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Salvia hispanica, commonly known as chia, is a species of flowering plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. The 16th century Codex Mendoza provides evidence that it was cultivated by the Aztec in pre-Columbian times; economic historians have suggested that it was as important as maize as a food crop. It is still used in Mexico and Guatemala, with the seeds sometimes ground, while whole seeds are used for nutritious drinks and as a food source.
It is one of the two plants known as chia, the other being Salvia columbariae which is more commonly known as the golden chia.
Chia is an annual herb growing to 1 m (3.3 ft) tall, with opposite leaves 4–8 cm (1.6–3.1 in) long and 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) broad. Its flowers are purple or white and are produced in numerous clusters in a spike at the end of each stem. Chia is hardy from USDA Zones 9-12. Many plants cultivated as S. hispanica are actually S. lavandulifolia.
Chia is grown commercially for its seed, a food that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, since the seeds yield 25–30% extractable oil, including α-linolenic acid (ALA). Of total fat, the composition of the oil can be 60% ω-3, 15% ω-6, 5% ω-9, and 20% saturated fat.
Chia seeds are typically small ovals with a diameter of about 1 mm (0.039 in). They are mottle-colored with brown, gray, black and white.
Chia seed is traditionally consumed in Mexico, and the southwestern United States, but is not widely known in Europe. Chia (or chian or chien) has mostly been identified as Salvia hispanica L. Today, chia is grown commercially in its native Mexico, and in Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Australia, and Guatemala. In 2008, Australia was the world's largest producer of chia. A similar species, Salvia columbariae or golden chia, is used in the same way but is not grown commercially for food. Salvia hispanica seed is marketed most often under its common name "chia", but also under several trademarks.
Nutrient content and public interest 
According to the USDA, a one ounce (28 gram) serving of chia seeds contains 9 grams of fat, 5 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of dietary fiber and 4 grams of protein. The seeds also have 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium, 27% phosphorus and 30% manganese, similar in nutrient content to other edible seeds such as flax or sesame. Although preliminary research indicates potential for dietary health benefits, this work remains sparse and inconclusive.
Food preparation 
Chia seeds may be added to other foods as a topping or put into smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, made into a gelatin substance, or consumed raw. Partly because there is no perceptible shell, addition of chia seeds to other products may not alter taste.
Milled seeds 
One pilot study found that 10 weeks ingestion of 25 grams per day of milled chia seeds (see milling), compared to intact seeds, produced higher blood levels of alpha-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 long-chain fatty acid considered good for the heart, while having no effect on inflammation or disease risk factors.
Mesoamerican usage 
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||2,034 kJ (486 kcal)|
|- Dietary fiber||34.4 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||54 μg (7%)|
|Thiamine (vit. B1)||0.62 mg (54%)|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||0.17 mg (14%)|
|Niacin (vit. B3)||8.83 mg (59%)|
|Folate (vit. B9)||49 μg (12%)|
|Vitamin C||1.6 mg (2%)|
|Vitamin E||0.5 mg (3%)|
|Calcium||631 mg (63%)|
|Iron||7.72 mg (59%)|
|Magnesium||335 mg (94%)|
|Manganese||2.723 mg (130%)|
|Phosphorus||860 mg (123%)|
|Potassium||407 mg (9%)|
|Sodium||16 mg (1%)|
|Zinc||4.58 mg (48%)|
|Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are relative to
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
S. hispanica is described and pictured in the Mendoza Codex and the Florentine Codex, 16th century Aztec codices created between 1540 and 1585. Both describe and picture Salvia hispanica and its usage by the Aztec. The Mendoza Codex indicates that the plant was widely cultivated and given as tribute in 21 of the 38 Aztec provincial states. Economic historians suggest that it was a staple food that was as widely used as maize.
