Saturday, December 15, 2012

Chia Fresca: Iskiate

I finally purchased some chia seeds from Whole Foods a couple weeks ago.  I've found a few articles describing how nutritious they are, and ever since reading Born to Run, I've been dying to try "iskiate," a chia fresca. 




Let's review how nutritious these little seeds are.

1 tablespoon of chia seeds (1 serving size, the amount I used to make my drink) has 

  • 3 g protein
  • 5 g fiber
  • 0 mg sodium
  • 0 mg cholesterol 
  • 2282 mg omega-3 fatty acids
  • 752 mg omega-6 fatty acids
  • Only 60 calories
The benefits of high fiber and protein and low sodium and cholesterol are well-documented.  What about the omega-3 and -6 fatty acids?

In 2004, the FDA announced qualified health claims for omega-3 fatty acids.  This means that companies can write the following statement on their packaging:
"Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One serving of [Name of the food] provides [ ] gram of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. [See nutrition information for total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol content.]"
In addition, the FDA recommends that consumers not exceed more than a total of 3 grams per day of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, with no more than 2 grams per day from a dietary supplement.  A serving of approximately 1 g per day of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids is recommended to protect the heart, and higher doses may reduce elevated triglyceride levels, morning stiffness, and blood pressure.  

Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, are more controversial.  Some studies suggest that high intake of omega-6 fatty acids may increase risk of certain diseases, while other studies show a protective effect on the heart (reduced risk of coronary heart disease).  Perhaps more important is the ratio of omega-6-to-omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.  The typical Western diet has a ratio of 15:1, whereas a ratio of 4:1 was associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality, and the optimal ratio may vary with the disease under consideration.   

If we review our nutrition facts, 1 tablespoon of chia seeds has approximately 2.3 g of omega-3 fatty acids, which is in the range of (potentially) providing beneficial health effects (awesome!).  Our ratio of omega-6-to-3 fatty acids is less than 1 (~0.3).  Combined with the high fiber, no sodium or cholesterol, and some protein, these little seeds are quite a superfood.  

As described in Born to Run (p. 44), to make iskiate all you do is dissolve the chia seeds in water with a squirt of lime juice and sugar to taste.  The longer you let the little seeds set, the more gel-like they become, similar to tapioca.  The seeds really don't have any taste.  I thought the iskiate tasted great.  The texture reminded me of drinking Bubble Tea (oh Bubble Island in Ann Arbor, I miss you!) with really tiny bubbles.  

Today in the grocery store, we saw a bottled version of a chia drink using coconut milk and fruit juices selling for $4 for a single serving.  Woo, pricey.  Now, I can make my own for less than I could buy in the store!  While I will admit that the seeds themselves are pretty pricey, one bag has 34 servings, so it'll last a while.  I'm excited to explore other ways to use these seeds, like baking.  I've already used them once to make a cocoa-almond quinoa breakfast bake bar, and it turned out alright.  

Has anyone else tried chia seeds or heard of other healthy, satisfying recipes using them?            

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