By Austin Zakari, MA Anthropology,
Drink Chia Research and Nutritional Development
Chia was used by the ancient Aztecs, Mayas and has even been found by archaeologists in burial sites in California and around Mesoamerica. The Aztecs grew chia along with their other staple crops corn, beans and amaranth. As an ancient crop there is archaeological evidence of their use as a food as early as 3500 B.C. They were eaten alone, mixed in water as a beverage, added to other grains, made into a paste and added to soups, ground into a flour, pressed into oil and even used as a base for painting the face and body. The Aztecs knew a beneficial product when they had one and as shown, the versatility of the chia seed was well known to the Aztecs.
The Aztecs not only consumed chia seeds but also considered it so important that they used it as a medicine and as a gift to their gods during religious ceremonies. The plant itself is easy to cultivate and is naturally sustainable. Unlike many hybrid crops that are in use today, this plant requires no pesticides due to the fact that it’s leaves contain an oil that serves as a potent insect repellent. The benefits of consuming crops that are pesticide free are well known. Chia seeds are additionally beneficial to the consumer due to their non toxic cultivation and the fact that by consuming them instead of fish oil there is no risk of mercury or other metal contaminants that are so concerning in our fish supplies today.
Continue to Part II of A Brief History of Chia Seeds
About Austin Zakari
Austin Zakari completed her undergraduate studies at George Mason and her graduate degree at UCF. A Washington DC native she interned at the Smithsonian Institution and traveled extensively during her college years. Her passion for Anthropology was developed through these years of traveling and immersing herself with other cultures. She continued her studies at UCF and focused on issues of nutrition, obesity and health disparities amongst minorities. She will be teaching at Rollins College, lecturing and writing throughout the coming year.