Health benefits of Chan seeds and how to cook with them


In the United States’ ever-evolving quest to feel better and live longer, we are constantly greeted with new ‘superfoods’ that help boost longevity and overall well-being. In other parts of the globe, some of the foods we have inaccurately considered to be ‘new’ or ‘trendy’ health-promoting ingredients (think: chia and flaxseed, quinoa, matcha or acai berries) have been dietary. basis for many millennia, many go back to indigenous peoples.

Another good example of a nutritious ingredient we should eat more of is the chan seed. Amidst the tropical greenery of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, the chan plant grows, producing this lesser known seed. It has been a daily basis for many of the Nicoyans for centuries, who are known to be some of the longest living and happiest people on the planet.

In addition to being one of the oldest settlements in Costa Rica, Nicoya is actually known as a hotspot for longevity because it is home to many residents who live to be more than 100 years old in good health. The Nicoyans’ lifestyle and the high number of 100-year-olds have led Dan Buettner and his team of scientists to include Nicoya as one of the five blue zone regions in the world.

Many factors have been attributed to Nicoyan’s longevity, from the abundant sunshine and residents’ strong social connections to their dietary habits. But according to Ella Davar, RD, CDN, a dietitian who specializes in longevity, the Costa Rican secret to living longer also includes being aware of effective ways to deal with and manage stress. Costa Rica is famous for its pura vidaa pure way of living life in harmony with nature, “she says.

In addition to practicing stress management, another important anti-aging factor is that Costa Ricans eat a nutritious diet centered on plants and local ingredients. “The traditional Nicoyan diet is low in animal protein and consists primarily of corn, beans, tortillas, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds like chan, all of which are among the more nutritious foods associated with longevity,” notes Davar.

So back to chan seeds: Let’s take a closer look at chan seeds and the potential benefits of adding them to your diet.

What is Chan Seed?

The Chan plant (hyptis suaveolens) is a plant native to Costa Rica and other parts of Central and South America. The plant has small flowers that produce grainy, black seeds that look and feel like the chia seed and boast a number of nutritional and medicinal benefits.

The benefits of Chan seeds

The ancient Nicoyans (besides cultures throughout Asia, Africa, and the Americas) have used all parts of the hypothalamus suaveolens plant, including its leaves and seeds, for centuries – both medicinal and for cooking. Clearly, it comes with a long list of beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

First, Davar says that chan seeds are rich in protein and essential amino acids. They are also packed with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that strengthen longevity, potassium, fiber, calcium, iron, zinc, protein and vitamins A, B, C and E. (Can we get a microphone drop?)

According to Davar, chan seeds are also high in magnesium, which has been linked to stress reduction, helps maintain blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and reduces cardiovascular risk factors.

Finally, the mucilage properties of chan seeds also provide several benefits to the digestive system. This is why they are often used as a traditional treatment for diarrhea and constipation, heartburn and indigestion, adds Davar, in Costa Rica.

How to incorporate Chan seeds into your diet

1. Mix them into a drink.

In Costa Rica, chan seeds are most commonly used in chan fresco, a traditional drink in the region. The seeds are also excellent to use in herbal teas. “I also love combining a cup of chan seeds in a quart of water and leaving it for at least half an hour to sponge,” says Christa Jimenez, a San Ramon, Costa Rica-based recipe developer and blogger behind Pura Vida Moms. “Then I add sugar, lemon and ice cream, mix and serve it with a traditional Costa Rican Casado lunch.”

2. Sprinkle them in other dishes.

Chan seeds can add a variety of nutrients (and delicious crunch) to salads, smoothies, fried roasts and more. They are a great addition to Costa Rican national law gallo pintoa flavorful combination of rice and beans that is also loaded with fiber, iron and protein.

Use them as a thickener.

Chan seeds are an excellent thickener in various recipes – think of it as an egg substitute that looks like flax eggs. They can also be used in baking as a substitute for flour.

4. Make biscuits.

Swap chan seeds with the chia seeds in this delicious high-fiber biscuit recipe to give your gut (and your taste buds) a healthy boost:

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