Chia Seeds – Salvia hispanica
Country of origin: Mexico
A species of flowering plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. The sixteenth-century Codex Mendoza provides evidence that it was cultivated by the Aztec in pre-Columbian times; economic historians have suggested it was as important as maize as a food crop. It was given as an annual tribute by the people to the rulers in 21 of the 38 Aztec provincial states. Ground or whole chia seeds still are used in Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico, and Guatemala for nutritious drinks and as a food source. The word “chia” is derived from the Nahuatl word chian, meaning oily. S. hispanica is one of two plants known as chia, the other being Salvia columbariae, commonly known as golden chia.
Typically, chia seeds are small ovals with a diameter of approximately 1 mm (0.039 in). They are mottle-colored with brown, gray, black, and white. The seeds are hydrophilic, absorbing up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked. While soaking, the seeds develop a mucilaginous coating that gives chia-based beverages a distinctive gel texture.
The seed is a food that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, since the seeds yield 25–30% extractable oil, including α-linolenic acid. Of total fat, the composition of the oil may be 55% ω-3, 18% ω-6, 6% ω-9, and 10% saturated fat. A 100-gram serving of chia seeds is a rich source of the B vitamins, thiamine, and niacin (54% and 59%, respectively of the Daily Value (DV), and a good source of the B vitamins riboflavin andfolate (14% and 12%, respectively). The same amount of chia seeds is also a rich source of the dietary minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc (more than 20% DV) (table).