How This Little Seed Supersedes the Rest

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Although what qualifies a health food as “super” depends on who you’re talking to, every so often a few fortunate fruits, vegetables and grains join the likes of the gogi berries, spirulina, raw cacao and acai to carry the prestigious title. This year, it seems the tiny chia seed—a nutrient-rich grain reveled for its superpowers since ancient civilizations—is having a big moment in the nutrition spotlight.  

Reigning from the mint family and abundant in Mexico and South America, Salvia hispanica, or more commonly chia, is a small flowering plant with seeds that are rich with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein and antioxidants. With three times the amount of iron as spinach, five times the calcium of milk, three times the antioxidant potency of blueberries and two times the protein of any other seed or grain, chia seeds are no comparison when pinned up against other top-notch health foods. 

Similar in size to that of sesame, chia’s healthy reputation dates back to the Aztec civilizations, where warriors believed it supernatural due to its energy-boosting, stamina-increasing abilities. Fast-forward through the 1980s and “the pottery that grows,” and athletes, fitness experts and nutritionists alike are still cheering for the mighty seed.  

And with a mildly nutty flavor and just the right amount of crunch, these seeds prove to be incredibly versatile. Just as with almonds, cashews or sunflower seeds, raw chia adds the perfect bite when tossed atop salads and yogurts, ground up into flour for baked goods, or used as a tasty thickener for soups, sauces and smoothies. As for prepared foods, look for those that highlight chia as the main ingredient and contain only natural ingredients sans chemical additives and sugar, like the delectable snack bars from Health Warrior. These all-natural, vegan and dairy- and soy-free bars are as equally gooey as they are crunchy, come in a variety of flavors like Acai Berry, Coconut and Chocolate Peanut Butter, and are only 100 to 110 calories per bar.

How do you chia? Tell us in the comments.