At first glance, chia seeds are pretty demure in appearance. Tiny and brownish/grey, they almost look more like something you might throw out into your lawn as birdseed. But do not be fooled, these little morsels of goodness have amazing nutritional benefits and are in fact a true superfood!
Chia seed actually comes from a small desert plant called Salvia hispanca which is, believe it or not, in the mint family. Salvia hispanica is an ancient plant dating back to the times of the Aztecs and Mayans where it was included in their diets as a staple food. The warriors of these two cultures used chia as a potent, sustaining energy source. Years ago between 1500 and 900 BC chia was grown as a major staple crop in areas of modern day Mexico and Central America. After the Spanish invasion it was banned due to its association with Aztec and Mayan religious ceremonies. The nutritional powers and intelligence of this plant were all but lost until fairly recently. Now you’ll find chia seeds in everything from breakfast cereal and tortilla chips to raw chocolate bars and kombucha.
The health benefits of chia lie in the omega fatty acid content of these small yet powerful seeds. The importance of healthy omega fats in the diet is something that has gotten a lot of press in recent years. More and more people are getting sick with diseases and conditions that can often be linked to the consumption of the wrong types of food. When it comes to creating a disease state in the body, the wrong types of fat can be one of the worst culprits. The flip side to this is that eating the right kinds can bring about numerous benefits. We need specific types of fat to thrive. Many of our organs absolutely must have specific fatty acids to function properly. The brain in particular has a very high concentration of omega 3 fatty acids and a lack can cause extreme cognitive problems spanning from depression and mood swings to memory loss and nerve damage. Omega 3 fatty acid in particular is often lacking in our diet today and it is an essential fatty acid, meaning that our bodies cannot produce it. Getting proper levels of omega 3’s help encourage the flexibility and permeability of our cell membranes. This is important when it comes to hydration and the import of nutrients and export of toxins in and out of our cells. There must be a cellular fluidity otherwise things stagnate and become toxic. Most nuts and seeds contain omega 6 and 9 but its harder to get enough omega 3 unless we specifically make a point to eat foods rich in this EFA.