Chia seeds pack a nutritional punch. Smaller than a flax seed, chia contains twice the protein of most grains and more calcium than milk. Chia seeds are also rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which support heart and brain health, and are high in fiber and potassium.
While formal studies on the health benefits of chia seeds are limited, a large amount of anecdotal information does exist, including claims of chia's ability to boost energy, support digestion, lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar.
The chia seed comes from a flowering plant from the mint family that originated in Mexico and Guatemala. It was an important food crop for the Aztecs and Mayans. "Chia" is the ancient Mayan word for "strength," and the chia plant has remained a common crop in its native countries. It first become known in North America in 1991, when researcher Wayne Coates began to study the crop as an alternative for northern Argentinean farmers.
The seeds of the chia plant come in either white, dark brown or black. The seeds may be eaten whole or milled. They are tasteless, which makes them easy to incorporate into other foods for a boost of nutrition. Chia seeds are commonly added to smoothies, cereals, yogurt, toast and salads.