Remember that animal-shaped terracotta pottery from the ’80s that you had to smear wet seeds on which would later sprout “hair” (grass)? Who knew that you could, A. actually eat those slimy seeds, and B. over 20 years later they’d be revealed as a healthy addition to your diet? Yep, I’m referring to the Chia Pet and those little chia seeds that adorned them.
Formally known as Salvia hispanica, the flowering chia plant is native to Mexico. Its seeds have been cultivated for food since the age of the Aztecs, being as important a crop to them as maize (corn). When soaked in a liquid, chia seeds puff up — absorbing about 12 times their weight — and form a gelatinous outer shell (chia “gel”). Aztec warriors would use them as a portable food staple during battles, supposedly being able to be sustained for a whole day after consuming just one tablespoon of chia gel.
What is it about the chia seed that’s got the health food community going ga-ga for them, you ask? They’ve got a ton of nutrients packed into their tiny shells: the USDA claims that one ounce of chia seeds contains 9 grams of fat, 11 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of protein, and provide 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium. They’re chock full of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids (read: the good fats), too.
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