The Ancient Food of the Future

by William Anderson

In the last twenty five years there has been a resurrection in the definition of medicine, a resurrection that amplifies the significance of our eating habits and our lifestyle. Medicine is not only defined as a treatment for illness and disease, it is now understood to be for the prevention of illness and disease. That would mean, for example, laughter is a medicine because research found it to boost the immune system.

Exercise is good medicine for its cardiovascular stimulation, muscle toning and flexibility and expelling toxins and for giving us a feeling of well-being, all immune boosters. To express a positive attitude towards life is not only good medicine for us it is good medicine for those in contact with us. But the most important medicine, especially for the prevention of illness and disease, is our diet. Our bodies are equipped to combat the onset of illness and disease. It only needs our cooperation in supplying proper hydration and the needed nutrients to effectively maintain an environment of well-being.

Research has revealed that more than two thirds of all deaths in the United States are diet related. More than 50% of all deaths are caused from coronary occlusion, blockage of the blood flow to the heart and/or the brain. These are all preventable deaths according to the Journal of the American Medical Association which published in 1961that, "coronary occlusion can be eliminated by 97% through a vegetarian diet." Fourteen hundred American's are dying of cancer every day. In the prestigious Advances in Cancer Research, they concluded, "At present, we have overwhelming evidence... (that) none of the risk factors for cancer is... more significant than diet and nutrition."

Because the question of what might be the optimum diet can, at times, be emotionally charged for many people, having had a significant emotional commitment in believing they know what's best, I would like to suspend the issues of controversy regarding a specific diet and introduce you to a "super" food that all would agree on. It is the Salvia Hispanica L. seed, known as Chia Seed, valued by the Native Americans and aborigine peoples of central and South America. Once valued so much that it was used as currency, this unique little seed has exceptional nutritive and structural benefits.

Chia, familiar to most of us as a seed used for the novelty of the Chia Pet TM, clay animals with sprouted Chia seeds covering their bodies. Little is known, however, of the seeds tremendous nutritional value and medicinal properties. For centuries this tiny little seed was used as a staple food by the Indians of the south west, central and South America. Known as the running food, its use as a high energy endurance food has been recorded as far back as the ancient Aztecs. It was said the Aztec warriors subsisted on the Chia seed during their conquests. The Indians of the south west would eat as little as a teaspoon full when going on a 24hr. forced march. Indians running from the Colorado River to the California coast to trade turquoise for sea shells would bring only the Chia seed for their nourishment.

If you try mixing a spoonful of Chia in a glass of water and leaving it for approximately 20 minutes or so, when you return the glass will appear holding, not seeds or water, but an almost solid gelatin. This gel-forming reaction is due to the soluble fiber of the seeds. Researchers 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, as it stabilizes blood sugar, 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.

One of the exceptional qualities of the Chia seed is its hydrophilic properties, having the ability to absorb more than 14 times its weight 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, regulating 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.

Example: Fluid and electrolyte imbalances occur when large amounts of fluids are lost resulting from vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, or more commonly from sweating! The loss of extra cellular fluid occurs in these conditions. Inner-cellular fluid then shifts out of cells to compensate, causing abnormal distribution of electrolytes across cell membranes resulting in cellular malfunction.

So, retaining and efficiently utilizing body fluids maintains the integrity of extra cellular fluids, protecting inner-cellular fluid balance. The results of which ensure normal electrolyte dispersion across cell membranes (electrolyte balance), maintaining fluid balances, resulting in normal cellular function.

Chia seeds are the definitive hydrophilic colloid for the 21 century diet. Hydrophilic colloids (a watery, gelatinous, glue-like substance) form the underlying elements of all living cells. The Chia seeds posses the properties of readily taking up and giving off the substances essential to cell life. The precipitation of the hydrophilic colloids causes cell death. The foods we eat, in the raw state, consist largely of hydrophilic colloids.

