The Aztec Diet

In a market flooded with information about weight loss and nutrition, it’s hard to know what’s right and wrong. What seems to be the in thing this year may very well be out the next, criticized for not being nutritionally sound. Perhaps this is why we have begun to look to our ancient ancestors for some answers. And as such 2014 brings us the Aztec diet. Last years Paleo popularity spread the idea of a ‘caveman’ type approach to simple living, and now the Aztec diet promotes consumption of ancient grains and seeds – some of which have been dubbed today’s “super foods”.

Forget rice, wheat, and barley and think grains or seeds that pack a punch when it comes to nutrition. Some of the main players making a come back from ancient times are Chia seeds (which form the major part of the Aztec diet), Quinoa, Amaranth, buckwheat, millet and Bulgar. Thankfully they are much easier to eat than to pronounce!

So how do these ancient grains stack up in comparison to our more common varieties like rice, wheat and barley? According to Chris Cashman, nutrition project officer with the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council, “Ancient grains contain all of the essential parts that make up a whole grain, but also have that “little bit extra”.

Originating from a desert plant, Chia seeds alone can make up 12% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron and 18% of your calcium RDI in just 2 tablespoons. Chia also contains fibre, protein and omega 3 fatty acids.

Then there’s Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah), a grain crop grown for it’s edible seeds, is one of the very few plant foods formed as a complete protein. Not only is it high in protein but also low GI (Glycemic Index), contains magnesium and a good source of fibre.

Amaranth is also a good source of protein, calcium, iron, and magnesium. Buckwheat is gluten free, low GI and high in fibre, amino acids and niacin. Millet makes for a good hit of B vitamins, as well as fibre and protein. And although it looks a little like raw white rice grain, Bulgar contains more fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals from its wheat derived origins than that of rice. It’s any wonder these super foods are resurfacing in our modern world, with credentials like these!

The Aztec Diet written by Dr. Bob Arnot, consists of three phases whilst incorporating the ancient grains:

Phase I: The Chia Challenge. You have three chia-rich smoothies for your meals.

Phase II: Accelerate with Lunch. You substitute the mid-day smoothie with a balanced meal of food.

Phase III: Real Life Aztec Style. This phase teaches you to maintain your weight loss with foods and recipes utilising chia seeds and other ancient grains.

The Aztec diet claims to aid weight loss, improve mood and curb sugar cravings, through the use of a chia seed based diet, while also endorsing regular exercise. Having said that, studies on whether or not chia seeds have more of an impact than that of other nutritious foods on satiation levels have been mixed.

If all of the above has sparked your interest in trying some of these super-grains, here are some suggestions on how to incorporate them into your diet.

Quinoa and millet are a good substitute for rice. Try making your favourite risotto with Quinoa instead of Arborio rice for a nourishing twist. And substitute millet for couscous.

Buckwheat makes for a healthy twist on the family favourite pancakes. And a great substitute for Oats is Amaranth, to create a lovely healthy porridge.

And as for Chia, I think its best served as pudding! It makes for a guilt free breakfast or after dinner treat. Here’s my favourite Chia breakfast pudding recipe – enjoy! 

Chia & berry breakfast puddings

Makes 4 serves

  • ¾ cup chia seeds
  • 2 cups of Almond
  • ½ cup of shredded coconut
  • 4 tbsp coconut yoghurt (or natural Greek yoghurt if you prefer)
  • 2 tbsp raw almonds, chopped
  • 2 tsp rice malt syrup or organic honey
  • Handful fresh berries

Place chia seeds in a bowl and pour the milk over top. Stir well and cover. Place in the fridge over night (or for around 8 hours).

When ready, stir honey or rice malt syrup through the chia mix. Then spoon portions into 4 glasses or ramekins. Toast the coconut lightly in a non-stick pan, until it changes from white to light brown. Then layer all other ingredients on top, leaving the toasted coconut until last and sprinkling over the top.