Upon hearing the word “chia,” the first thing that probably comes to mind is the obnoxious catchphrase, “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” Though these little plant pets are nostalgic for some, I’d like to shed light on the newest chia sensation.

Contrary to popular belief, ingesting chia seeds will not result in internal plant growth. Rather, the body rapidly digests them, extracting the many nutrients this unique seed provides. In particular, chia seeds offer ample fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, earning the distinctive title of “superfood.” Although bland on their own, these can make great additions to other foods while enhancing their nutritional content.

Historically, the Aztecs prized these miniature seeds more than gold and even used them as a form of currency. These days, you can purchase them inexpensively online, or at various health food stores, including our very own I.V. Co-op.

A study by the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Queensland confirmed many of the supposed health benefits of this new superfood. Researchers examined rats in two groups that received high-carbohydrate, high-fat diets. However, one group was supplemented with 5 percent chia seeds. Within several months, the rats that consumed chia seeds experienced a multitude of health benefits, including reduced cardiac inflammation, improved insulin sensitivity and decreased liver fat.

“We report an intricate pattern of fatty acid distribution in various tissues from rats fed a chia seed-supplemented diet that would probably lead to an improved lipid homeostatic condition,” Lindsay Brown, lead researcher of the study, said in a press release. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report with rich dietary sources of any omega-3 fatty acid associated with cardio-protection and hepato-protection.”

In an interview, president of AZChia and professor emeritus of arid lands studies at University of Arizona Wayne Coates, author of Chia: Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs, described the origins of this quickly growing chia phenomenon.

“Believe it or not, much of the increased interest is happening by word of mouth,” Coates said. “For example, people call who tell us they heard about chia from friends or neighbors. And if someone hears something about chia and searches the Internet, they find lots of information, and many stores selling it.”

Although there is still some debate among scientists as to whether or not the alleged health benefits of these little seeds substantiate their most recent claim to fame, there seems to be no harm in making them a healthy addition to any diet. So, Gauchos, if history has taught us anything, it’s to trade in your gold for some of these wonder seeds and prepare to flourish like the “ch-ch-ch-chia!” pets of your younger years.