Food Feature: Chia Seeds

Ah yes, the magical wee grey things that could just about be poppy seeds until WHAM you add water and they turn into a bowl of gooey jelly… These little pieces of dynamite are so nutrient-rich they have become the superstar of the health food aisle but what are these seeds and why should we be so excited by them?


WHAT is it?  

Chia seeds or salvia hispanica are a part of the mint family. They are little grey, black, brown or white seeds only just bigger than a grain of sand, but definitely pack a punch when it comes to nutrient density. The grow up to 3.3ft tall and flower in pretty purple and white blooms like this…

WHO eats it?

Chia seeds were first eaten as a key component of the Aztec diet. They were most commonly ground into a flour and used as high-energy food for long journeys as it would keep for long periods of time and provide all the nutrients needed when food was sparse. The Aztecs also used them to stimulate the flow of saliva and heal joint pain. The seeds could be used as trade currency and were potent enough to use as a gunshot wound dressing.


WHERE does it come from?

Until the early 1990’s, the seeds were only grown in regional areas of Mexico, until a group of agriculturalists, nutritionists and scientists then decided to collaborate in the hope of rediscovering and commercializing the seed (which clearly has worked rather well!).

The seed is now grown in Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Bolivia and in Australia by The Chia Company, which quite possibly could become the largest chia growing country in the world.


HOW does it grow or get made?

Insects don’t like the taste of these which means they generally grow organically without having to spray insecticide on the flowers. The plants grow best at exactly 15 degrees from the equator, meaning they are a ‘latitude specific crop’ and ripen naturally in the sun when grown in the dry season. The seed is then harvested in late spring or early summer and is taken in small clumps from the dried up bloom.


WHY should we eat it?

Just two tablespoons pack in a whopping 7 grams of fiber, 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, 4 grams of protein, and 205 milligrams of calcium, it is super filling because it is soluble fiber soaking up lots of liquid and it doesn’t have much flavor which means it is easy to hide or mask into baking, drinks, and meals. 

Our cacao bowl topped with a blueberry and apple chia jelly sauce

Our cacao bowl topped with a blueberry and apple chia jelly sauce

WHEN can we eat it?

Chia seeds are incredibly versatile and can be used in many different ways. The seed can be soaked in water or milk and eaten with fruit as a pudding, added to oats, cereals or baking, ground into a flour, added to water for an appetite-curbing drink, or pressed into an oil and used as a high Omega-3 face moisturiser. 

Find out more…

Chia: Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs (The University of Arizona Press, 2005).

The Chia Company: