Chia Seeds: A Tasty Way to Get Your Omega-3s

Chia seeds are enjoying something of a renaissance these days—researchers are rediscovering their nutritional benefits, something the Maya and Aztecs cherished hundreds of years ago.

Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica, which grows abundantly in the deserts of southern Mexico. As such, chia was a staple in the ancient Maya and Aztec populations between 1500 and 900 BC, and was even used as a nutrient-packed ration for Aztec warriors (Chia actually got its name from the Maya word for “strength”). But when the Spanish invaded in the 16th century, the chia crop was quickly outlawed because of its association with the Aztec religion, in which the seeds were used as offerings.

Chia’s superfood status comes from its powerful combination of omega-3s, fiber, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and other nutrients. They offer more omega-3s, ounce for ounce, than salmon, and three times the calcium of skim milk! Each ounce also has nearly 11 grams of fiber per ounce.

Health experts are also interested in chia’s ability to expand in liquid—forming a gel—which is believed to be replicated in the stomach and thereby slow the process by which digestive enzymes convert carbs to sugar. And, just like fiber, they can also increase the feeling of fullness and decrease caloric intake.

So how do we incorporate chia seeds into our diet? Just like flax seeds, they’re a versatile addition to just about any meal—sprinkle some on salads, soups, yogurt, or grind them into flour you’re using for any baking project.

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