It was just two years ago that I heard about chia seeds, and I immediately thought of my old clay Chia Pet rabbit that sprouted grass hair when I was a little kid in the 70s. Most of us don’t realize that chia seed is incredibly nutritious and has been used for centuries for its healing properties.
Chia is a seed from the salvia plant native to Mexico and was once used as a “running food” for the Aztec warriors, known for its high protein and endurance properties. The Aztec and Maya cultures all used chia as a staple in their diets. In fact, “Chia” is the Mayan word for “strength.”
Today, chia seed is being rediscovered as a super food thanks to the help of Dr. Wayne Coates, research professor at the University of Arizona, Tuscon, who states that chia seed is 15% protein. This is a much higher percentage of protein than found in other grains, such as oats, wheat, corn, and rice. Not only does chia seed contain a higher percentage of protein than other grains, but they are also gluten free. Most of its fat is made up of essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, according to the USDA.
Dr. Andrew Weil, well-known health and wellness advisor, considers chia to be an excellent source of omega-3 fattyacids, even better than flax seed. Chia is rich in soluable and insoulable fiber – a 25-gram portion of chia contains about 7g, as well as other important nutrients, such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, niacin, and zinc.
Ground or Whole?
I wondered if it is necessary to grind chia seed (like we need to with flax seed) to make it more bio-available*, and Dr. Coates’ response in an interview was “Not really. With flax you have to grind it, because it has a hard seed coat. Chia doesn’t, so you don’t need to grind it.” He goes on to mention that grinding won’t hurt anything because chia has natural anti-oxidants, so it won’t go rancid like flax seed. You would think grinding the seed should allow the nutrients to be more available for the body to use, but there is no scientific proof that this is the case with chia.
Green Foods Organic Chia is grown in its native lands of Central America, sourced primarily from Mexico and Guatemala. Green Foods chooses to provide chia in whole seed form which allows Green Foods fans the option to grind them or use them whole. Some prefer to soak chia in water to form a gel which basically just brings out the soluble fiber. Clearly, there is no right or wrong way to enjoy chia seed!
Personally, I love to throw mild-tasting chia in salads at night and steel-cut oats or smoothies in the morning. It is a surprisingly uplifting and healthy addition to my diet.
Keep checking in for more exciting ways to use chia and further discussion about its benefits.
* What does bio-available mean? This is a term used to describe availability of nutrients in a food to the body. The more bio–available a food is, the more complete and faster the body can absorb the nutrients.
Anderson, William. “Chia Seed – The Ancient Food of the Future.” October, 2009. Living and Raw Foods.
Mendosa, David. A Blog on the Latest Developments of Diabetes. December 13, 2007.
Weil, Andrew M.D. “Chia for Health.” May 15, 2006.