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Chia Seeds and the Tarahumara

I have to admit that I’ve been pretty taken with the book, “Born to Run” that I picked up in the airport one recent transit. After reading the book, three things happened to me.

1. I was inspired to keep up being an endurance runner, and to try and run even for longer distances

2. Inspired to run in “less of a shoe” (i.e. thinner soles / vibrams), or barefooted on grass

3. Encouraged that I was on the right track, eating Chia seeds (read my post here)


the energy giving, highly nutritious chia seeds.. you can get creative serving it

If you didn’t know before, you will know after reading the book “Born to Run” that for centuries, Native Indian Peoples in the Americas are a super healthy race that eat Chia seeds regularly/daily. These seeds give them Aztec warriors energy to do battle and go on hunting expeditions. Indians of the Southwest would eat as little as a teaspoon of chia seeds during a 24-hour march. They could cover distances like Colorado River to the Pacific Ocean carrying only a pouch of chia seed for nourishment.

Reading the book, I was surprised at how this wonder seed enabled the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico to hunted heir prey by out running them. Not in terms of speed, but endurance. They literally ran after their prey till it collapsed of exhaustion. In 1997, a 52 year old Tarahumaran won the Nike-sponsored 100-mile run in California wearing only a flimsy leather thong/slipper that the Tarahumara famously wear and he completed the race in just 19 hours, 37 minutes beating all the other runners who wore Nike shoes.. this was a real embarrassment for Nike, of course. (read why fancy running shoes might be a gimmick of big companies like Nike)


try adding it to your morning juice and blending it in – it will give the juice a slightly slimy texture..

Chia seeds are a complete source of dietary protein providing all the essential amino acids. Compared to other seeds and grains, chia seed provides the highest source of protein: between 19 to 23 percent protein by weight. They also provide more omega 3 compared to the same fish source. For endurance runners the vast amount of Omega 3 and 6 in the perfect ratio of 2:1 is great for the heart and body alike. They reduce inflammation of joints and help them keep well oiled, thus reducing pain and discomfort.

These omegas are Unsaturated fatty acids and are essential for normal glandular activity, especially the thyroid glad and adrenal glands. They also help to nourish the skin cells and are essential for healthy cell membranes and nerves. The unsaturated fatty acids function in the body by working with vitamin D in making calcium available to the tissues, and stimulating the conversion of carotene into vitamin A. Fatty acids are needed for normal functioning of the reproductive system. Chia sees contain beneficial long-chain triglycerides which help to reduce cholesterol on arterial walls. The Chia seed is also a rich source of calcium (5 times that of cows milk)and it contains the important mineral boron, which is a catalyst for the absorption and use of the calcium by the body.


after blending into juice, try sprinkling on top for good measure. The Pinole (on right) and Chia are the staples of the Tarahumara.

Another one of the exceptional qualities, unique to the chia seed, is its ability to absorb more than 12 times its weight in water. This ability to hold water can prolong hydration and retain electrolytes in body fluids, especially during exertion. Normal fluid retention ensures normal electrolyte dispersion across cell membranes, maintains fluid balances and aids normal cellular function.

Chia seeds contain a mucilloid gel which protects the seed against drying in arid climates where the plants grow. When a spoonful of chia seed is mixed in a glass of water and left for 30 minutes, almost a solid gelatin will form. This gel-forming reaction is due to the soluble fiber in the chia seeds. Researchers believe this same gel-forming phenomenon occurs in the stomach when foods containing these gummy fibers, know as mucilages, are eaten. The gel formed when chia seeds are eaten creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and digestive enzymes that break them down, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar and extending endurance. The gel forming property of chia seed tends to slow digestion and sustain balanced blood sugar levels, which can be helpful in preventing or controlling diabetes. And that is why, when you add chia to your early morning juice, the texture becomes a little slimy.


chia seeds.. breakfast of champion runners!

The water absorption, bulking-agent property of chia seed is an important aid to human digestion. Whole, water-soaked chia seeds can be easily digested and absorbed. This results in rapid transport of chia nutrients to the tissue for use by the cells. This efficient assimilation makes chia seeds very effective when rapid development of tissue takes place, especially during growth periods of children and adolescents. Chia also facilitates the growth and regeneration of tissue during pregnancy and lactation, and aids regeneration of muscles for conditioning athletes and bodybuilders.

In KL, you can buy Chia seeds from Village Grocer BV, or any Cosway shops. Ikano Curve, Justlife also has it.

You can also buy Chia seeds (chemical free-raw foods) here.

Here’s a post on 40 Ways to use Chia Seeds  in your cooking. 


8 Responses to Chia Seeds and the Tarahumara

  1. Eunice September 24, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    bought it.. havent had a chance to use.. hahah! I just sprinkle a handful to my drinking water everyday! ;D Love your simple recipe, but wait, wait till I get myself a blender!;D
    Thanks for sharing such healthful tips, Ciki! You rock!

    • ciki September 24, 2012 at 4:27 am #

      I prefer mine in my salad;)

  2. Flabby Less September 24, 2012 at 3:36 am #

    wow! very interesting! i’m thoroughly intrigued! can’t wait to try it!

    • ciki September 24, 2012 at 4:27 am #

      Oh you will be a convert.. trust me 😛

  3. missyblurkit September 24, 2012 at 4:07 am #

    Good reminder coz I have added this to our meals for quite some time. Hehehe. Time to resume!

    • ciki September 24, 2012 at 4:23 am #

      true that! 😀

  4. Luanne Teoh September 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Thanks for this post and sharing! It’s great! I was equally intrigued with the Tarahumara/Raramuri for their footwear and chia seed diet.

    I wrote a similar blog a few months ago too.

    • ciki September 25, 2012 at 12:40 am #

      Great stuff! me and hubby swear by it.. since we do endurance running.. it’s great! 😀

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