Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Adventures with Chia

I was recently visiting SF author Nina Munteanu who is currently teaching how to write science fiction in Toronto Canada’s UofT and George Brown. It took a while to track her down—she is a true Romanian—a wandering itinerant, like me, with a gypsy heart that yearns for fun and adventure.

The day was pleasant: sunny and warm. Nina took me to one of her favorite places in the city and we walked for hours along the Credit River—well, she walked and I scampered. Meow!

We walked right beside the river. It rushed and swirled over the rocks, sounding like a joyful crowd spilling from the theatre. I scurried over litter and dirt and glanced up at the overhanging trees. They reached their arms out as if to greet, leafy canopies trembling like green and gold glitter in the warm breeze. At my level, the ground was a carpet of dark textures, home for a bazillion little creatures that stirred and rustled there. Squirrels and birds foraged, ignoring me as though I was just a stuffed cat.
Credit River

The Credit River is a fish-bearing river that flows through mixed forest for about 1,500 km from Orangeville and empties into Lake Ontario at Port Credit, a charming village in sprawling Mississauga (part of the GTA). Chinook salmon and rainbow trout live in the river and its headwaters are home to brook trout and introduced brown trout. A long linear park system with natural paths and dominated by a woodland of Manitoba and Sugar Maple runs pretty much the full length of the river.

After scampering for hours, I rejoiced at the sound of: “Hey, let’s stop for something to eat and drink!” Nina had read my little mind—or had I sent her my thoughts?

Toulouse sips pure happiness
She surprised me by not driving to a funky but sophisticated café—our usual habit. Instead, she parked in front of a grocery store! I peered up at the Starbucks-like green sign: Whole Foods Market.

What the MEOW?...

Nina grinned—the kind of sideways grin that told me that this was still part of our adventure. I faithfully followed her inside. 

If you haven’t been to Whole Foods, this organic slow-food grocery store also provides an amazingly tantalizing food and juice bar with excellent coffee and a bright open area to eat and visit.  

Deciding on a refreshing drink instead of coffee, we both chose the cherry-lime chia juice made by Mamma Chia. Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the plant Salvia Hispanica, which is related to the mint. Native to South America, chia means “strength” in ancient Mayan.
Chia seeds

My first gulp was a burst of surprise. Composed of mostly hydrated chia seeds, the drink is like a refreshing explosion of bubble-tea—without the tea. You don’t so much drink it as swallow down the refreshing gel-enveloped seeds that crowd the drink with solid happiness. The refreshing cherry-lime tickled my palate with fresh joy and the chia “bubbles” played on my tongue.

Now here’s the best part: chia seeds are oh-so-good for you! In Authority Nutrition’s article, entitled “11 Proven Health Benefits of chia Seeds”, Kris Gunnars gives us the skinny of chia happiness:

  1. Chia seeds deliver a massive amount of nutrients with very few calories (the calories are mostly locked in with the fiber, which the body excretes—along with the calories). “Chia seeds are among the most nutritious foods on the planet, loaded with fiber, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and various micronutrients,” says Gunnars.
  2.  Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants, which protect the sensitive fats in the seeds from going rancid. Antioxidants, fight the production of free radicals, which can damage molecules in cells and contribute to aging and diseases like cancer.
  3. Almost all the carbs in them are fiber, which is a win-win situation. Fiber doesn’t raise blood sugar and because of the fiber, chia seeds can absorb up to 10-12 times their weight in water, becoming gel-like and expanding in your stomach. Fiber also feeds the friendly bacteria in the intestine. Chia seeds contain 40% fiber by weight.
  4. Chia seeds are high in quality protein (about 14%) along with essential amino acids, which makes the proteins more usable by us.
  5. Chia seeds can help you lose weight, mainly because of the high fiber and protein, both of which increase fullness and slow the absorption of food. Protein helps reduce appetite and food intake.
  6. Chia seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, although the form is not the most beneficial (ALA vs. EPA and DHA).
  7. Chia seeds may lower the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, potentially reducing LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (with an increase in HDL “good” cholesterol and reduction of inflammation).
  8. Chia seeds are high in many important bone nutrients, such as calcium, phorphorus, magnesium and protein. The calcium content, at 18% of the RDA in a single ounce, is higher than most dairy products.
  9. Chia seeds can reduce blood pressure and help balance blood sugar levels.
  10. Chia seeds can improve exercise performance. Apparently the Aztecs and Mayans used chia seeds to fuel performance.
  11. Chia seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet; they can be eaten raw, soaked in juice, added to porridges and puddings or added to baked goods. People sprinkle them on cereal, yogurt, salads, vegetables and rice dishes. They can thicken sauces and be used as egg substitutes in recipes.

Now, I like that! MEOW! I’m Toulouse the COOL Travel cat!
Toulouse introduces Mamma Chia to his friend Mouse

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