Chia Benefits & Information

Latin Name

Salvia hispanica

Origin

A member of the mint family (like other sages) and native to Meso America. The word Chia comes from the Nahuatl language and means “oily”

Parts Used

Seeds

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

Chia seeds have a fantastic nutritional profile. They are rich in fatty acids, anti-oxidants (chlorogenic acid, caffeic acids, myricetin, quercetin, kaempferol, flavonols), alpha linolenic acid, dietary fibre. They also contain easily digestible proteins and amino acids. They are very low in sodium and are completely gluten free.
Chia seeds are very similar to flax seeds (high fatty acid content), with the exception of Chia's high anti-oxidant content. This is not only a nutritional bonus but means the valuable oils will not go rancid. Chia seeds can replace flax seeds in any recipe. Chia seeds are hydrophilic and, when mixed with water, form a gel. This gel is one of the main ways of using Chia seeds. To make Chia gel, mix one part Chia seeds with 6 parts water and stir well. Leave it to set for an hour and the gel forms naturally (leave it longer and it becomes even easier to absorb the nutrients)
Chia gel can be used in many ways and is excellent for dieters as it bulks up recipes replacing high calorific ingredients without spoiling the flavour.
Because they are high in dietary fibre, 2 – 4 tablespoons a day can dramatically improve the health and muscle tone of the intestines. As one of the major routes for expelling toxins from the body, the health implication of this facet alone make Chia seeds a must have in any detox programme as well as a helpful treatment for constipation.
Chia seeds work perfectly in smoothies and are delicious on salads, in flapjacks muesli and seed bars.
Chia seeds also make delicious sprouts.

Typical Use

2 - 4 tablespoons per day
Chia seeds can be left in a pint of water, stirring occasionally, to form Chia gel which can be used to replace other fats to make nutritious dips or dressings.

Folklore and History

Native to southern Mexico and Guatemala, Chia seed cultivation has been going on for thousands of years. There are historical records which have survived the European invasion of the Americas that suggest they were farmed as long ago as 3400 BC.
In Aztec times they were the 3rd most cultivated crop (behind beans and maize) and taxes were often paid in Chia seeds. Aztec warriors carried Chia seeds with them as standard rations - and they weren't the only ones. Chia seeds were traded with more northerly civilizations and Apache warriors, who used them as a highly nutritious food source. They have been described as “Indian Running Food”.
Unfortunately, the European invaders attempted to wipe out Chia production altogether as part of their oppressive religious regime, they only appear to have escaped complete extinction because they were cultivated by renegade groups of indigenous people in secret mountain locations.
Today they are produced openly as a staple food once again in their native Mexican and Guatemalan landscapes. Indeed, a region of Mexico, The Chiapas, is named after them.

Chia