Before the social climbing advent of chia seeds as one in a series of trendy superfoods sweeping the U.S., what the noun “chia” used to conjure were …. Chia Pets! Remember those? Chia pets were all the rage in the early 1980s. I am pretty sure we bought and grew and housed a lamb-shaped Chia Pet in the very first suburban American house we came to call home after leaving Iran. I can’t swear on it, but I think Chia Pets might even have existed in Iran. (Total Aside: Two truly kitsch popular-craze Western products that did exist in the 1970s Iran of my childhood were: the cuckoo clock and Felix the cat clock. One of my earliest memories is that cute and crazy little bird springing purposefully (and somewhat manically, ha ha) out of her quirky wooden house hung on the wall of our living room and going: cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo! As for the Felix the Cat clock — with his big mischievous eyes moving one way, the tail swaying another, hypnotic to behold — I am pretty sure that practically all of my childhood friends, including most probably myself, had one in their bedrooms.)
WHERE WAS I? Ah yes, chia seeds! Tokhm ‘e sharbat or tokhm ‘e raihan in Farsi. Salvia Hispanica in Latin. A species of flowering plant in the mint family popular with the Aztec and Mayan cultures and also popular with Iranians who use it to make delicious thirst-quenching sharbats (remember this Drinking in Iran post?) or just soak it in water and drink it up like medicine for its its thousand and one health and nutritional benefits.
The many benefits of chia seeds (tokhm ‘e sharbat):
The monicker of super food is not an exaggeration for our cute little seeds — indeed they are super full of antioxidants and a magnificent source of Omega 3. (Recently dubbed a “miracle food” as well since they suppress the appetite and can help one lose weight.)
Maman says that back in the day (“garneh pish!“), postpartum women were taken to hamoom (public baths) in a ceremony and pampered and served chia seed sharbat and she said now it makes sense why because chia seeds are a wonderful source of calcium!
NOTE: Chia seeds have glutten so for those following a glutten free diet, sadly, you need avoid these miracle seeds.
Aside from getting Dr. Google’s input or my esteemed mother’s anecdotal information, I thought I’d also reach out to Nirvana (a dear friend who is as wonderful as her name may lead you think she might be, who is a superb nutrition & wellness consultant and the founder of Nourished Living) to get Nirvana’s sage and expert 2 cents as well.
Nirvana joon is a fan of chia seeds! She reports that chia seeds are “high in fiber (helpful for digestion, and keeps one satiated for longer) and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial to the body’s fight against inflammation. Nirvana further reports that “chia seeds are a great (and easy) way to add more antioxidants to your diet and are also a surprisingly good source of minerals such as calcium and magnesium.”
That’s it then, if chia seeds (tokhm ‘e sharbat) get the seal of approval from Aztecs, Mayans, trendy and healthy hipsters in the U.S., my mom, Nirvana joon and ancient Persians, would you need any further proof to do everything you can to zestfully add them to your diet? Thought not!
In the New York area, chia seeds are also widely available in various health food stores, but I actually buy mine online. Once again, however, I turned to Nirvana for her input and Nirvana joon reports that: “Organic is always best, raw organic is even better. I don’t really stick to a specific brand to be honest – I usually buy a big bag which lasts in the fridge for quite a few months before I need to restock. Right now I have some International Harvest raw and organic seeds in my kitchen (I think from Whole Foods).”
So there you have it. And if you don’t have it, go and get it!
How to add chia seeds to your diet:
How best to consume chia seeds? In the summer and as an occasional treat, sharbat will hit the spot, and I shall turn you over to Turmeric & Saffron, one of my all time favorite Persian food bloggers, for a wonderful chia seeds sharbat (sharbat ‘e tokhme sharbati) recipe.
If you are not in the mood for either sugar or recreation, make a plain herbal drink by soaking chia seeds in some water till they turn gelatinous (for at least 15 minutes or overnight if you wish) and drink it up. To add some joie de vivre to the concoction, you may want to add a bit of rosewater to it.
Nirvana joon suggests using chia seeds in smoothies as well as sprinkled over steel-cut oatmeals and notes that “there are some really creative uses for those little seeds out there – everything from using them to make puddings, in salads, to even as a skin exfoliator!”
Personally, my favorite method of adding chia seeds to my daily diet is adding them to my breakfast smoothie. I love green smoothies and I love my recent Persianized iteration of it that among other things counts chia seeds as a key ingredient.
Go ahead and get some chia seeds and start soaking them and I’ll be back with the recipe of my delicious and nutritious Persianized green smoothie recipe (now with chia seeds!) before you know it.
Meanwhile, I plan to hypnotize you with some psychedelic chia seeds dancing (bonus: to lovely Persian music) below! 😉
xoxo till very soon!
[This post scheduled to publish while I’m on my Epic Trip to Iran, part 2.]