In the book, McDougall talks about how the tribe would put the chia seeds in water and they would create a gel for drinking. This is because chia seeds are hydrophyllic - that hold around 10 times their weight in water. For athletes, this is a good thing, helping hydration during exercise. This also happens in your stomach (even if you eat the seeds raw) and some believe that the gel coats the stomach and restricts the absorption of calories, making chia a possible diet aid.
Two tablespoons of Chia seeds also have a respectable amount of antioxidants, fiber (7 grams), protein (4 grams) and calcium (205 milligrams).
What I like about the claims about the health benefits of chia is that they are rooted in a verifiable fact: Chia has a lot of really great nutrients. That is pretty much good enough for me to understand why chia seeds might be a healthy addition to a good diet.
What I can't figure out is why no one has really heard of chia. Sure, you can find chia seeds in health food stores, but flax seeds are much more popular, have less omega-3s and are inconvenient (requiring fresh grinding). Perhaps because of the seeds strange connection to Chia Pets? I'm not sure, but I will be giving chia seeds a try by sprinkling on salads, mixing them in with yogurt and (when I am feeling brave) putting them in water, waiting 30 minutes and trying some "chia Jell-o."
Nutrition Data. Chia Seeds