I was wondering when Trader Joe’s was going to start carrying chia seeds, and here they are! I’ve been buying chia seeds on and off for years (even longer than that if you count Chia Pets. Ch-ch-ch-chia!), but I didn’t fall in love with them until I read “Born to Run” and came up with a chia drink recipe inspired by the book. If you haven’t read “Born to Run,” it’s about the Tarahumara in Mexico, a running people who rely on chia as one of the foods that sustain them on their multi-hundred-mile runs. It’s a fascinating book with an engaging story as well as lots of insights into science, evolution, the business of running shoes, and the trend of barefoot running. I loved the book so much, I recommended it for our neighborhood book club, and it was a resounding success with lots of discussion and “this book changed my life” comments. It was at that book club dinner that I first made iskiate or chia fresca, chia energy drink.
The ingredients are simple: whole chia seeds, fresh lime juice, sugar, and water. My husband, who recommended the book to me, now asks for the chia drink before setting off on his 100-mile bike rides and triathlons. The first time he tried it, he came back and said he felt great and surprisingly didn’t have to keep refueling on food during his century-plus bicycle ride. Last month, he participated in something called the “Death Ride.” They call it that for good reason — 129 miles on a bike with 15,000 grueling feet of climbing. I became a little concerned hearing of an event with the word “death” in it, but I sent him off with a big bottle of his new secret weapon: chia drink. He came home exhausted but triumphant.
The health benefits? Chia is very high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, protein, calcium, fiber, and has more anti-oxidants than blueberries. One Tbsp of chia seed has 60 mg of potassium, 5 g of dietary fiber, 3 g protein, 8% of your calcium, 6% of your iron, and 10% of your magnesium. The list of vitamins and other nutrients is a pretty long one. This ancient seed can be used in drinks and smoothies, incorporated into breads or bars, sprinkled on cereal or oatmeal, used in puddings, and chia gel is often used as a substitute for eggs or butter in baked goods.
Chia seeds are like flax seeds, in that they create a gel when soaked in water. Water absorbs into the seed, making it soft and creating a gel consistency in the liquid after about 15 minutes. If you don’t like the gel consistency in a drink, just add less chia seed. If you like it like we do, add more. For the drink, you’re basically creating a limeade by adding sugar (or honey or agave) and fresh lime juice. Once I make it, I store it in the fridge for a day or two, using as desired. The chia will stay pretty well suspended in drink but if they settle, you can give it a shake before pouring to re-suspend the seeds. Make the recipe by feel and taste, or use my Chia Energy Drink Recipe.
So whether you’re inspired by the health benefits, sustained energy, or legends of Aztec warriors fueling up on chia, give the drink a try! You might get hooked on it like we did!