The Chia seed's long and storied history goes back centuries, to the indigenous people of the American Southwest and Mexico. Calling it "the running food" for its high energy content, Aztec warriors enjoyed tremendous endurance on the battle field by eating Chia and nothing else Native Americans of the Southwest could march twenty-four hours on nothing but a teaspoon of Chia seed. And when they sent runners from the Colorado River to the California coast, those runners brought only Chia seeds as food.
What's the secret of the Chia seed's magic? When Chia seed is mixed with water, it forms a firm gelatin. Researchers think this process, happening in the stomach, creates a barrier between the energy-rich carbohydrates in the seeds and the enzymes that break them down. This slows the conversion into sugar, making the energy last longer... and avoiding the "shock" to the system that causes so much trouble for diabetics.
The Chia seed has another magic property as well. It can absorb more than 12 times its weight in water! This prolongs hydration in the body. The Chia seed helps the body retain moisture and regulate nutrients in bodily fluids. How? By absorbing extracellular fluid that would normally be lost, the Chia seed creates a reservoir that prevents fluids from being moved out of the cells. This action in turn helps ensure that the electolyte dispersion across cell membranes stays normal, keeping cells operating at their peak.
Of course, Chia seed also has all the usual nutritional benefits of a seed: Chia is high in oils and nutrients. In fact, Chia has the highest Omega-3 content of any vegetable. On top of that, it's a great source of calcium: the Chia seed contains boron, a catalyst that helps the body absorb and use calcium.
Chia seeds aren't perfect. Like any other food, it's possible for some people to experience an adverse or allergic reaction to these nutritional dynamos. If you have a health condition, ask your doctor before adding Chia to your diet. If you have an allergy to sesame or mustard seeds, you may be sensitive to Chia seeds as well. Chia can also interact with certain timed-release medications. People taking blood thinners should avoid Chia seeds.