Chia (salvia hispanica
) is a flowering plant native to Central America
that has been cultivated since the time of the Aztecs
for its highly-nutritious edible seeds. Chia seeds were first introduced to North America and Europe in the 1980's as the growing component of the very popular Chia Pet
novelty gift. Since the mid-2000's, Chia seeds have been consumed in North America as a health food, especially by vegans
; recently, however, the seeds and products containing them have gained wider popularity and can now be found in many mainstream supermarkets in the United States and Canada.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of:
The seeds are capable of absorbing up to 12 times their weight in water, producing a thick, viscous
gel in a similar fashion to basil
seeds and to a lesser degree flax
seeds. When the whole or milled seeds are consumed along with a meal and a glass of water, they swell up in the stomach and are said to produce a long-lasting feeling of satiation which can be helpful to those on a reduced calorie diet. The liquid-absorbing property of the seeds also allows them to be used as a thickening agent, which is particularly useful to those who adhere to a raw food diet, as the application of heat is not required to achieve the desired result.
When consumed whole and dry, the seeds have mildly crunchy texture and a neutral taste. When the unmilled seeds are hydrated, they have a texture somewhat akin to that of slightly under-cooked tapioca pearls and take on the flavor of whatever liquid they've been soaked in. A popular way of eating the seeds is to prepare them as a healthy pudding.