What Are Chia Plants?


Quick Answer

Chia plants are herbaceous plants that belong to the Lamiaceae family. The scientific name for this plant is Salvia hispanica. This plant is also known as the Mexican chia.

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Full Answer

The word "chia" is derived from a word in the Nahuatl language that means "oily." The chia plant is a shrubby plant that grows in sandy or clay soils and needs tropical or subtropical climatic conditions. This plant is native to Guatemala and southern Mexico. The chia plant is commercially cultivated in Australia, Mexico and Central America. Chan and golden chia are varieties of the chia plant. Chia plants are grown for their seeds. History suggests that it was an important plant as a food crop for the Aztecs and Mayans just like maize.

The stem of this plant is square-shaped and hairy. The leaves are dark green and oval. The flowers of the chia plant are white or purple and appear in July and August. Chia seeds are small and oval. The seeds' color depends on the variety of the plant and may be black, brown, grey or white. Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein. The seeds can absorb 12 times their weight in liquid. Sprouted chia seeds are added to salads. They can be added to cereals, yogurt, smoothies or just about anything edible including ice cream. Chia seeds can be used as an alternative to highly processed foods like white pasta because they are much healthier whole grains. Chia seeds soaked in water have a sticky, gelatinous texture and are added to Mexican beverages, such as chia fresco.

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