Last updated: Sunday April 15th 2018
Native to Mexico and Central America, these little seeds were a staple in the Aztec diet as far back as 3500B.C. The Aztec people also found many other uses for chia including medicines, pressing the seeds to extract oils to use in body paints, and as offerings to their gods.
The Aztecs were not the only ancient civilization to make use of this versatile plant. In Mexico, the plant was cultivated by the Teotihuacan and Toltec people between 2600 and 2000B.C. They used the seed in different ways than the Aztecs. These civilizations milled the seed to create flour, and mixed them whole into drinks. Later, the Mayan people made use of this crop and it is from them that we get its name. “Chia” means “Strength” in Mayan, and most likely comes from the large amounts of energy that the seed provides. Mayan warriors attributed their strength to this seed, and would consume it before battle.
This tradition is still practiced today by the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico who is famous for their runners. Before a race, the runners consume a drink called Iskiate – a mixture of chia seeds, lime juice, and water. The people claim that this drink allows them to run hundreds of miles!
Like many other ancient grains, the chia plant was nearly lost to the ages. When the Spanish Conquistadors took control in the 1500s they destroyed fields of chia, and replanted the area with foreign “old world” crops such as wheat, barley, and rice.
It was not until the 1990s when a project to diversify the agricultural production of Argentina that the chia plant was brought, once again, to the surface. The plant thrived in the climate and soil of this region, and has since been successfully cultivated.
More recently, scientific research has been discovering the many benefits of this seed. Chia seeds have shown themselves to be an impressive plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, the lack of which in the modern diet contributes to numerous diseases including cancer and heart disease. In addition, studies have shown chia seeds to be high in antioxidants, dietary fibre and plant protein. Click here to find 8 different ways to use chia seeds today!