Chia – Aztec Power Food

If you subscribe to any number of health related newsletters, you’re frequently presented with the latest “new discovery” which claims to be the secret to longer life, better health, etc. Now, please don’t take me wrong, there are lots of new things being discovered that may very well improve your health.

But, consider this. There are many centenarians living today who made it there before the latest “new discovery”. So, it pays to critically examine these claims.

The Case of the Chia Seeds

One product being highly promoted lately is called Salba®. The story goes that the Aztecs and Mayans used the simple grain chia (Salvia hispanica) as a basic survival food to sustain them on long marches. Because it was also used in religious ceremonies, their Spanish conquerors almost wiped it out.

Benefits of Chia

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, chia is:

  • 16 percent protein
  • 31 percent fat
  • and 44 percent carbohydrate
  • of which 38 percent is fiber.
  • Most of its fat is the essential omega-3 fatty acid – alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
  • It’s also high in antioxidants… as much as 8 times higher than blueberries.

This mild tasting grain can be consumed directly with no cooking or processing. Its nutty taste is great on yogurt, salads, added to muffins, pancakes… you name it. For breakfast, I typically stir about a teaspoon of the whole grain into a half-cup of plain yogurt with a little honey, applesauce, or fresh fruit. I’ve found it sustains me all morning. On days when I only have a piece of fruit instead, I find my stomach starts getting that hollow feeling about 10:00 am.

So, as you can see, I’m impressed by chia. And I did make my first purchase of it under the brand name Salba®.

Problem: Some Chia Is Too Expensive!

The problem is Salba® is expensive. A 16 oz bottle (which only contains 12.7 oz of chia) retails for $24.95 plus shipping. According to their website, Salba® is superior to common chia. But is this claim true?

Solution: Chia Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive

According to Wayne Coates, Ph.D., who recently retired as research professor in the Office of Arid Lands Studies at the University of Arizona, it isn’t. Dr. Coates is author of the definitive book on the subject, Chia: Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs (The University of Arizona Press, 2005). In a large part, he is responsible for the revival of chia as a commercial crop in Latin America. Dr. Coates continues to pursue research on this remarkable grain that is superior to other plant and marine sources of essential omega-3 oils.

Dr Coates also says there is no significant difference between white and black chia and has a comparison chart to prove it. As for as organic claims, he says insects don’t attack chia, so it doesn’t have to be sprayed. It’s mechanically harvested and needs no treatment at all.

Action Plan:

  • Add chia to your home survival kit – it requires no refrigeration and has a long shelf life
  • Add 1-4 teaspoons to your daily diet as a superior source of antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Compare prices online for chia seeds
  • Don’t go after a brand name. Buy the generic chia seeds. They are as good as the expensive branded ones.
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