The term "chia" is derived from "chian", a Nahuatl term which literally means “oily”. There is another plant called chia, the golden chia which is known scientifically as Salvia columbariae.
Golden chia is also cultivated commercially but not as a food source. Apart from being typically marketed under the common name "chia", chia seeds are also marketed under other names like "chien".
Chia seeds are traditionally consumed in the southwestern part of the US and in Mexico. However, chia seeds are now also popular in Europe. Chia is cultivated commercially in its native Mexico and in many other places in the world including Guatemala, Australia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Argentina. Australia was the world's largest chia producer in 2008.
Apart from protein, polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, saturated fat, dietary fiber, and carbohydrates, each serving of chia seeds equivalent to 3.5 oz or 100 grams also contains approximately 130% manganese, 123% phosphorus, 94% magnesium, 63% calcium, 59% iron, 59% niacin or vitamin B3, 54% thiamine or vitamin B1, 48% zinc, 14% riboflavin or vitamin B2, 12% folate or vitamin B1, 9% potassium, 7% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, and 1% sodium.
Preliminary research has shown that chia seeds have the potential for dietary nutritional benefits. However, this effort is still sparse and remains to be inconclusive.
Based on a pilot study, 10 weeks consumption of 25 grams of ground chia seeds compared to whole chia seeds produced higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and alpha-linolenic acid in the blood. These acids are deemed to be cardiovascular health-supportive. However, chia seed intake turns out to have no effect on risk factors of diseases and no anti-inflammatory effect.
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