Cooking foods precipitates their colloidal integrity. This change in the colloidal state alters the hydration capacity of our foods so as to interfere with their ability to absorb digestive juices. If we were to eat an all raw diet we would not need to introduce the addition of any hydrophilic colloid to our diet. Uncooked foods contain sufficient hydrophilic colloid to keep gastric mucosa in the proper condition. But even with raw foods, they must first be partially broken down by the digestive juices, beginning in the mouth and continuing through the upper tract, to allow the gelatinous reaction to take place.

Because of this upper tract digestive process, those who suffer from slow digestion, gas formation, relaxed cardia and heartburn in which the burning is due to organic acids instead of an excess of the normal hydrochloric acid, which frequently accompanies chronic inflammation diseases affecting such organs as the heart, lungs, gall bladder and appendix, are usually restricted from eating raw foods. A hydrophilic colloid incorporated with these foods may be used either in connection with the patient's regular food or with whatever diet the physician feels is best suited for his patient. The patient with nervous indigestion who complains of heartburn and/or vomiting four to five hours after eating is often helped. There is a lessening of emptying time of the stomach and an improvement in gastric tone. A strict dietary regimen is not as necessary when the hydrophilic colloid is used.

Chia seeds may be used in conjunction with almost any diet your doctor or nutritionist feels is necessary for your condition. The Chia hydrophilic colloidal properties aid the digestion of any foods contributing to the patients suffering as a result of a sour stomach. Even if you have sensitivity to certain foods, they may be tolerated with slight discomfort or none at all if a hydrophilic colloid is made a part of your diet. The positive effects on digestion in the upper portion of the gastrointestinal tract often lead to improvement in those who suffer from these digestive problems. There are several hydrophilic foods available that offer these natural benefits.

Cactus juice, beet juice, agar, the edible sea weeds, and many proprietary preparations, which include the silica gels and mucilaginous substances of vegetable origin, are among colloids that prove effective. Each one of the above mentioned substances have one or more drawbacks. They are either too expensive, they may produce toxic side effects, bad tasting, not readily available, insufficient hydration capability, or they are indigestible.

Chia seed, a muscle and tissue builder and an energizer of endurance with extensive hydration properties, possesses none of the above disadvantages, and because of its physiochemical properties, supports effective treatment in immediate problems of digestion. Exactly why this should be true may be puzzling at first. However, if we consider the effect of unusual irritation upon the nerves of the gastrointestinal canal, it is reasonable to think that a less violent and more balanced digestion might quiet the activity of the otherwise hyperactive gut. Inasmuch as the same foods which formerly produced irritation, may frequently be continued without harm when hydrophilic colloids are used. The relief to nerve irritation seems to offer a logical explanation.

The change, in the lower gastrointestinal tract, is due to the effect of the hydrophilic colloid and to a more complete digestion taking place along the entire tract due to physiochemical alterations. Both factors are important, as there is undoubtedly a better assimilation of food that supports enhanced nutritional absorption while significantly extending necessary hydration as well as encouraging proper elimination.

As a source of protein (23%), Chia seeds, after ingestion, are 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 of 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 of the Chia seed is its high oil content, up to (35+%), and the richest vegetable source for the essential omega-3 fatty acid. It has approximately three to ten times the oil concentrations of most grains and one & 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 seed is the richest natural source of alpha-linolenic acid- omega-3 (63%).

Unsaturated fatty acids are important for respiration of vital organs and make it easier for oxygen to be transported by the blood stream to all cells, tissues, and organs. They also help maintain resilience and lubrication of all cells and combine with protein and cholesterol to form living membranes that hold the body cells together.

Unsaturated fatty acids are essential for normal glandular activity, especially of the adrenal glands and the thyroid gland. They nourish the skin cells and are essential for healthy mucus membranes and nerves. The unsaturated fatty acids function in the body by cooperating with vitamin D in making calcium available to the tissues, assisting in the assimilation of phosphorus, and stimulating the conversion of carotene into vitamin A. Fatty acids are related to normal functioning of the reproductive system.

