HISTORY Native to Mexico; belongs to the mint family; chia is the Mayan word for strength: Aztec warriors ate these seeds for energy and endurance before battles and long treks.
APPEARANCE Like sesame seeds or flaxseeds in size and shape; come in “black” and “white” varieties.
TASTE Mildly nutty.
BENEFITS Full of antioxidants, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc; one tablespoon has 3 grams of omega-3s, 5 g of fiber, 3.5 g of protein, and just 78 calories.
USES Snack on seeds or sprinkle over salads; soak seeds in water to soften them and mix into smoothies or soup (but avoid boiling liquids—the seed’s fatty acids break down at high heat, says dietitian Jennifer Hunter [jennifernutritionist.com]).
BUY in bulk at health food stores or at greensplus.com/chia. Refrigerate the seeds to preserve the fatty acids, says Hunter. Or try CocoChia Ultimate Snack Fuel Bar ($30 for 12 bars; livingfuel.com) or Weil by Nature’s Path Chia Razz Bar ($2.29 each; naturespath.com)