Chia seeds may seem like a modern fad, but their use actually goes back hundreds of years. Many Native American tribes, such as the Chumash, Maidu, and Costanoan, ate chia seeds as a significant part of their diet, and the seed was grown alongside corn in some places in Mexico, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA).
But back then, chia seeds weren’t staples in breakfast bowls and smoothies. Some people mixed them with flour to make tortillas, while others combined them with water and cooked them to make a porridge or soup. The seeds even had medicinal uses, and were used to treat a range of ailments, from fever to inflammation, the USDA notes.
Over time, this ancient seed grew in popularity — though not first as a popular super food. Indeed, as the New York Times reports, chia seeds first resurfaced in our homes as a novelty item — in the form of Chia Pets, which were widely popular a few decades ago.
Since then, chia has experienced another little renaissance, and now finds its way into our puddings, smoothies, breads, and much more.