Salvia hispanica, most commonly referred to as chia, is an annual flowering plant that belongs to the mint family. Chia is likely best known for its use in chia pets, where, upon watering, their sprouts grow to resemble animal hair. Having gained popularity in the 1980’s, chia pet products have since expanded to include a plethora of other “pets” such as people and, yes, even zombies.
The word “chia” is said to have been derived from chian, which translates to oily; fitting because the seeds contain at least 25% extractable oil. The chia plant is native to Guatemala and Mexico and can grow to upwards of 3 feet. The most commonly used part of the plant is its seed, which has recently gained popularity due to the seed’s richness in nutrients such as manganese, Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, and phosphorus. These black and white ovular seeds, typically no larger than .039 inches in size, may be tiny but they are nutritional powerhouses (source).
Having five times the amount of calcium and protein than milk (source), at least two times the fiber than nuts (source), more potassium than a banana (source), more than two times the iron than spinach (source), more protein than an egg (source), more than 25 times the iron, seven times the omega 3 and more than eight times the omega 6 than salmon (source), it’s no wonder chia seeds have become so popular as a food source.
1 oz of chia seeds provides the following recommended daily values (source):
- 13% total fat
- 3% potassium
- 4% total carbohydrates
- 40% dietary fiber
- 9% protein
- 17% calcium
- 12% iron
- 23% magnesium
Chia seeds are easily incorporated into your diet, whether it be via smoothies, oatmeal, salad dressings or baked into bread. When placed in liquid, chia seeds develop a gelatinous coating which makes them an excellent egg replacer and thickener, perfect for pudding. Chia seeds can also be sprouted for use in salads, sandwiches and wraps.
What is your favorite way of incorporating chia into your diet?