A Brief History of Chia Seeds: Part II

By Austin Zakari, MA Anthropology,
Drink Chia Research and Nutritional Development

The Mayans

Map of the Aztec and the Mayan regionsIn addition to the Aztecs, the Mayans also consumed chia seeds and archaeological evidence shows its use was widespread amongst many ancient peoples of Mesoamerica. Due to its high antioxidant content, the seed itself is easily kept fresh at room temperature for long periods of time. Perhaps, this is why it is easily found at archaeological sites of Mesoamerican Indians, such as the Chumash Native Americans. These ancient peoples once inhabited the coastal region of California from Malibu to San Luis Obispo and inland about 100 miles. Chia seeds have been found in their burial sites and it is suspected they used the root of the plant in the treatment of strokes as it has an anti-clotting factor. Chumash runners were known to run close to 20 miles a day or more while delivering messages between villages. Chia seeds are thought to have contributed to their endurance. Golden chia seeds are known among several Native American groups for providing sustaining energy. It was also used as a portable, rich source of energy for Aztec and Mayan warriors going into battle.

Chia’s Decline

However, as the Spanish invaded these areas they also began to change the crops that were cultivated. Chia seeds were unknown in Europe and were not part of their diet, therefore the Spanish did not see the benefit of using resources to grow and cultivate the crop. Instead, they focused on staples that were prevalent in Europe such as wheat, barley, carrots, etc. It is also written that because chia seeds were used as offerings to gods they were banned as the Spanish were Catholic and looked to spread Christianity throughout the New World and its’ inhabitants.

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.