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Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seed is the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids known, and contains natural antioxidants. The plant is a member of the mint family and originated in southern Mexico and Guatemala.
Although people commonly refer to it as chia, what they are really referring to is the seed of the plant, a member of the mint family (some refer to is as sage). Technically it is a seed, not a grain as some have called it. More specifically, it is an oilseed since the seed contains more than 30% oil.
Chia was the third most important crop of the Aztecs. They had four main crops: corn, beans, chia, and amaranth. The Aztecs knew about chia’s many properties. They used it as a food, for medicinal purposes, in their religious ceremonies and fed it to their animals. This was documented in the codices written 500 years ago when the Spanish conquered the Aztecs. The Aztecs grew a number of different types of chia, each selected for its specific properties.
Chia was virtually lost for five centuries after the Spanish conquest (due to both religious and agronomic reasons). This changed in the 1990’s because of an effort lead by the University of Arizona to establish new crops in northwestern Argentina. This project led to successful commercialization of chia as a crop, making it more widely available today.