The little chia seed is gaining popularity, so it’s worth a look. Chia seeds can be black or white (brown indicates that the seed is unripe). There is no difference nutritionally. White or black, this little seed has a lot to be proud of. Let’s talk about how it all began. The Aztecs boast the first record of Chia as early as 3500B.C. It was, in fact, one of the main foods in the Aztec diet. The prevalence of Chia continued for quite some time. Later, between 1500 and 900B.C, it was grown in Mexico by the Teotihuacan and Toltec people. These people had some surprising uses for the chia seed.
Aside from being eaten whole, the chia seed was anciently used for many things. It was used in medicine, ground into flour, mixed as an ingredient in drinks, and pressed for oil. It was useful in that it could be stored for relatively long periods of time (perfect for traveling). In addition to these practical uses, the chia seed ran deeper in the blood of the Aztecs. It was sacred and used as a sacrifice in religious ceremonies.
The ancient civilizations believed that the chia seed provided supernatural powers. In Mayan, “chia” means “strength.” This probably has to do with the large amounts of energy provided by chia seeds. Ancient warriors attributed their stamina to this tiny seed. This still holds true for certain groups of people today. The Mexican Tarahumara tribe is famous for their runners. These runners drink a mixture of chia seeds, lemon, and water called Iskiate. After drinking this, they are said to be able to run hundreds of miles. Something with that kind of track record deserves our attention.
Like many of the ancient grains, chia was lost for a while. The Spanish, when they came conquering, banned chia because of its religious uses. It survived in certain regions of Mexico and has resurfaced for our modern-day use (Lucky us!). Some scientists, nutritionists, and farmers teamed up to cultivate chia commercially in Argentina. Today, chia is grown in several Latin American countries, but its main producer is fast becoming Australia. Unlike our recent ancestors, we have easy access to chia. What a great addition to a healthy diet!
Chia seeds, in actuality, don’t have a very strong flavor. So, they can be included in a wide range of foods for a little texture. They also form a sort of gel when mixed with liquid. So, chia can be substituted for eggs or used as a soup thickener. It can also be included in all kinds of baked goods for some added energy.