Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Chia Chronicles

Kanna maari irke,” said my cousin as she stared intently at the little pieces of gel dotting her gola. And just like that, the oodles of sabja in our cool, summer drink came to be likened to eyes in our family.

Every time we stood at Rama’s handcart in the blazing summer heat, we’d point at the bottle of the seeds, an extract from the Tulsi plant, soaked in water and shout, “Kanna! Eyes! Eyes! More eyes!”

We loved the way they looked on our kaala khatta (black current) golas. We were fascinated by the way they floated on the top of the sherbet that followed.

They didn’t taste like much. But there was a certain pleasure in scooping them out with our fingers and hearing them squeak against teeth.

Then one day, Rama stopped coming and we started to lose interest in sabja. Over the next 20 years, the eyes would fade out of our summer drinks completely.

But about a year ago, I came across something reminded me so much of my favourite childhood treat. Looking exactly like little translucent eyes, they were staring up at me from an “Oatmeal and Chia Smoothie in a Jar with Blueberries and Mango”.  Breakfast with a side of nostalgia, anyone?

Chia… Is that what they call Sabja in the West? I wondered.

Not really. Chia, while similar in look and texture to the Indian Sabja, especially when soaked in water or milk, is not the same thing at all, I soon found out!

Sabja, like I mentioned earlier, is an Indian Basil (Tulsi) seed whereas Chia is part of the mint family and comes from a plant called Salvia Hispanica, native to South America. The latter is also packed with health properties that will keep you feeling healthy and happy for a long time once you introduce it into your diet.

That it is available on from a farmer in the Belgaum district, who cultivates it conscientiously, without the use of chemicals and fertilizers, is actually an added bonus. An organic farmer for the last 12 years, Anand came to know about chia during a training programme he attended in Mysore around 2 years ago, and has been cultivating it ever since.  

So let’s talk Chia and why you should be eating it every day.

If you’re one to curate your meals based on the health properties they provide, you will absolutely love this little seed.

1. Chia is among the healthiest foods on the planet! It provides you with essential nutrients such as protein, calcium and Omega-3. In the long run, this promotes bone health, helps built muscle and could even prevent breast and cervical cancer!

2. It promotes heart health with its ability to reverse inflammation, regulate cholesterol and lower blood pressure.  

3. It’s high in fiber which helps you stay fuller for longer, and also feeds your intestines with healthy bacteria. 

4. Can Chia help you lose weight? Well, this claim is a little debatable because no one ate their way to skinniness, now did they? But if a portion of Chia keeps you from stuffing your face with unhealthy snacks between tea time and dinner, then that’s half the battle won, right there, isn’t it? 

5. The seeds have the propensity to improve boost energy and metabolic health! 

6. Studies have shown that a diet that includes chia can also help reduce Type 2 diabetes.

7. It's high in antioxidants, one of the benefits of which is speeding up skin repair systems, keeping you looking (and feeling) younger for longer.  

The Basics: How to make Chia Gel so you can add it to everything!
Image Credit: The Family Dinner Book
Making Chia gel is possibly the simplest thing you can do and it takes just a minute of your time! Follow the simple steps in this recipe to make Chia gel. While this one calls for water, you can achieve the same results -- and some added flavour -- with regular milk, coconut milk, almond milk, even your favourite lemonade recipe! Just remember that while this recipe will give you a good portion of Chia that you can store for 2 weeks, versions with the milks will have a shorter shelf life. Recipe here

Banana Chia Smoothie
Image Credit: Slender Kitchen
A smoothie in a jar is the perfect accompaniment for those who are constantly on the go. Just make your favourite smoothie -- mine is banana, simple, nutritious, delicious -- and add some chia to it to give it a little extra texture. Recipe here

Coconut Chia Popsicles
Image Credit: SkinnyTaste
I challenge you to find a child who won't delightfully slurp this little beauty up on a hot summer's day! And with Bangalore's temperatures pushing to meet the 40 degree mark lately, this treat is just what the doctor ordered. Don't have raspberries at hand? No problem! Pair it with anything else in your fruit basket! I'd probably go with pomegranate (think of the colour it would add) or mango! Recipe here

Image Credit: Edible Perspective
Who says Chia only belongs to the sweet tooth? In this wonderfully nutritious recipe, you can see how wonderfully the seed, in its raw form, lends itself to a savoury bowl of salad. Recipe here

Tomato, Onion and Chia Chutney
Image Credit: Low Carb Lovelies
Chia in a chutney? Why in the world not! Here is a delicious chutney you can eat with your dosa at breakfast and bring out with crackers at a fancy dinner party. Recipe here

Chocolate Pistachio Chia Shake
Image Credit: Half Baked Harvest
Chocolate is no longer a guilty pleasure with this rich and creamy shake! Drink it in the morning at breakfast, slurp it up at tea time with a biscuit. Heck, you can even take a spoon and scoop out all that delicious goodness at midnight when those sinful cravings come around for a visit. Go ahead! We won't tell anyone. Recipe here  

Lemon Loaf with Chia 
Image Credit: Jessica's Dinner Party
Here's a wonderfully simple way to adding Chia to a Lemon Loaf. The recipe calls for a portion of Poppy Seeds too. But you can leave that out if you want to Chia to hero the dish. Recipe here

Afsha Khan Jayapal is a food journalist who focusses on good-for-you food that also tastes good, and local, sustainable food practices. She has worked with Bangalore Mirror, The Indian Express and Hindustan Times. Read more of her work on her personal blog here.

1 comment:

  1. Good sharing, for healthy purpose, Chia seeds offer the highest volume of Omega-3, as well as addition fiber (soluble and insoluble) along with vitamins or perhaps minerals you don’t usually get whenever you take sea food oil. Chia seeds giving you long lasting energy during the day moving in deep, restful sleep during the night time. May read this article about Chia seeds at: