from its clay-pet form, chia is showing up in seemingly everything these days, from muffins at Le Pain Quotidien to energy bars at cutting-edge gyms and juice shops.
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Whole Foods carries half a dozen chia brands, aware that health-conscious foodies are sprinkling it on their morning yogurt or afternoon salad or adding it into Mexican dishes like enchiladas and drinks like chia fresca (the plant, a member of the mint family, is native to Mexico).
The bandwagon is filling up fast, and for good reason: Chia is packed with fiber, protein, antioxidants, and more omega-3s-the essential fatty acids linked to lean muscle mass, clear skin, and heart health-than any other plant in the world. And thanks to its slow carbohydrate-to-blood-sugar conversion rate, chia delivers sustained energy.
"We like to call it one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth," says Nick Morris, a cofounder of Health Warrior, which sells chia seeds and bars. Now the growing wave of "chia evangelists" are working the superfood into dishes at celeb-studded vegan hot spots like Caravan of Dreams in Manhattan's East Village and Elderberries in L.A.
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Topping breakfast staples with chia gives you an extra boost of heart-healthy omega-3s.
Chia Seed Pudding(from Organic Avenue in new york city)
Yields: 1 serving
2 tbsp chia seeds
½ cup almond milk
½ tsp palm sugar
1 inch vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 pinch Himalayan salt
Put all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until well mixed. Let sit for 15 minutes, until the mixture has set to a tapioca-like consistency.
An ideal pre-workout fuel, the chia fresca offers plenty of slow-burn energy.
Chia Fresca (the type of drink found in Christopher McDougall's best-selling Born to Run)
Yields: 1 serving
1 tbsp chia seeds
8 oz water
A few tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
Honey to taste (optional)
Stir the chia seeds into the water; let them sit for about 5 minutes. The longer they sit, the more gel-like the mixture becomes. Add citrus juice and sweetener to taste.
Pressing chia into oil drains it of protein and fiber but retains its omega-3s and antioxidants. Although it'll degrade at high temperatures (read: not good for cooking), chia oil, which has a milder taste than olive oil, adds a healthy kick to salad dressings and cold summer soups.
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Photo: Courtesy of Amazon