CHIA: Brain Power in a Seed

Chia seeds have been an essential part of the human diet for 5000 years. The word chia actually comes from the Mayan word for “strength.” It was a staple for the Aztecs and Mayans, who ground chia seeds into flour, pressed them for oil, and drank them mixed with water.

Chia seeds were considered almost magical because they increased stamina and energy over such long periods of time. And no wonder: chia seeds are nutritional champions—very low in calories, per ounce, they supply as much omega 3 fatty acids as equivalent amounts of wild salmon, 5 times more calcium than milk, 3 times more antioxidants than fresh blueberries, 3 times as much iron as spinach, and twice as much potassium as a banana—plus plenty of protein and a huge amount of fiber.

However, when the Spanish conquered Latin America around 1500, they introduced their own foods and prohibited the farming of chia. Which is why most Americans know chia mostly from the Ch-ch-ch-CHIA Pet.

It’s only recently that modern scientists and nutritionists discovered that chia provides copious amounts of certain nutrients that are sorely lacking in the standard American diet. Chia would be worth consuming for the fiber alone: The average American gets only half the fiber the American Dietetic Association recommends (12 to 15 grams versus 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily.) But add just one ounce (3 tablespoons) of chia, and you will have 11 grams of fiber—42% of the recommended amount in a single serving. Moreover, chia absorbs up to 12 times its own weight and expands to curb your appetite.

Chia seeds have very little flavor of their own, so you can use them to beef up all kinds of dishes without appreciably changing the taste. To get you started, click here (link to recipe section) for some sweet and easy chia recipes.

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