Chia seeds may be most noteworthy in the United States because of Chia Pets, a staple of last-minute shoppers and unrepentant re-gifters everywhere. But what most people don’t know is that chia seeds have a delectable secret – they’re edible, and they taste great.
Chia was first used as a food source by the Mayans and Aztecs – in Nahuatl, the Aztec language, chia means “oily,” which makes sense when you consider that chia seeds are about 30% oil. In Mesoamerica, chia is still often eaten raw or used to make flour. Chia fresca, chia seeds in water or fruit juice, is a popular beverage in Mexico.
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
Because of it’s high oil content, chia seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids like alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid that is related to reduced risk of heart disease. ALA from chia seeds may also have neuroprotective properties.
Chia seeds are also a good source of antioxidants. Cell oxidation produces ‘free radicals’ which are linked to diseases like deafness, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and hemochromatosis and has been suggested to have strong ties to the aging process itself. Antioxidants slow or stop cell oxidation.
Chia Seeds – Great for Gluten-Free Diets
One reason for the resurgence in popularity of chia is its lack of gluten. Adverse reactions to gluten affect more than one percent of Americans due to wheat allergies or Coeliac disease. Chia seeds can be a substitute for wheat or other grasses (like rye).
Because of its absorbent qualities, chia has become popular with diabetics, who use it as a natural way to manage the conversion of starches into sugar.
Cooking With Chia Seeds
Because chia has a mild taste, it can be added into drinks, baked goods, desserts and used as a garnish on salads without overpowering the other tastes and still adding a boost of nutritional value.
Superior Nut Company sells both black and white chia seeds (aesthetic differences only – both varieties have the same health benefits), available in either a one or four pound bag or a ten pound case. If you love chia seeds, stock up! If you’ve never tried them before, what are you waiting for?