I pity the fool ...

To chia or not to chia …

I have a love/hate relationship with chia.  It goes back many many years to my first encounter with chia in grade school.  You children of the 80’s … you have had this encounter too.


However mine was unique.  Chia, being so similar to Gia presented a very special opportunity for schoolyard taunters to yell G-G-G-Gia after me.  This continued well into my teen years and sadly I still have people giggle and recite G-G-G-Gia when they hear my first name.

I hold a grudge.  I dislike Chia Pets and that cheerful jingle that they sing.

But I digress.

My next encounter with chia was a few years back when the book Born to Run became wildly popular.  In Born to Run, Christopher McDougall talks about superathletes, The Tarahumara.  They are a Mexican tribe living in the remote Copper Canyons area who can run great distances in extreme conditions without fatigue or injury.

The secret to their athletic superpowers?  Chia seeds.  The Tarahumara consume an energy drink called “Chia Fresca” which is basically chia seeds, water and lemon or lime.  Yes the same seeds as the ones that grow Chia Pets … I dont know what to say.  Its weird, I agree.  But stick with me.

Honestly as a runner and general nutrition buff my curiosity was peaked … Could chia really be the true Runner’s Superfood?  Are small greet sprouts going to grow out of my Brooks??  Does this mean that I will forgive whomever wrote that darn jingle … Lets examine:

What is a chia seed?


According to Dr Andrew Weil:

Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family that grows abundantly in southern Mexico.  Chia is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, even more so than flax seeds. Unlike flax, they do not have to be ground to make their nutrients available to the body.  Chia is gluten-free.

    • They contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids; in fact higher levels than flax seeds provide
    • The seeds contain 20% protein, 34% oil, 25% dietary fibre and significant levels of antioxidants
    • The oil from the seeds contains approximately 64% of omega-3 fatty acid
    • 2 tablespoons (25g) provide 7g of dietary fibre including calcium, magnesium, zinc and copper

How is this relevant to runners?

When chia is mixed with water, a gel-like substance forms.

Ultra Running insights says that is is this gel that is key to chia’s performance.

    • The gel creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down. As a consequence, this process slows the conversion of carbs into sugar.  That’s the reason why ultra athletes that regularly consume chia state that they don’t suffer from sugar crashes resulting in dizziness and decreasing performance. The slowing conversion creates endurance.
    • The seeds help to retain moisture and regulate the body’s absorption of nutrients while maintaining the electrolyte balance which is an important issue in races
    • The nutrient composition and easily digestible nature of the chia seed makes it a muscle and tissue builder/regenerator and an energizer proven to improve performance

What does chia taste like?

Chia has a nutlike flavor, its very mild really.  They can be sprinkled on salads or yogurt.  Honestly I find that they sometimes stick in my teeth if I eat them plain.  They are better incorporated with some kind of liquid … My favorite way to use chia is in a Chocolate Chia Pudding

Chocolate Chia Pudding 

2 Tbs Chia Seeds (I use Nutiva chia seeds from GNC)

1 cup almond milk/rice milk/coconut milk

1 tsp cocoa powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 packet stevia

Mix all ingredients together ensuring that you dont have lumps.  Refigerate in an airtight container for 30 minutes.

What forms is a tapioca-like pudding that is pretty delicious and guilt free.

Some other great looking chia recipes are:

Chocolate Chia Energy Bars

Pumpkin Pie Chia Parfait (there are a ton of other yum chia recipes on Angela’s site)

Banana, Oat and chia seed muffins

What is my verdict??

I like them, in small amounts.  I find that anything more than a few teaspoons of chia makes my stomach feel funny.  I do however feel a lift in energy from them and as for the Tarahumara Runner inside me … she has yet to come out but I expect that she will make her appearance any day now.  Or maybe I will just turn into this:

I pity the fool …

I’ll keep you posted 🙂

What about all of you?  Do you love them?  Tell me all your chia secrets … and please, please dont sing that jingle the next time you see me 🙂

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9 thoughts on “To chia or not to chia …

  1. I make a chia pudding with a recipe from Organic Avenue all the time- but it didn’t include the cocoa powder- definitely going to try this variation next time!!!

  2. When making “Chia Fresca”, mix the seeds in warm water to avoid clumping. Then let it sit for 30 min in a glass or pitcher (in the fridge if you like it cold) so the seeds don’t expand in your stomach. It makes my tummy hurt if I drink it right away without letting it sit. After you let it sit, mix it really hard and the seeds will be evenly dispersed:

    I use a lot more seeds than you. lol.

  3. I put a tbsp in my overnight oats. I love that you don’t have to grind them!

    I have put them in a smoothie before, but I got them in my teeth too. I guess it needed to sit longer, maybe? I don’t have that issue with the oats, tho.
    I will be trying the pudding thing. Great idea!

  4. I love me some chia seeds! I prefer them plain in my chobani yogurt with a little bit of honey. I like the crunchy taste of them. I have never had them in gel form. I have texture issues so I have been hesitant to try it that way but the chocolate pudding is a little less intimidating! I will check it out. 🙂
    Chels R. recently posted..Sweat it Out.My Profile

  5. This is a great post! I had never heard of chia fresca or your readers comments about adding them to oats. I usally let them soak in chocolate milk as an afternoon snack!
    p.s. I shared your links on twitter and fb. I’ve had so many people ask me about chia after I posted a little blurb about it a few weeks ago…
    Martha @ running in mommyland recently posted..A Faster Way to Publish PostsMy Profile

  6. I love to chia! I chia in my morning oats, and over cut fruit, and sometimes just plain. The expansion in my tummy doesn’t bother me- I think it just makes me feel full. I even made Angela’s blueberry chia bars this morning! Her recipes rock!

  7. I have to tell you I love your name… we actually have a 7 yr old german shephard named “Ghia” — pronounced the same as yours. We couldn’t wait until we had a baby girl to name her that — but so wish we did now that we’re married and hoping for children one day. I absolutely love your name!!

    I just recently started making/eating Chia pudding. It’s almost tapioca-like and so tasty.

  8. I haven’t met a chia recipe I didn’t like. I make Black Bean Brownie Bites, and the thickener/binder in them is chia! Love the Chocolate Chia Pudding. Oh, and I LOVE the name Gia…my granddaughter’s name is Giovanna, and Gia is her nickname. Thanks for the recipe to add to my chia collection!

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