Desert Foods for Healthy Living

Chia

Chia (Salvia hispanica) seeds are rich in a nutrient most of us are deficient in: Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for keeping down inflammation and therefore, pain in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been demonstrated to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. While the most easily digested and utilized sources of omega-3 oils are from fish, here in the desert, chia may be a more available ingredient. The seeds contain high amounts of protein, B vitamins, calcium, minerals, and are very low in carbohydrates. They contain high levels of dietary fiber making them an excellent snack for healthy blood sugar levels.

You can chew them whole as a snack, put them in baked goods, fruit salads, grind them into a spread, or add them to water with lime or lemon juice for a traditional “chia fresca” beverage. When chia seeds get wet they produce a little sack of mucilage, a jelly type substance which slowly releases sugar into the blood. This texture works well for weight loss as it gives a full feeling so you eat less.

Several species of native chia produce edible seeds but it is Salvia hispanica that is most commonly found in grocery stores. In the low elevation desert regions, the native Salvia columbariae can be harvested in late spring. Shake the drying seeds into a paper sack or bowl. Winnow and store in a glass jar once dry.

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