Julie Eyrich reacted in an incredulous manner when first told that seeds used for a Chia Pet are also a superfood packed with nutrients.
"It takes a while to click with you," said Eyrich, a hairstylist who learned about chia seeds from clients. Like many people, the Rochester resident associated the word, chia, with the animal-shaped clay figurines that grow sprouts and soared in popularity during the 1980s.
"You didn't know what to get somebody, so you got them the Chia Pet," Eyrich said.
She views chia seeds in a different light after reading more about their history and nutritional value.
Chia seeds derive from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family that grows in Mexico, where the seeds were considered an endurance food as long ago as the Aztec civilization.
It has been reported that chia seeds are the richest natural source of pure omega-3, have five times the calcium of milk, high fiber content and twice the protein of any other seed or grain.
Chia seeds are getting more attention with Dr. Mehmet Oz and other medical professionals and celebrities touting the benefits. The consumption of chia seeds is believed to aid in the nutrient absorption of other foods. They may be especially good for people with diabetes because the seeds slow the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar.
Chia seeds are also said to aid those with health issues such as acid-reflux disease, acute gastritis and irritable bowel syndrome.
Eyrich, a vegan, said she added chia seeds to her diet to get more omega-3 because she doesn't eat fish. She has noticed an increased energy level and credits that to the chia seeds, which can be purchased in bulk at the Good Food Store in Rochester.