With all its recent media attention in the Plain Dealer, Dr Oz show and on the news, I’ve been getting more and more questions on Salvia hispanica or its more common name Chia. If the song Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia pops in your head, you’re not too far off. Those tiny seeds that grow on “Chia Pets” are actually a nutritional powerhouse packed with fiber, protein, antioxidants, calcium, iron and Omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to this, Chia seeds, part of the mint family, are virtually tasteless, making them very easy to mix in smoothies, sprinkle over cereals, or add to baked goods.
Now I know it sounds like a gimmick, but there is actual research on the benefits of these seeds.
A specific brand of Salvia hispanica called Salba® has been shown to reduce after-meal blood glucose and plasma insulin levels in an acute study. In a long-term trial, Salba® reduced blood pressure, the major cardiovascular risk factor in those with Type 2 Diabetes. In the same study, Salba® proved to be effective in reducing risk factors of heart disease, such as body inflammation and coagulation factors.
Though some use the terms Chia and Salba® interchangeably, there are subtle differences. The main difference appears to be that Salba® comes specifically from Peru, while Chia may come from other regions depending on the brand. Salba® is also typically lighter in color than Chia seeds. Though Salba makers suggest Chia is lower in quality, I believe that certain brands of Chia are just as good. One of my favorites is by Renew Life called Ultimate Chia Life.
So, Chia, Salba, or whatever you call it, try to include a tablespoon or two of this super seed daily to boost your nutrient intake and better your health!
–Nicole Gould RD, LD