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Although chia seeds have been around for centuries, they have remained somewhat obscure until recent years.

Who would have imagined that this tiny seed could make such a big impact?

Today, it feels like everyone is talking about chia seeds.

And more importantly, everyone is eating them.

Its newfound popularity can be explained in part by the fact that the chia seed is a nutritional powerhouse.  It is also virtually tasteless and, therefore, blends easily into almost any dish or food product.

Let’s take a minute to see what all the fuss is about.

What Exactly Is a Chia Seed?

Chia seeds are tiny black (or white) seeds that come from a plant called Salvia hispanica, a distant relative of mint.

Throughout the years, chia seeds have earned a reputation as a “high energy” food, praised for their ability to provide sustainable and natural fuel for the human body.

Hailing from Mexico and Guatemala, chia seeds were extremely popular within the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures.

Aztec warriors would use chia seeds for energy and endurance. In fact, it was said that one spoonful of chia seeds was enough to sustain them for 24 hours.

Hardly surprising then that the name ‘chia’ is actually the Mayan word for ‘strength.’

High Nutritional Impact

Chia seeds offer a boost in nutrition, including omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, potassium, calcium, B vitamins, protein, manganese, and magnesium.

Apparently, chia seeds leave a lot of other foods in the dust. This tiny phenomenon offers…

  • Your daily dose of omega-3s (in just one tablespoon)
  • 30 percent more dietary fiber than flaxseed
  • Six times more calcium than milk

Therefore, it is hardly surprising that chia seeds promote digestion, healthy skin, and stronger bones.

To top it all off, chia seeds are relatively low in calories too.

You can learn a bit more about the health benefits of chia seed and its friendly competitor the flaxseed by reading our article on Magic Seeds.

Celebrating the Chia Seed

Here are some ideas on how you can enjoy chia seeds all year round.

  • Experiment: Find more ways to incorporate chia seeds into your diet – e.g. try adding them to your oatmeal, smoothies, salad dressings, jam, plant-based yogurt, spreads, and sandwiches.
  • Use Them as an Egg Substitute: Add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds to 1/3 cup water and use it to bind your baked goods. This mixture can replace one egg in traditional recipes.

I guess what they say is right.

Good things DO come in small packages—especially when it comes to chia seeds!

Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD

President & CEO, Plant-Based Life Foundation | Dr. Rosane Oliveira combines a lifelong passion for nutrition with 25 years of genetics research to create programs that help people develop healthy habits on their journey towards a more plant-based lifestyle. She is a Visiting Clinical Professor in Public Health Sciences and was the founding director of the first Integrative Medicine program at the UC Davis School of Medicine. She completed her postgraduate studies in Brazil and did her postdoctoral training in immunogenetics and functional genomics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.