The chia seed has long been an important part of traditional Mayan and Aztec diets. It is native to certain areas of Mexico and Guatemala. In the early ’90s, it became popular as an entertaining household plant – Chia Pets. Recently, nutritionists confirmed what Maya and Aztec cultures have always known: the chia seed is full of nutrients and antioxidants.
Why exactly should you add this little seed to your diet? Take a look at some of the many health benefits of the chia seed.
1. Rapid Skin Repair
According to Nutritionist Vicki Edgson, the chia seed contains omega-6 LA, antioxidants, and protein.  All of these come together in the perfect skin-rejuvenating combination. Not only do antioxidants slow the aging process, but the protein is perfect for rebuilding and repairing skin tissue. Each serving of chia seed contains 20% protein, making it an excellent source.
2. Reduces Skin Inflammation
If you struggle with inflamed and irritated skin, the chia seed might be perfect for you. This is because it contains both omega-3 and fiber, both known to to reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids work to maintain cell membrane health.  Healthy cell membranes allow nutrients to be absorbed and wastes to be expelled. Omega-3 also reduces the production of inflammatory compounds.
3. Boosts Digestive Health
A 1-ounce serving of chia seed contains 11 grams of dietary fiber, which is approximately 33% of the daily recommended serving. Dietary fiber helps increase and soften your stool, reducing the risk of constipation.  Adding chia to your diet can help improve your digestive health.
4. Strengthens Bones
That same 1-ounce serving of chia seed also contains 18% of your daily recommended intake of calcium.  Calcium is vital for strong bones and teeth. Getting enough in your diet can also help prevent osteoporosis.
5. Promotes Healthy Teeth
The calcium found in the chia seed is also excellent for the health of your teeth. Try to get at least a serving a day to prevent tooth loss and decay.
Introducing Chia Seed to Your Diet
So, now you know some of the many health benefits of the chia seed and you’re really interested in adding it to your diet. But how?
Luckily for you, chia is really easy to include in your daily diet. It’s relatively tasteless so it won’t affect the flavor of whatever you add it to. Sprinkle seeds on top of your yogurt, salads, and smoothies. Some people even add a few teaspoons to their drinking water.
One of the most delicious ways to include chia, however, is by preparing puddings. Below are some popular chia pudding recipes.
Vanilla-Almond Chia Seed Breakfast Pudding
If you usually start your day with a handful of nuts, don’t miss out on this recipe.  The best part about it? It takes only five minutes to prepare!
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
½ cup chia seed
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 – 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
Mix everything together, cover it, and place it in the fridge overnight. That’s it! The chia seed will expand and thicken in the milk. If it’s too thick in the morning, just add a little water to thin it out. Top with fresh fruit and nuts before serving.
Overnight Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
Prefer to start your day with a little chocolate? Definitely try this vegan, gluten free chia seed pudding. 
1 ½ cups almond milk
⅓ cup chia seed
¼ cup cocoa powder
2 to 5 tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
Mix all of the ingredients together and place covered in the refrigerator for at least 3 to 5 hours. It’s probably easiest to leave it overnight. When you’re ready to serve the pudding, you can serve as is or place it in the blender for a smoother texture. Top it with fresh fruit, granola, or whipped cream.
Low-Calorie Mango Chia Pudding
If you’re looking to reduce your calorie intake, give this easy-to-prep recipe a shot. 
¼ cup chia seed
1 cup coconut milk (or low-fat to reduce calories even more!)
½ tablespoon honey
Place all the ingredients in a glass jar, cover it, and put in the fridge for the night. In the morning just throw some fresh mango and pepita seeds on top. For a unique presentation, layer the pudding with mango puree. Enjoy!
Featured photo credit: Mumumío via flickr.com