Nourishing Your Body for Better Health

Chia Seed: A Gluten Free Superstar

 

By Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD, LD

www.harriswholehealth.com

Chia is the new nutrition powerhouse on the block! It’s 100% gluten free, and high in omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants, too.It’s a great addition to any diet for the health benefits, but particularly helpful in gluten free and vegan baking as a both binder and as an egg substitute.

So what IS Chia, anyhow?

Chia seeds are from a plant called Salvia Hispanica, which is a member of the mint family.Chia has been grown for years in Mexico and Central America and was revered as a superfood in Aztec societies. In the US, experts have recognized the benefits of Chia as well[1], and it is gaining interest and popularity.

Salba® is a brand name for a patented form of white Chia seeds grown specifically for health benefits, and has been studied more extensively.[2]Salba® seeds look a lot like white poppy seeds.They are sold whole or ground.

Benefits and nutrition

They may be tiny, but these seeds pack quite a punch!Like most seeds, Chia is high in fiber, but it’s also a great source of magnesium, folate, iron, and calcium, and is very good source of antioxidants, too.[3]Many of these nutrients are ones lacking in the standard American diet, but this is particularly important for people on a gluten free diet.Studies have shown that people with Celiac Disease eat less calcium, iron, and fiber than recommended. [4] Since many gluten free foods are not fortified, intake of folate among Celiacs may be low, too. Chia seeds are also high in omega 3 fatty acids, which are important for cardiovascular, joint health, and the prevention of many chronic diseases.

Studies:

Although most of the studies on Chia are on animals, there are human studies on the health impact of Salba®. A small study on Type 2 Diabetics showed lowered blood pressure in people eating Salba®, and also improvements in other measures of inflammation[5].Although more studies are needed, this is very encouraging.

How is it used?

Chia can be used in a variety of recipes or just enjoyed simply.It can be sprinkled onto a salad or yogurt, added to a smoothie, or just eaten plain.It can also substitute for flax seeds, but unlike flax seeds, Chia seeds do not need to be pre-ground for health benefits.See Baking with Chia for more information.

Brands I like

Healthy products containing chia:


 

[1] http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA365093 Accessed July 15, 2008

[2] http://www.salba.com/ Accessed August 5th, 2008

[5] Vuksan V, Whitham D, Sievenpiper JL, Jenkins AL, Rogovik AL, Bazinet RP, Vidgen E, Hanna A

Supplementation of conventional therapy with the novel grain Salba (Salvia hispanica L.) improves major and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: results of a randomized controlled trial.

Diabetes Care. 2007 Nov ;30:2804-10.

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