When most people hear the word chia today, the first thing that comes to mind are those silly little potted plants shaped like a dog or Homer Simpson.
But the truth is, the ancient Aztecs, Incans and Mayans often used the chia seed for its medicinal force and as a major source of energy—and they were certainly on to something, says Diana Allen, MS, CNS, a clinical nutritionist and author of Chia Seed.
Smaller than—and often compared to—the flax seed, chia is filled with two times more protein than most grains and five times more calcium than milk. Plus, it has of high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, soluble fiber, potassium and antioxidants.
So what do you do with it? Chia seeds are found in most health food stores in little bags or canisters, and when cooking, chia seeds thicken foods and can add more substance and nutrition to a dish without all the extra calories. "It's very bland and mild," says Allen, "which is nice, because it doesn't influence the taste of other foods. You just add it like a supplement."
Here are three simple ways to slip some chia seed into your diet—plus two easy chia seed recipes from The Chia Seed Cookbook.
Check out the slideshow above to discover three easy tips and two delicious recipes for chia seeds.