Chia is a species of flowering plant that bears oval-shaped, multicolored seeds. These seeds, which have a neutral taste and crunchy texture, have been cultivated for centuries as a survival food in their native Mexico and Guatemala. Chia seeds had only just begun to enjoy recognition in the United States, however, when the eccentric Californian gadget company, Joseph Enterprises, began to market them in the 1980s as “Chia Pets,” which are terracotta figurines that sprouted chia.
Aztec warriors treasured chia seeds for their medicinal properties, and many of these alleged properties are now being confirmed by contemporary studies.
Help treat diabetes
Several studies have confirmed the long-held belief that chia seeds can help treat diabetes. One January 2009 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, for instance, found that chia could normalize insulin resistance in diabetic rats while reducing the fat and cholesterol in their blood. These findings reinforce the results of an earlier 2007 study for the Diabetes Care journal, which concluded that chia improved “major and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes” in 20 patients.
These impressive results are often attributed to the fact that chia seeds form a gel when ingested, which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates, allowing the digestive system to process sugar in a more gradual and stable manner.