Discover the alternative health benefits of chia seeds. Facts about organic chia, black vs. white seeds, comparison to fish oil, research, how to use, wholesale sources, more.
Chia has been used as food and as alternative medicine as far
back as 2500 BC. Aztec and Mayan warriors used it as a survival food. In
modern times, Dr. Wayne Coates, a retired professor from the University
of Arizone in Tucson, planted chia crops in Argentina, and has helped
developed the methods that allow us to use it as a food today.
Benefits of chia seeds
Flax seeds have to be ground to be utilized by the body, which poses problems of oxidation and rancidity if it's not consumed immediately. Chia doesn't have to be ground to be made accessible to the body, as it is easy for the body to digest.
With both flax and fish, you should take antioxidants to prevent the formation of free radicals in the body. With fish, you have to be careful of mercury contamination and other pollution of the waters in which the fish live. Chia, however, is not contaminated and it contains antioxidants to prevent rancidity, so you don't have to take antioxidants separately. It is resistant to pests, so it is naturally organic, that is, it doesn't require pesticides. It can be stored unrefrigerated.
Before reading any further,
see our medical disclaimer.
In addition, unlike flax, it There are no reports of allergic reactions. Chia is a good source of protein and calcium, low in sodium and lower in carbohydrates than other grains. It's also a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps overcome constipation and helps you to feel full.
Daily use of chia, perhaps because of its
high fiber content, also stabilizes blood sugar levels and allows some
diabetics to reduce their insulin intake.
Compare fish oil to chia seeds
Chia is as effective as fish oil in lowering triglycerides and LDL cholesterol while raising the good HDL cholesterol. Chia oil has the highest proportion of omega 3 fatty acids of any plant known. Comparing chia and wild pacific salmon shows that 100 grams of salmon contain 1.7 grams omega-3, while 100 grams of chia contain 24.3 grams omega-3!
Chia seed research
In a study on Type 2 diabetics, who were already on a special diet and/or medication, chia, used daily, produced a drop in blood pressure--10 points systolic and 5 points diastolic. In addition, C-reative protein, linked to cardiovascular disease, decreased by 37 percent. Fibrogenic factors, related to undesirable blood clotting, also went down, without increasing bleeding time.
Organic Chia Seeds
There is no such thing as certified organic chia, because no pesticides are needed or used, since pests aren't attracted to it. Chia is harvested and processed mechanically, with conventional combines, so no solvents are used, nor is irradiation necessary. "All chia, is of comparable purity." says medical researcher Dr. David Williams.
White Chia Seeds
Differentiating white chia from black chia is "basically a marketing ploy," says Dr. Williams, who got this information from Dr. Coates, who planted the first modern chia seeds. Chia produces both black and white seeds, and the content is practically identical. Differences in content are influenced by climate, with higher elevations and colder temperatures producing higher omega-3 content. "In my opinion," says Dr. Williams, paying the extra cost for (white chia) would be a total waste of money."
Don't give up fish oil completely yet
It is unclear how much of ALA, the essential fatty acid in chia, is able to be converted by the body into DHA and EPA, found in fish. Although ALA can be converted by the body into DHA and EPA, not enough studies have been done to find out if this conversion decreases with age or with other genetic factors within individual consumers. Dr. Williams recommends, at this time, adding chia to your diet while cutting back slightly on your flax seed or fish oil.
How to use chia seed
The recommended amount is two tablespoons a day for adults and one tablespoon a day for children. Simply sprinkle it on top of your food, your cereal, in salads, over vegetables or other foods. As little as two tablespoons of chia contains about 125 mg of calcium, over seven grams of fiber and more than three grams of omega-3.
You might also want to take a look at this book:
Alternatives newsletter, by Dr. David Williams, March 2008
Nutr Res 05;25:995-1003
2005 Proceedings of the XI Congreso latinoamericano de Grasas y Aceites, Buenos Aires y Rosario pp. 352-352.
Diabetes Care 07:30(11):2804-2810
Am J Clin Nutr 91:54:438-463
Am J Health-System Pharm 99:719-720
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