Category Archives: Mercado Monday

Mercado Monday: Chia Seeds (Cha Cha Cha Chia)

The infamous Chia Pet that magically grows green fur in a matter of days might be the first thing you think of when hear the word chia, but these tiny seeds are actually full of nutrients.

And the good news is you don’t actually need to sprout chia seeds on a silly little terracotta tchotchke to enjoy their health benefits. Chia seeds are similar to the more nutritionally famous flax seed, but are superior in many ways.


Chia seeds can be found in every Nicaraguan market and are not considered a trendy health food product, rather just a normal Nica staple. One pound of chia seeds – which is enough to last me six months – cost just $7 USD at the local market.

Chia seeds are very similar to flax seeds in a number of ways – but unlike the flax seed – chia is so rich in antioxidants that the seeds don’t deteriorate, which means they can be stored for long periods of time without becoming rancid.

Chia Seeds

– Chia seeds purchased from the local market in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua


There are three ways to eat chia – dry seeds, sprout it or make a chia gel.

The dry seeds are crunchy and slightly nutty. They are good in cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, salads or just about anything you want to add a slight crunch to.

To sprout chia follow the basic steps on the video. The use of a Chia Pet is not required, but does add to the fun factor.

Chia gel is made by stirring about three tablespoons of seeds into a cup of water. Thirty minutes later you have a gel that will last up to a week in the fridge. Chia gel can be substituted for half of the butter in baking recipes. Ground seeds can be used to thicken soups and sauces. Chia has many uses…these are just a few to ignite your imagination.

Nicaragua Health Food

– Getting ready to make some chia gel.


Chia Gel Nicaragua

– Thirty minutes later and voila…the magic has happened!


When eaten on their own chia seeds have a slightly nutty flavour, but when combined with other foods they are virtually flavourless.


Eating chia is an easy way to inject a little extra nutrition into your diet without even noticing.

  • Chia seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Your heart will thank you for eating them.
  • A 1-ounce shot glass of chia seeds contains a third of your daily recommended fibre intake. That same shot glass holds between 20% and 50% of your daily recommended dose of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese.
  • Antioxidants are so high in chia seeds that they have a shelf life of two years. Imagine what it does for your body?
  • Chia seeds also pretty good at making you feel full. Once you’ve tried putting a few tablespoons in a cup of water you won’t have to ask why.
Chia gel for baking

– Chia Gel


No matter how many times I watch the Duck Dynasty Chia Pet video I laugh out loud.

Mercado Monday: The Cacao Bean (Chocolate)

Mercado Monday: The Cacao Bean (Chocolate)

– Raw cacao beans


Cacao beans are available at our local market in San Juan del Sur for C$38 ($1.36 USD) per pound.  Online prices in the United States are “slightly” more expensive. The average cost is about $17 per pound, but if you buy a 10 pound bag you can get them at a discounted price of $11 per pound.


The first step to eating cacao is to dry roast the beans just long enough so that the shells start to crack. At this stage you can easily peel the shell away making the beans ready to eat.

Mercado Monday: The Cacao Bean (Chocolate)

– Roasted and shelled cacao beans

One of my favorite ways to eat cacao is to add a handful of whole beans and a cut up banana to strawberry yogurt. My second favorite move is blend the cacao beans, banana and yogurt with some ice for an awesomely delicious smoothie.


Mercado Monday: The Cacao Bean (Chocolate)

– Strawberry Chocolate Banana Smoothie


When you see “90% dark chocolate” advertised on a chocolate bar in the grocery store, the remaining 10% is actually sugar. The cacao bean is pure chocolate. It tastes slightly bitter and goes best with something sweet.

Mercado Monday: The Cacao Bean (Chocolate)

– Roasting cacao beans


Cacao beans are available year round at the market. The price remains the same, regardless of season.


Cacao beans are a superfood.

Most of us believe the highest levels of antioxidants can be found in green tea, red wine and blueberries. Guess again! Cacao has these beat by a magnifier of up to 10.

Antioxidants aren’t the only great thing cacao offers. It has actually been shown to stimulate neurotransmitters in our brain:

  • Serotonin acts as an anti-depressant
  • Endorphins work on our pleasure sensors and give us a natural high
  • Phenylethylamine is created in the brain when we are in love. It works as an anti-depressant and helps increase focus.
  • Anandamide is known as the bliss chemical and helps us feel relaxed and satiated.

Cacao also contains high concentrations of essential minerals like magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.

Cacao is fatty, but contains the very best kind of fat. Cacao also contains oleic acid. This heart healthy mono-saturated fat – also find in olive oil – is key in raising the level of good cholesterol found in your body.


It takes several hundred processed beans to make up one pound of chocolate. Unfortunately the health benefits found in raw cacao beans has been greatly diminished by the time it gets to a commercially produced chocolate bar stage.


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