Chia seeds suffused the American consciousness in the 1980s with the playful Chia Pet planters and catchy, iconic commercials that still reverberate in our minds. Although, what we didn’t know at the time was that chia seeds germinated from an entirely different beginning.

Flowering Chia Plant from Hilltop Farm

As a member of the salvia family, chia plants (salvia hispanica or salvia rhyacophila) share curative powers with other salvia plants. These flowering plants produce edible chia seeds still prevalent in the diets of people from southern and central Mexico and Guatemala. The chia seeds further date back to the pre-Colombian era when they served as food staples for the Aztec and Mayan people. Deriving from the lyrical indigenous Nahuatl language of Mexico, the word chia comes from chian, which means “oily’. Chia still shimmers in this indigenous language through its association with the state of Chiapas, which means “chia water or river” in present-day Nahauatl.

Along with curative capabilities, chia seeds slid into the Super Foods category in recent years for their voluminous health benefits. Scads of articles explicate congruent accounts of these distinctive seeds. Chia seeds’ celebrity was promulgated by Chris McDougall’s book, Born to Run, in which he explores the endurance promoting qualities of these “new” old seeds. Being complete raw foods and complete proteins filled with soluble and insoluble fiber, chia seeds are capable of sustaining people through great feats of endurance or simply sustaining them from meal to meal. Chia seeds are predominantly known for containing concentrated levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, which act as building blocks for human cells. Reports further expound that chia seeds contain 6 times the calcium of milk by weight and are more easily absorbed by the body.

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Multi-Colored Chia Seeds

* Original image from Chia Seed Site

Chia seeds are touted as promoting health benefits ranging from heart salubriousness to reductions in menopausal symptoms. However, some skeptics aim to temper the fanaticism that often results from the revelation of a “wonder,” “one-stop” food. For example, CNN Health adds a caveat to the proliferation of chia seeds’ super qualities by placing chia seeds in the holistic web of a balanced diet and lifestyle rather than supplanting other health promoting foods such as fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, Chia Seeds HQ emphasizes the point that many health foods are latent with the potential to cause side effects. Chia seeds are known for lowering blood pressure and blood sugar, but if a person already experiences low levels in these areas, chia seeds would exacerbate these conditions.

In the end, proponents and critics agree on the plentiful health benefits of chia seeds but emphasize that consumers are responsible for the part these tiny seeds play in the diurnal functions of their lives.