You've probably heard this familiar jingle coming from your TV or radio: "Ch-ch-ch-Chia." Chia Pets have been everything from a child's introduction to gardening to a funny gag gift at office parties. But you may not realize the chia seeds used on a Chia Pet can also be a healthy addition to your diet.
Chia seeds have been a favorite food of Native American peoples for centuries. Very easy to use and store, chia seeds were eaten by Aztec warriors on hunting trips and and by traders on long journeys.
Chia Pets were first created in Mexico. Joe Pedott, owner of the Chia Pet trademark, saw the product at a housewares show in 1977. He bought the rights to Chia Pets and went to Mexico to see the earthenware planters being made. Originally, the only shapes for the planters were a ram and a bull, and while there are many more options as of 2009, the original ram and bull are still the most popular.
Chia is officially known as salvia hispanica. It's a member of the mint family. Chia seeds come in black or white varieties, though there is little nutritional difference between the two. They can be eaten whole and don't need to be ground or crushed to use in baking. When chia seeds are stirred into water and left to sit, the combination turns into a gel, which can be added to food or, if properly tended, grown into chia sprouts.
Chia seeds don't grow well in traditional planters. The best way to grow chia sprouts is with the method used on a Chia Pet. The seeds are stirred into water and left to turn into gel. This gel is spread on pre-soaked earthenware and left in the sun. Chia seeds need to be kept constantly moist until they sprout. You can spray them frequently with a mister, or you can promote a greenhouse effect by putting a plastic bag over your Chia Pet until the seeds begin to sprout.
Chia seeds are rich in omega-3s and are very high in protein, fiber, calcium and B vitamins. They are a great natural energy food. They absorb a large amount of water, so they help with sustained hydration during exercise. Chia seeds are also a helpful diet aid. A spoonful of chia seeds added to a glass of juice provides a healthy, filling breakfast without empty calories.
Chia sprouts may also be eaten. They taste similar to watercress and are often used in salads and on sandwiches. The sprouts offer many of the same nutritional benefits as the seeds.
Joseph Enterprises, marketer of the Chia Pet, has never attempted to get FDA approval for its seeds as a food product. This means they have not been tested or approved for ingestion. The seeds sent with your Chia Pet are the same chia seeds sold in health food stores, and they are never treated with any chemical fertilizers or herbicides. Use common sense when deciding whether or not your Chia Pet seeds or sprouts are safe to eat.