Chia Seeds: An Ancient Aztec Superfood
The amazing chia seed has come a long way since its introduction as the ch-ch-ch-chia pet. The use of chia seeds actually dates back many centuries.
The chia plant, a member of the mint family, Salvia hispanica, was a mainstay in the diets of the ancient Aztec and Mayan peoples. The golden chia seed, Salvia columbariae, was revered by the southwestern United States’ Native Americans.
The word “Chia” is similar to a word in the Mayan language which means “strength”. Aztec warriors chewed on chia seeds to increase their stamina and strength, and to boost their energy. Today, distance runners and other athletes consume chia seeds for their endurance enhancing abilities.
The Aztec and Mayans ground the seeds into flour, mixed them with water and juices, and pressed them for oil. So powerful are the seeds’ ability to increase stamina and energy that these ancient cultures revered them and attributed them with magical powers.
Aztec warriors used them during their conquests as their main source of energy and medicinally to relieve joint pain. Because of its use in the Aztec’s religious ceremonies, the conquering Spanish conquistadors prohibited its cultivation and use. It is now returning to popularity, and with good reason.
Chia seeds are a powerhouse of health benefits. They have twice as much heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as salmon and twice as many antioxidants as blueberries.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber; 2 tablespoons provides over 40% of the recommended daily dietary requirements. Chia seeds are able to absorb 12 times their weight in water. Their high fiber content and this swelling action enables chia seeds to absorb toxins, cleanse and soothe the colon and strengthen peristaltic action.
Their fiber content and swelling action also makes them an excellent diet aid. As the seeds expand in the stomach, they work to curb the appetite and provide a feeling of fullness which helps to control food cravings. They also work to reduce glucose levels and stabilize blood sugar, helpful to the dieter and the diabetic both.
In research concerning the consumption of chia seeds, Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital’s Dr. Vladamir Vuksan found that after eating chia seeds for three months, patients were able to significantly reduce blood pressure levels. Other heart-healthy benefits include their ability to lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of high quality protein and are gluten-free.
With all this goodness, you may want to consider adding chia seeds to your diet.