Chia grain is the healthiest of all grain products. Currently, chia seed is traditionally consumed in Mexico, the southwestern United States, and South America, but is not widely known in Europe. In the United States, the Food and Drug Admonition regards chia as having an established history of safe consumption as a food.There is evidence that chia seeds were first used as a food as early as 3500 B.C., and served as a cash crop in central Mexico between 1500 and 900 B.C. Chia seeds were eaten as a grain alone or mixed with other seed crops, drank as a beverage when dissolved in water, ground into flour, included in medicines, and pressed for oil and used as a base for face and body paints. Aztec rulers received chia seeds as an annual tribute from conquered nations, and the seeds were offered to the gods during religious ceremonies.

The Aztecs made great advances in agriculture. As an example consider their unique system of growing crops. Using what they learned from their predecessors, the Toltecs, they were able to turn the marshy grounds that they lived on into firm soil. They wove bark from trees into large mats and anchored these to stakes in the lake. They covered the mats with soil and grew amaranth, beans, chia and maize on these man-made islands which were called chinampas or hanging gardens.

As was documented in the Codex Mendoza, written in 1541, the city of Tenochtitlan received annualy as tributes from conquered nations a minimum of 6,360 tons of maize, 4,410 tons of beans, 4,410 tons of chia, and 3,780 tons of amaranth. The city also harvested an average of 3,335 tons of maize, chia, beans, and amaranth from the 9,000 hectares of chinampas surrounding it.

It is interesting to note that the Aztec diets, when derived solely from these four grains, meet today's dietary requirements as set out by the Food and Agriculture Organization-World Health Organization (FAO-WHO).

Chia was one of the main dietary components of not only the Aztecs, but also of another great Pre-Columbian civilization that developed in Mesoamerica, the Mayans. The Mexican State of Chiapas, located within the limits of what was ancient Mayan territory, derives its name from the Nahuatl word Chiapan which means "river of chia". This indicates that existance of chia as a crop in this region also extends from very early times.