Aztec tribute records from the Mendoza Codex, Matrícula de Tributos, and the Matricula de Huexotzinco (1560)—along with colonial cultivation reports and linguistic studies—give detail to the geographic location of the tributes, and provide some geographic specificity to the main S. hispanica growing regions. Most of the provinces grew the plant, except for areas of lowland coastal tropics and desert. The traditional area of cultivation was in a distinct area that covered parts of north-central Mexico south to Nicaragua. A second and separate area of cultivation area, which was apparently pre-Columbian, was in southern Honduras and Nicaragua.
Chia pets 
In the United States, the first substantial wave of chia seed sales came in the 1980s in the form of the Chia Pet. Chia pets are clay figures of popular icons, such as sheep or human heads, filled with seeds. The figures are watered and the seeds in the chia pet start to sprout in a form suggesting the figure's clothing and hair. About 500,000 chia pets a year are sold today in the US as novelties or house plants.
- "Salvia hispanica L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2000-04-19. Retrieved 2012-03-21.
- Cahill, Joseph P. (2003). "Ethnobotany of Chia, Salvia hispanica L. (Lamiaceae)". Economic Botany 57 (4): 604–618. doi:10.1663/0013-0001(2003)057[0604:EOCSHL]2.0.CO;2.
- Kintzios, Spiridon E. (2000). Sage: The Genus Salvia. CRC Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-90-5823-005-8.
- Stephanie Strom (November 23, 2012). "30 Years After Chia Pets, Seeds Hit Food Aisles". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-26. "Whole and ground chia seeds are being added to fruit drinks, snack foods and cereals and sold on their own to be baked into cookies and sprinkled on yogurt. ..."
- Anderson, A.J.O. and Dibble, C.E. "An Ethnobiography of the Nahuatl", The Florentine Codex, (translation of the work by Fr. Bernardino de Sahagún), Books 10-11, from the Period 1558-1569
- Mark Griffiths, Editor. Index of Garden Plants. (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2nd American Edition, 1995.) ISBN 0-88192-246-3.
- "Chia Seed Oil". Swanson EFAs. Swanson Health Products. 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-24.
- Chia: The Ord Valley's new super crop
- "Nutrition facts for dried chia seeds, one ounce". NutritionData.
- USDA SR-21 Nutrient Data (2010). "Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Seeds, flaxseed". Nutrition Data. Retrieved 2010-11-29.
- USDA SR-21 Nutrient Data (2010). "Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Seeds, sesame seed kernels, dried (decorticated)". Nutrition Data. Retrieved 2010-11-29.
- Ulbricht C et al (2009). "Chia (Salvia hispanica): a systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration". Rev Recent Clin Trials 4 (3): 168–74. PMID 20028328.
- "Chewing Chia Packs A Super Punch". NPR. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
- Albergotti, Reed. "The NFL's Top Secret Seed". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
- The European Union, "Commission Decision of 13 October 2009 authorising the placing on the market of Chia seed(Salvia hispanica) as a novel food ingredient under Regulation (EC) No 268/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council" (L294/14) 2009/827/EC pp. 14-15 (November 11, 2009)
- Stephanie Strom (November 23, 2012). "30 Years After Chia Pets, Seeds Hit Food Aisles". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-26. "significantly more alpha-linolenic acid in omega-3 reached the bloodstream and was converted into eicosapentaenoic acid, a long-chain fatty acid considered good for the heart ..."
- Nieman DC, Gillitt N, Jin F, Henson DA, Kennerly K, Shanely RA, Ore B, Su M, Schwartz S (2012). "Chia seed supplementation and disease risk factors in overweight women: a metabolomics investigation". J Altern Complement Med 18 (7): 700–8. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0443. PMID 22830971.
- Cahill 2003, p. 605
- "A second apparently pre-Columbian cultivation area is known in southern Honduras and Nicaragua."Jamboonsri, Watchareewan; Phillips, Timothy D.; Geneve, Robert L.; Cahill, Joseph P.; Hildebrand, David F. (2011). "Extending the range of an ancient crop, Salvia hispanica L.—a new ω3 source". Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution (Springer). Online First. doi:10.1007/s10722-011-9673-x.