Friday, 8 November 2013

Health Foods and the Aztecs

A while ago, I went on a bit of a health blast. I say that but while I was aiming for 3 months, it really only lasted a week as usual. However, that time was not wasted, it prompted me to do a bit more research on health foods. I read up on different ingredients, found out their origin, how they were farmed. Watched some documentaries on vegan foods, sustainable foods etc. You know, the my usual Friday nights. However there was one thing I came to realise when I was doing my research. That was that, so many of our main health foods come from South America, and in-particular cultivated by the South American Natives.

For example, there are a couple of health foods that I have come to love and substituted into my diet over the last month. They are Quinoa and Chia seeds.

Pronounced Keen-wa, Quinoa is a plant that grows in the extremely high altitudes of the South American Andes, and was cultivated by the Incas thousands of years ago. The name comes from the ancient Inca language meaning "Mother-Grain" or "Super-Grain". Today it is considered a "superfood" and has extremely high nutritional values. It is high in "complete" protein, something that is rare to find in plants, making it extremely popular with vegans and vegetarians. Its organic and gluten-free, however, the best part is that is tastes good with minimal effort.


Quinoa is boiled, and can be used as a substitute in most dishes that require rice, couscous or any other pulse, served hot or cold.

Chia Seed
Salvia Hispanica, or Chia, is a flowering plant of the mint family. Native to southern Mexico, it was also cultivated by the Ancient Aztecs. The seeds were used by the ancients as a slow release of energy and while hunting, the Aztecs would place a handful of Chia Seeds in their cheeks. However some sources show that Chia was as widely used as Maize in other civilizations. Its nutritional value is similar to that of seeds such as flax or sesame. It is gluten free and an excellent source of protein and fiber.

Chia, when placed in liquid, swells to 3 times its original size and a very popular way to serve it, is as raw porridge. Place the seeds in a bowl with almond milk, mix and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes but you can even leave it over night. When you return to it you will find that the seeds have swollen and the contents now has the consistancy of thick porridge. Now all that is left to do is add a splash of milk and a topping of your choice, I suggest blueberries, banana and honey. Chia is also great in smoothies, pulse dishes and even in baking dishes such as flapjack or loafs.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I will be posting up recipes for both ingredients along with some great information sources. Until next time though, carry on cooking.

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