Chia: The Rediscovered Aztec Superfood

The South American seed known as Chia seed gained some popularity when people started planting them on little clay animals.  Chuh Chuh Chuh Chia…remember?  This seed has far more potential as a “nutritional powerhouse” than a “vegetative animal for your house” and is one of the best things you can add to your diet, whether for general nutritional support, weight loss, or optimizing your Metabolic Health.  I am always looking for nutrient-packed foods for myself, family, and patients.  Foods that offer the highest density of nutrients relative to their caloric content tend to be the best for our health and longevity.  Other foods fitting this profile are seaweed and coconut oil discussed in the chapter on thyroid treatment.

Chia seed has the following nutritional profile:

  • High in soluble fiber:  This is extremely important for digestion, fighting hunger cravings, and blood sugar control.  Soluble fiber helps to slow digestion, particularly the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar, thus controlling blood sugar spikes.
    • When water is added, chia seed will turn into a gelatin after about ten minutes.  This is due to the high “soluble” fiber content.  This gel can easily be added to most recipes.
  • Very high in Omega-3 essential fatty acids:  This is truly a remarkable content.  In only two tablespoons of chia seeds you receive over five grams of omega-3 (equivalent to five fish oil gel caps) and 1.7 grams of omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Excellent source of Calcium:  Two tablespoons provide over 200 milligrams of calcium.
  • Abundant mineral and antioxidant content.
  • High in protein:  Among grains or seeds, chia seeds have the highest protein content by weight.  Two tablespoons provide four grams of highly digestible protein.

Adding fiber to the diet has many benefits to your health, including providing a sense of fullness and leading to appetite control, trapping and therefore lowering cholesterol, and slowing the digestion of sugar thus keeping blood sugar smoothly regulated and controlled.  Fiber influences the “good bacteria” in your colon that in turn assists the immune system to fight infections, and of course fiber helps to keep your bowel movements regular.  There are many different sources of fiber including oats, fruits, and vegetables.  We will focus on a unique source of fiber that has many additionally wonderful benefits for your health…

There have been two significant studies on the particular seed hybrid Salvia hispanica L. demonstrating improvement in blood sugar control and cardiovascular outcomes in diabetics. The combination of nutrients found in this wonderful seed all directly and synergistically assist in helping the diabetic.

Debate exists regarding the differences between “chia seeds” and “salba seeds”.  The producers of the patent-pending brand “Salba” claim that their specific seeds are more nutrient dense than regular Chia.  Perhaps this is true.  But the difference here is really between the “white” and “black” chia.  Salvia hispanica is considered the “black” chia seed.  Salvia hispanica L. is the “white” chia, a.k.a “Salba”.  They are just two different species of the same plant.  I have done my best to explore the differences to see which one would be better, and it seems about the same…other than the price.  Salba or the “white” chia is much more expensive and this should be considered when making a choice for yourself.

Cautions:  There really are no major cautions with this wonderful seed.  Always consult with your doctor about any kind of new food, particularly if you have gastrointestinal issues.

Be sure to find a good trusted source of Chia that grows the plant ethically and organically.  The great news is that adding pesticides to the plant is unnecessary because insects avoid the plant completely.

Dose:  About 2 to 4 teaspoons daily.  Chia seeds can be eaten raw, sprouted, ground, cooked, or as a gel.  Chia has a neutral taste and therefore a mostly neutral affect to most recipes, making it easy to add in to many of your favorites.  They add easily to cereals, yogurt, soups, smoothies, or salads, and can be eaten as a snack.  Ground Chia mixes very well in baking.  A popular Mexican drink called Chia Fresca has two teaspoons of the seeds mixed in a glass of water with added lime, lemon, or honey.

Most health food stores carry chia and there are some online sources.

If you are looking for a quick and easy way to get high-quality chia in the Scottsdale area, contact Yale-trained naturopathic physician Dr. Cristina Romero-Bosch at the Iluminar medical center:

To Visit:

To Call:  480.338.8070

[i] Vuksan V, Reduction in postprandial glucose excursion and prolongation of satiety:
possible explanation of the long-term effects of whole grain Salba (Salvia Hispanica L.).
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Apr;64(4):436-8. Epub 2010 Jan 20.
[ii] Vuksan V, 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(11):2804-10.
Epub 2007 Aug 8.

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