FoodMatcha and chia seeds: A delve into their rich history and potent nutrition benefits

Matcha and chia seeds: A delve into their rich history and potent nutrition benefits

Chia pudding
Chia pudding
Images source: © Getty Images | Tatyana Berkovich
10:16 PM EST, February 16, 2024

Matcha, an intensely green tea powder known for its strong, slightly bitter flavor, has been a key part of Japanese tradition for centuries. The 16th-century production method, which is still in use today, was developed on monastic plantations. The most important step is the careful selection of young and tender leaves from tea bushes, which are shaded with special bamboo structures before the spring harvest commences. Less light exposure encourages the plant to produce more chlorophyll, which intensifies its aroma and influences the ultimate taste of the steeped tea.

After harvesting, the leaves are then steamed and dried, then ground in unique stone mills. The resulting powder is sifted several times to attain the desired consistency, similar to an intensely green-colored powder.

The other ingredient in our pudding, chia seeds, comes from the Spanish sage. These seeds were prized in present-day Mexico and Guatemala as far back as 3,500 BC. Notably, they were popular during the Aztec times, finding use in numerous applications. The flour and oil derived from these grains not only formed an essential part of their daily diet, but they were also utilized for medicinal purposes, added to paints and cosmetics, and used in ceremonies and religious rituals. The latter use, however, greatly troubled the Spanish conquistadors.

Following the conquistadors' actions, chia cultivation was minimized since the 16th century, and wheat, barley, and rice were replaced. This led to the Spanish sage falling into near oblivion for nearly five centuries. Its renaissance only occurred in the last decade of the 20th century, prompted by an increasing interest in healthy eating. Scientific research later proved that chia seeds comprise a substantial load of beneficial substances crucial for the human body.

Matcha and chia – the nutritional values

Matcha is a vibrant source of antioxidants, which guard the body against the damaging effects of free radicals. These radicals are implicated in speeding up the aging process and contributing to the development of numerous serious diseases, including cancer, cataracts, asthma, psoriasis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Tea catechins have antiviral and antibacterial effects, and they help to bolster the immune system. Matcha also offers a significant amount of dietary fibre, as well as essential minerals and vitamins like zinc, potassium, calcium, sodium, iron, vitamins A, C, E, and B vitamins. Owing to its caffeine content, matcha invigorates the body, providing energy, improving concentration, and relieving nervous tension.

Chia seeds are another nutritional gift. Almost a fifth of their composition comprises protein (more than that in corn, rice, or wheat), which contains all the essential amino acids that the human body can't synthesize. As such, it's vital to get them from food.

Spanish sage grains are among the plant sources most potent in unsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid, which is recommended in the diet to prevent cardiovascular ailments. This beneficial compound effectively reduces blood pressure, alleviates inflammation, lowers "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, and raises "good" HDL cholesterol levels.

Chia seeds are also rich in dietary fibre (with Spanish sage seeds providing more than dried fruit, flax seeds, or cereal grains). This fibre has a high water-binding ability, creating a satiating effect, promoting proper intestinal function, and reducing the risk of post-meal glycemia.

Moreover, chia seeds are a rich source of phenolic compounds with antioxidant properties, including caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, quercetin, and kaempferol. The seeds contain various B vitamins and essential mineral components for the body, primarily phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and iron.

Matcha and chia pudding recipe

For the pudding, we'll need plant-based milk, preferably from cashews. It can be easily prepared at home if you can't find this ready-made. Soak the nuts (1 cup) in mineral water (3 cups) overnight, then blend them with the soaking water and cane sugar (1 tablespoon). Finally, strain the mixture through a sieve or cheesecloth to remove solids.

Now you're set to prepare the pudding. Add powdered matcha (2 teaspoons) to the milk and blend until the mixture is smooth and no lumps remain. Then, add chia seeds (1/2 cup) and coconut cream (2 tablespoons). Stir these ingredients together, then add maple syrup (2 tablespoons) and vanilla extract (1 teaspoon). After another round of blending, pour the mixture into cups and put it in the refrigerator overnight. When ready, it can be served the next day, perhaps with some fresh fruit.

Matcha© Getty Images | kaorinne
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