If you were alive and watching TV in the 1980s and 90s, chia seeds probably evoke images of goofy terra cotta animals that sprout even goofier chia "hair," but to a growing number of nutrition experts, these ancient seeds' health benefits are no joke.
Chia seeds are believed to be a powerful source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper, and iron, to name a few. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, chia seeds are an even better source of omega-3s than flax seeds, because they can be stored for long periods of time without breaking down or becoming rancid and because they don't have to be ground for the nutrients to be absorbed during digestion.
Dr. Mehmet C. Oz purports that chia seeds are high in protein (higher even than quinoa), making them a natural choice for athletes. He also says there is evidence that chia consumption reduces visceral fat, which can lead to diabetes. (For Dr. Oz's complete explanation of the benefits of chia, check out his blog post on RealAge.com.)
This ancient oily, herbaceous plant (salvia hispanica) was first cultivated and eaten by pre-Colombian Aztecs and Mayans between 1500 and 900 BCE. The Mesoamerican cultures believed that chia seeds stimulated saliva flow, relieved joint pain, and soothed sore skin, and their warriors and civilians alike valued the seeds as a long-sustaining source of nourishment.
Once the Spaniards conquered Mexico, chia crop production was brought to a halt for its suspected connection to religious rituals, and the chia seed sank into historical oblivion. Health food stores and natural-remedy proponents in the United States rediscovered the humble seed in the 1960s, but it wasn't until an unlikely hero (known as the Chia Pet) entered the public consciousness that the book on chia seeds was reopened.
Because of chia's subtle, nutty flavor, health-minded chefs recommend baking ground chia seed flour into breads and otherbaked goods, integrating the seeds into oatmeal andsmoothies, or sprinkling them over salads, stews, and pasta dishes.
Now that chia seeds are back in nutritional vogue, do you plan to try them? If you do, just be prepared for a possible side effect: an unending loop of the original Chia Pet jingle, "Ch-ch-ch-CHIA!"
Schwartz, Sara. "Chia Seeds Recognized for Their Health Benefits" Delish. 21 Feb. 2012. Web.
View original article at Delish: