“Chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.” Now, that says a mouthful.
Chia are the seeds from the flowering plant Salvia hispanica native to Mexico and Guatemala. Grown by the Aztecs, historians believe chia was as important a food crop as was maize. Chia seeds were ground into flour, pressed for oil or mixed with water and juice—a sort of pre-Columbian version of today’s sport drink. Aztec warriors, so legend has it, consumed chia to increase their stamina.
Chia seeds are just tiny, but their nutrient content is huge. They’re a source of fiber, protein, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B1 (thiamine) vitamin B2 and B3 (niacin), and potassium—and all in a low-carb package.
Compared to most plant foods, chia provides a lot of protein—14% protein. Among other health benefits, a high protein intake has the effect of reducing appetite. Studies with humans report that eating chia can reduce obsessive thoughts about food by 60%. Sure, it’s a people study, but …!
With their high fiber content, chia seeds can absorb 10-12 times their weight in water. The seeds assume a gel-like consistency and expand in the stomach, and this has the benefit of slowing food absorption. As chia moves through our pet’s system, the fibre absorbs toxins, cleanses the digestive tract and strengthens peristaltic movement. Chia fiber also feeds the friendly bacteria in the intestine, and keeping our pet’s gut healthy is always a priority.
Antioxidants protect the fats in chia seeds from going rancid, but they continue working inside the body, fighting the production of free radicals–those cell-damaging molecules that contribute to aging and cancer disease. As well, chia seeds contain high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an essential Omega-3 fatty acid for dogs.
Interestingly, gram for gram, chia seeds contain more calcium than most dairy products—a plus for our pet’s bone development. Manganese and phosphorus, too, help strengthen bones and teeth, as well as helping the body synthesize other essentials like biotin and thiamin.
Rediscovering the high nutrient value of this tiny seed may be a case of what’s old, or even ancient, is new again. Revived in all its original strength–chia–for our benefit, and our pet’s.