Chia is going through a renaissance of sorts, and is no longer a goofy gag gift that proliferates the shelves during the holidays to sprout on assorted animals or cartoon character’s heads. Basically, the chia seed has gone from class clown to class valedictorian.
The edible seed, which comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, is part of the mint family. It’s time to take this little seed seriously: before chia pets, it was the primo food in the Aztec and Mayan diets, and it was the basic survival ration of the Aztec army.
These super seeds are loaded with essential fatty acids carrying the highest amount of any known plant. They also have among the highest antioxidants of any whole food — even more than fresh blueberries. Ounce-for-ounce, chia scores the highest with 15 times more magnesium than broccoli, three times more iron than spinach, six times more calcium than milk, and two times more potassium than bananas. It gets an A+ for containing all the essential amino acids, and it’s a complete protein (none of which is gluten).
Please don’t eat a chia pet, though. The chia seeds that come with the terra cotta pet have not been approved as food by the FDA, so get the seeds from a health-food store or order some online.
Turns out, chia really is a great gift; the gift of health. Chia seeds absorb up to 10 times their weight in water which maintains hydration in the body longer and improves endurance. It will also keep those minerals floating around the body, which help to reduce stress, build strong bones, and regulate heartbeat.
On top of all that, the human body easily digests chia seeds. Unlike other seeds, that shall go nameless, chia seeds do not have to be ground up to be eaten. When mixed with stomach juices, the seeds form a gel. This creates a barrier to digestive enzymes so the carbohydrates are digested slowly and glucose is released at a steady rate. This is great for preventing spikes in blood sugar, unlike some other carbohydrates we know. This ‘gel when wet’ phenomenon also helps to feel fuller, as the seeds suck up digestive juices and expand; they encroach upon the empty space in the stomach.
Okay, but how do they taste?
They’re actually rather tasteless which makes them a perfect addition to almost any food. Mix them with your favorite drink, or add them to cereal, salad, and just about anything else. You can find chia seeds at health markets, online, or at Whole Foods. Extra credit; bugs hate them, so it is easy to find organically grown varieties.
Keep the chia seeds for eating not planting! It’s time to trade in that icon of kitsch for another pet, maybe a pet rock would be nice!