Chia seeds go back centuries to Incan, Mayan, and Aztec cultures, for whom chia was a staple, along with more familiar foods such as corn and beans. So it's a revival of a tradition that pre-dates the arrival of the Conquistadoros and other Europeans to the New World.
Chia seeds were so important to the Aztecs that they were accepted as legal tender. And they were a staple for Indians of the southwest, who depended on them, particularly on long treks to the west coast to trade with California tribes.
Chia seeds, used to be called "Indian Running Food" because they are so energizing. When I tried them, I literally could feel their energy. It was a strengthening and sustained surge unlike anything resulting from any other food. And so I often told customers about chia seeds, and had repeat customers for them because they "work".
Chia seeds are high in:
- Providing energy
- easily digestible protein
- essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3
- soluble fiber
Chia seeds have much in common with flax seeds, which have a deserved reputation as a superfood. If you run down a comparative chart, you see a back and forth, with chia higher in some nutrients, flax higher in others.
Chia seeds natural antioxidants make them stable, whereas flax quickly becomes rancid.
"Researchers believe this same gel-forming phenomenon takes place in the stomach, creating a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar.
In addition to the obvious benefits for diabetics, this slowing of sugar conversion aids endurance." (from http://www.kalyx.com)
In any recipe that calls for flax seeds, you can substitute chia seeds. The chia flavor is bland, so they work great in smoothies and can be sprinkled on just about anything.
Two to four tablespoons a day will improve your nutrition and encourage intestinal regularity. (And, yes, the "hair" on Chia Pets is from sprouted chia seeds.)
Nutrition researchers looking at chia have called it an "almost perfect food". Chia seeds many benefits include:
- Providing energy
- Boosting strength
- Bolstering endurance
- Leveling blood sugar
- Inducing weight loss
- Aiding intestinal regularity
The seed's abundant nutrients: calcium, amylose ( a slow-burning starch helpful for hypoglycemics), a vast array of vitamins and minerals, and an unusually good ratio of omega-3 oil to omega-6 oil.
Use chia to upgrade the nutritional value of hamburgers, soups, salads, breads, fruit drinks, and much more." [The Magic of Chia includes 52 pages of chia seed recipes.] "
The chia plant is a member of the sage family. There is no commercial growing of chia in the U.S. William Anderson and Hal Neiman (an associate of mine from the 60's) have devoted twenty years to domesticating chia and developing the supply.