Mexican Superfoods: Amaranth and Chia seeds

Amaranth


Amaranth has some interesting history. Amaranth is an ancient grain used by the Pre Columbian and in Mesoamerica.  Mesoamerican cultures believed amaranth to be right up there with corn when it comes to sacred foods so naturally, it was used in ritual ceremony.  Of course the Catholics frowned on this, as they did on all Mesoamerican rituals and proceeded to burn the grain all over the continent       ( they burnt the libraries too).  For many years amaranth all but vanished as did much of this amazing culture.  Fortunately, some remote villages in Peru and Mexico continued to cultivate amaranth, or it would be extinct.

Amaranth is a tall plant with very broad leaves. Each plant produces thousands of seeds. The Aztecs used it to make a beer, the leaves were boiled or fried, and used in foods or healing teas and potions , good for everything from respiratory ailments to STD.  The seeds were (and still are) popped like popcorn, and used in the still popular sweet called alegria.

Amaranth flour is a non gluten flour that can be used to  high protein muffins, bars, and cookies. It requires the addition of other flours in order to use for making breads. It is high in iron, protein, and has three times the calcium of milk.

We use in it in Organic Select kitchen to increase the protein content of the breads, and in a high protein breakfast drink with oats, nuts, soy milk and a bit of vanilla… sometimes we throw in some fruit and zap it in a blender.

Here is the low down on what this ancient little seed has in it. I guess the Mayans had the info too


Food Value

Minerals and Vitamins

Moisture – 85.7% Calcium – 397mg
Protein – 4.0% Phosphorus – 83 mg
Fat – 0.5% Iron – 25.5 mg
Minerals – 2.7% Vitamin C – 99 mg
Fiber – 1.0% Small amount of Vitamin B Complex
Carbohydrates – 6.1%

Calorific Value – 45

* Values per 100gm’s edible portion.

** International unit.


Chia Seeds


For centuries the tiny little seed known as Chia was used as a staple food by the Indians of the south west and Mexico. Known as the running food, its use as a high energy endurance food has been recorded as far back as 3,500 years. It was said the Aztec warriors subsisted on the Chia seed during the conquests. The Indians of the south west would eat as little as a teaspoon full when going on a 24hr. march. Indians running form the Colorado River to the California coast to trade turquoise for seashells would only bring the Chia seed for food.  There is reference of the use of Chia seed in the Florentine Codex.



If you try mixing a spoonful of Chia in a glass of water and leaving it for approximately 30 minutes or so, when you return the glass will appear to contain not seeds or water, but an almost solid gelatin. This gel-forming reaction is due to the soluble fiber in the Chia. Research believe this same gel-forming phenomenon takes place in the stomach when food containing these gummy fibers, known as mucilage, are eaten. The gel that is formed in the stomach creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar.

In addition to the obvious benefits for diabetics, this slowing in the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar offers the ability for creating endurance. Carbohydrates are the fuel for energy in our bodies. Prolonging their conversion into sugar stabilizes metabolic changes, diminishing the surges of highs and lows creating a longer duration in their fueling effects, and it has a mild taste.

One of the exceptional qualities of the Chia seed is its hydrophilic properties, having the ability to absorb more than 12 times its weigh in water. Its ability to hold on to water offers the ability to prolong hydration. Fluids and electrolytes provide the environment that supports the life of all the body’s cells. Their concentration and composition are regulated to remain as constant as possible. With Chia seeds, you retain moisture; regulate, more efficiently, the body’s absorption of nutrients and body fluids. Because there is a greater efficiency in the utilization of body fluids, the electrolyte balance is maintained.

As a source of protein, the Chia, after ingestion, is digested and absorbed very easily.  This results in rapid transport to the tissue and utilization by the cells.  This efficient assimilation makes the Chia very effective when rapid development of tissue takes place, primarily during growth periods if children and adolescents.  Also for the growth and regeneration of tissue during pregnancy and lactation, and this would also include regeneration of muscle tissue for conditioning, athletes, weight lifters, etc.



Another unique quality if the Chia seed is its high oil content and the richest vegetables source for the essential omega-3 fatty acid.  It has approximately three to ten times the oil concentrations of most grains and one and a half to two times the protein concentrations of other grains.   These oils, unsaturated fatty acids, are the essential oils your body needs to help emulsify and absorb the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, & K.  Chia seeds are rich in the unsaturated fatty acid, linoleic, which the body cannot manufacture.  When there are rich amounts of linoleic acid sufficiently supplied to the body trough diet, linoleic and arachidonic acids can be synthesized   from linoleic acid.

Chia seed imparts power and energy to the user. I’ve used it for years.  My first Mexican husband turned me on to it, he would simply add it to our lemon water and it would puff up.  Not all chia seeds are the same, but generally the mild taste makes it easy to put in sauces, smoothies, breads, puddings, and whatever you want.  They won’t really change the taste, but will add to the nutrition.  Chia seed is great for those who want to increase their energy and wish to increase their stength and muscle tone.  Really a wonder food for those who work out.  We use in the mornings just before we go to the gym for the hydration and energy without the fuss.

You can find both superfoods at www.organic-select.com


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