Ancient Aztecs and natives of the southwestern United States considered chia a dietary staple. Both groups ate the seeds for endurance; a small amount of chia reportedly could sustain a person for a 24-hour hike.
Remember Chia Pet® from the 1980s—the clay figurines that grew a fuzzy covering of sprouted chia seeds? Chia (the seed of two desert sage species—Salvia hispanica and S. columbariae, used by ancient native Americans) appears to be making a comeback, this time in its more traditional form—as a food.
Researchers have found chia seed oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids; the seeds also are an excellent source of fiber, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants. Now, research conducted by Vladimir Vuksan, Ph.D., and a team at the University of Toronto suggests chia can help people with type 2 diabetes. In a small clinical trial, the chia seed product Salba® reduced blood pressure and helped control blood sugar and lipid levels. Participants ate about 3 to 4 tablespoons of Salba chia seeds daily for 12 weeks.
To add chia to your own diet, try sprinkling the nutritious seeds on cereal, soups and salads, include them in smoothies, or grind them and add to baked goods. Look for chia seed products at your local health-food store.
Steven Foster is an author, photographer and consultant specializing in medicinal plants (www.StevenFoster.com).