Chia seeds are a nutrient dense food indigenous to southern Mexico and Guatemala. The story of chia begins around 2500 BC. These little seeds were a staple in the Aztec diet, a civilization known for including some of the healthiest foods into their diet. This ‘miracle food’ was utilized by warriors to sustain rigorous and testing days in battle, and on foot. The ancient Mayans also consumed chia and the Mayan word chia means ‘strength.’ The nutritional composition (for one ounce) of chia is as follows:
11 grams of fiber
4 grams of protein (9 essential amino acids)
5 grams of omega-3’s (8 times more than salmon)
30% RDA of Manganese and Magnesium
17% RDA of Calcium
Some more modern day civilizations that utilize(d) chia include Native Americans (before the Spanish destroyed their fields). The Tarahumara tribe of present-day Mexico utilizes chia to run hundreds of miles. If you’ve never read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, it’s a fascinating and captivating read that highlights chia as a staple to these people still alive today.
Chia is relatively flavorless. To get the most out of your chia, it is recommended that you grind it up, and not leave it whole as is popular in certain puddings and drinks. This is because whole chia tends to pass right through your digestive system whereas ground chia allows your body to reap the nutritional benefits. The best part of chia is it’s low carb load (low glycemic impact meaning a steady impact on blood sugar- no heavy peak of energy and heavy crash to follow) as well as its high fullness score. Unlike other foods that you can eat mass quantities of and still feel hungry, a small amount of chia will leave you feeling satiated.
Chia is easy to add to breakfast cereal or in smoothies. High speed blenders (like a Vitamix) are recommended as they really pulverize the chia without a need to grind first. Another awesome use for chia is as a binding agent. Mix equal parts chia and warm water and whisk with a fork (or blend if using a large quantity). The mixture becomes gelatinous and is perfect as a replacement in recipes for eggs or other binders. The way that chia expands outside of the body is also how it acts inside of the body which adds to the fullness effect.