The Chia seed is also a rich source of calcium as it contains the important mineral boron, which acts as a catalyst for the absorption and utilization of calcium by the body. Chia contains 600 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams. By comparison, milk has 120 milligrams per 100g. Chia seeds contain 5 times that of milk. Additionally, the concentration of protein in milk and dairy products in general, decreases calcium absorption. Studies identified that countries with the highest intake of dairy foods also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. Chia seeds are a superior source of bio-available calcium which is supported by the mineral magnesium, the counter-part necessary for the balancing benefits we expect from calcium. Chia also contains the mineral, boron, deficient in most American diets, which acts as a catalyst for calcium absorption and utilization in the body.

Chia seed, as an ingredient, is a dieter's dream food. There are limitless ways to incorporate the seeds into your diet. Chia is best prepared with purified water before using in recipes. This is not only to facilitate their broader use in culinary applications, nature provides inhibitors in seeds to retain their propagating properties. This allows for the whole-seeds to survive digestion in animals, retaining their nutritional integrity so when they are eliminated the seeds will be able to sprout and grow wherever they are dropped. Soaking the seeds between 12 and 24 hours releases these digestive inhibitors making all the nutritional richness bio-available for up-take and absorption by the body.

The water to seed ratio recommended is a 9:1 water to seed by weight (mixing formula is 1/3 cup seed to 2 cups water). The Chia seeds will absorb 9 times its weight in water in less than 10 minutes and it is very simple to prepare.

Food Extender/Calorie Displacer: Using the same 9:1 water to seed ratio, one pound of seed will make 10 pounds of Chia gel. This is the most unique structural quality of the Chia seed. The seed's hydrophilic (water absorbing) saturated cells hold the water, so when it is mixed with foods, it displaces calories from sugars and unwanted fats without compromise to sensory appeal. In fact, product review found that because fats drive flavor to the taste-buds and because of the high oil content of Chia seed, they can actually enhance the sensory appeal rather than dilute it in most applications. Chia gel also works as a fat replacement for many recipes.

Making Chia Gel (9 to 1 ratio by weight);
The measured formula is to mix 1/3 cup Chia seed into 2 cups water. For faster absorption, use warm to hot water. (This is a measured formula which is the same ratio as the 9:1 by weight measurement). Slowly pour seed into water while briskly mixing with a wire whisk. This process will avoid any clumping of the seed. Wait a couple of minutes, whisk again and let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk again before using or storing in refrigerator (Gel will keep up to 2 weeks when refrigerated). You can add this mix to baked goods (fat replacement), breads, pizza dough, muffins, focaccia, pancakes, waffles, etc. Add to polenta, gravies, puddings, drinks, soups, salsa, salad dressings, mayonnaise, nut butters, jams, jellies, hot or cold cereals, yogurts, mustard, ketchup, tartar sauce, BBQ sauce, etc.

Add the Chia gel, 50%-75% to equal parts (100%) by weight, to any of the above "non-bake" mentioned foods, mix well and taste. You will notice a very smooth texture with the integrity of the flavor intact. In addition to adding up to 50%, 75% to 100% more weight to the foods used (food extender), you have displaced calories and fat by incorporating an ingredient that is 90% water. Use as a fat replacement, for energy and endurance, or for added great taste, by substituting the oil in your breads with Chia gel. In addition to be used as a fat replacement ingredient, Chia also works as a dough conditioner when making breads and other bread-like formulas.

Top your favorite bread dough prior to proofing and baking with Chia gel for topping on breads, muffins, cookies, pie crust, etc., for added shelf life and a wellness supporting nutritional food. If you are dieting, you may use Chia gel, as much as equal parts by weight reducing fat calories and/or sugar by as much as 40 to 50% while doubling the volume. Whip equal parts by weight of the Chia gel into butter, cream cheese, high-fat dips and sauces, nut butters etc, for reducing unwanted empty calories. Why spend money to diet when you can save money!

There is a treasure-trove of benefits yet to be discovered from Chia’s unique ovule of perfection. Chia seed, having a qualitatively unique structural richness along with a profound nutritive profile is one of man's most useful and beneficial foods and is destined to be the "Ancient Food of the Future."

The information contained within the article is meant to be used to educate the reader and is in no way intended to be providing individual medical advice. Medical advice must be obtained from a qualified health practitioner.

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