Chia seeds are showing up on supermarket shelves everywhere these days, thanks in part to their superior nutritional value, subtle taste and versatility as an ingredient. They're able to stand in for eggs, oil or gluten, which makes them a perfect addition to pudding, drinks and baked goods. But 21st century foodies aren't the first to fall in love with this nutritious little seed; the Aztecs grew chia widely in southern Mexico and believed the food to have medicinal properties. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain about six grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber, and more than half of its oil is a beneficial omega-3 fat known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Chia oil is one of the best vegetable sources of ALA, the consumption of which is linked to lower risk of diabetes, bone fractures, depression, heart disease and other chronic conditions. Chia is also a good source of magnesium, calcium, zinc and certain phenolic compounds, which protect cells against oxidative damage. About the size of a poppy seed, chia seeds come in black, grey and white varieties. If you've never used chia seeds, you may be surprised by their versatility in the kitchen. Read on to learn 10 easy ways to add this nutrient-packed seed to your diet!
Chia seeds come from the chia plant, which is also known as Salvia columbariae Benth, according to the Department of Agriculture. They are native to the southwestern United States and the coast of California, and currently grow in parts of Nevada, California, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Native Americans on the Pacific coast have historically used chia for gastronomical and medicinal purposes, and the seeds provide protein and calcium. After roasting chia seeds, you can eat them plan, add them to porridge or soup or mix them with beverages to thicken them.