Archive for September, 2009

Chia: A More Accesible Source of Omega 3′s Than Flax Seeds!

Have you heard of Chia? No, I am not talking about the “chia pets” that we had as children (although these were grown from the Chia seed.) I am talking about the Chia seed, which is a seed-like herb that I recommend everyone get to know! When I first was given a bag of Chia by a colleague, it sat on my shelf forever. The last thing I wanted was yet another “superfood” to add to my diet. Now that I have learned more about Chia, though, it has become one of my favorite staples, particularly for my clients who are athletes or busy mothers!

Chia is an ancient plant belonging to the mint family that was cultivated since Aztec times and is grown in the fertile soil of the Amazon basin in Peru. Chia is small and round, has a similar texture to poppy seeds, and is very mild and slightly nutty in flavor.

Here is the real dish, though, on Chia. Not only is Chia high in Omega 3’s like flax seed but it does not have to be ground like flax seed in order to access its nutrition. Additionally, Chia contains 20% high-quality protein, is packed with antioxidants, is high in magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron and is high in fiber, which aids in digestion. Because of its high potassium and magnesium content,chia is an ideal food for replacing lost antioxidants after a strenuous, sweaty workout.

Chia is gaining in popularity and can now be found in most local health food shops. Chia is easy to add on top of salads, can be sprinkled on top of yogurt or cereals and can be used ground as a substitute for flour when baking. Below is one of my favorite recipes to have for breakfast, or for a post workout pick me up!

Chia Power Pudding
1-2 cups Chia seeds
1-2 cups vanilla almond milk (or coconut milk)
1/4 cup shredded coconut
Option: Maca or hemp seeds

Mix the Chia seeds and most of shredded coconut in a bowl. Pour the almond milk over the mixture and let it sit and absorb the milk. It will turn into a delicious pudding! Top with just a touch of the shredded coconut and savor! This is a delicious snack or post workout mixture!

Sprouts: Not Just Hippie Food!

Before you snub your nose at sprouts, they are not just bland hippie food of years past! Sprouts have been around for thousands of years and were originally used by Ancient Chinese physicians who prescribed them to cure many disorders over 5,000 years ago. In the 1700’s, it is recorded that Captain James Cook even had his sailors eat them to prevent scurvy!

Sprouts are a live, nutrient-packed “superfood”! They are literally baby plants that sprout from seeds, and contain all the nutrients they need to grow to maturity. In contrast to other vegetables that are cut out of the ground and shipped to you or your local grocery store, sprouts are still living and are bursting with life. As a result, they are much more nutrient rich and full of live enzymes!

What type of sprouts can I find?

Sp routs can come from alfalfa, sunflower, broccoli, peas, adzuki, soy beans, lentils, quinoa, mung bean, radishes, barley, clover, wheatberriesand many other seeds but sunflower, alfalfa and broccoli are probably the most common! The brand Sproutman has many varieties that are stocked on the shelves but some stores also sell locally produced ones as well. My current favorite is a crunchy mixture of lentils, peas and adzuki that I add to my salads to provide a nut-like crunch and added nutrition.

How do I use them?

Sprouts can be used on salads, on sandwiches, in soups, in breads or even in juices! I put sprouts on all of my salads and sandwiches and always try to add them to my juices. It is also very easy to buy “sprouted grain” breads, tortillas and even pastas. When you see the label “sprouted grains” on the packaging, it literally means that those grains were soaked and then sprouted before being ground up to make the flour. Ezekiel is one of my favorite brands of breads, bagels, tortillas and pastas but there are many others!

Where to I buy sprouts?

Really anywhere! You can buy sprouts at your local health food store and probably the more common varieties at the regular grocery store. My favorite brand, aside from the ones directly from a local farmer, are from Sproutman. If you live in New York City, though, it is worth the trip down to the Union Square F armer’s market on a Wednesday or Saturday to buy them fromWindfall Farms, who carries an incredible variety of sprouts and other specialty micro-greens used by some of the finest restaurants in the city! I have to admit that with all the variety and high-quality of sprouts at hand here in New York, that I buy mine but if you are inclined to grown them and have a green thumb it is very easy to do!!!

How do I grow them?
Sprouts are very easy to grow at home, and require very little “equipment!” All you need are some good-quality seeds (I recommend the Soroutman seeds) and a seed bag or even a colander and you are all set. If you are eating or juicing a lot of sprouts and need to make large quantities, there is an impressive sprouting machine by Tribest. My suggestion is that,20if you are just starting out, that you go with the sprouting bags and seeds. Whether it is in the sprouter or the bags, Kids LOVE to watch these grow and it is like one big scientific experiment in your home so I encourage you to get your kids involved!

So, how to get started… your first step would be to purchase some high-quality seeds and decide whether you are going to go the collander, sprout bag or sprouter route. Sproutman carries very high quality seeds but you can also easily find other brands. Then, soak 1 cup of seeds for 6-8 hours in pure water and, after you rinse them, either place them in the sprouting bag and hang the bag over a sink or bowl and let them drain or place them in a collander over a bowl. Rinse the seeds either in the bag or collander for at least 30 seconds twice a day. When they have sprouted take them out and store them in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

When I travel, I always carry my sprouts with me to add to salads. Even a bland fast food salad can be made into a nutritious meal by sprinkling a few on top!

Avocado Nori Rolls
4 nori seaweed sheets
2 avocados
1 carrot (shaved)
Diced roma tomato
1/4 cucumber (thinly shaved)
Sunflower, broccoli, or alfalfa sprouts (or your other favorite sprouts!)
Nama Shoyu or Bragg’s L iquid Amino Acids (for dipping)

Take a nori sheet and place sliced avocado down the middle. Place a few thin slices of cucumber, the shaved carrot, the diced tomato on top and then your favorite sprouts on top and roll up tightly. I always like to double up the nori sheets and use 2 for each roll for less breakage. Another nice hint is to let the sprout tops stick out the ends to make it a bit more artistic. You can either cut the nori into rolls or just eat it as a handroll! This makes a great appetizer, a lunch to take to go, or even a light dinner with a side salad!