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Chia Seeds for Radiant Health, Endurance, and Boundless Energy

Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L) was first used as food as early as 3500 B.C. The ancient Aztec civilization used Chia seed to provide them with radiant health, endurance, and boundless energy. The seeds have twice the protein of any other seed or grain, five times the calcium of milk, boron which is trace mineral that helps transfer calcium into your bones, omega 3 and omega 6 which are essential oils for the body. They also have a very long list of other valuable nutrients. The Aztecs prized this grain more highly than gold and they even used it as medicine. The soluble fiber in the gel forms a wall between carbohydrates and the body, releasing them slowly into the body. This has been found to be very helpful for people who have trouble
controlling their sugar levels like diabetics.

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Chia Seeds: The No-Gluten Omega-3 Food with
Big Healing Power

Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D - "These healthful, edible seeds are a better source of omega-3 fatty acids than flaxseed, as the fats protect against inflammation and heart disease. In pre-Columbian times, chia seeds were a component of the Aztec and Mayan diets and the basic survival ration of Aztec warriors; they even played a role in religious ceremonies. Supposedly, 1 tablespoon of the seeds could sustain a person for 24 hours. The Aztecs also used chia medicinally to relieve joint pain and skin conditions."

Dr.Weil is clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona and director of its Program in Integrative Medicine.

The name Chia is derived from the Aztec word, chian, meaning oily. Seeds typically contain 20% protein, 34% oil and 25% dietary fiber.

The ancient Aztec civilization used Chia seed. The oil from Chia seeds is one of the richest sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. It has approximately three to ten times the oil concentrations of most grains and one and a half to two times the protein concentrations of other grains. These oils, unsaturated fatty acids, are the essential oils your body needs to help emulsify and absorb the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. Chia seeds are rich in the unsaturated fatty acid, linoleic, which the body cannot manufacture. When there are rich amounts of linoleic acid sufficiently supplied to the body trough diet, linoleic and arachidonic acids can be synthesized from linoleic acid. The Chia seed is also a rich source of calcium as it contains the important mineral boron, which acts as catalyst for the absorption and utilization of the calcium by the body.

Unsaturated fatty acids are important for respiration of vital organs and make it easier for oxygen to be transported by the blood stream to all cells, tissues, and organs. They also help maintain resilience and lubrication of all cells and combine with protein and cholesterol to form living membranes that hold the body cells together. Unsaturated fatty acids are essential for normal glandular activity, especially of the adrenal glands and the thyroid glad. They nourish the skin cells and are essential for healthy mucus membranes and nerves. The unsaturated fatty acids function in the body by cooperating with vitamin D in making calcium available to the tissues, assisting in the assimilation of phosphorus, and stimulating the conversion of carotene into vitamin A. Fatty acids are related to normal functioning of the reproductive system. Chia sees contain beneficial long-chain triglycerides (LCT) in the right proportion to reduce cholesterol on arterial walls.

Numerous studies show that people with depression have lower levels of essential fatty acids. Although best known for cardiovascular benefits, new findings indicate that the strong influence of omega-3 fatty acids in depression. These findings are not entirely surprising when considering that the brain is 60 percent fat, with Omega-3 essential fatty acids the most abundant fat in your brain. One study found that people with depression who received a daily dose of 1 gram of an omega-3 fatty acid for 12 weeks experienced a decrease in their symptoms, such as sadness, anxiety and sleeping problems. There were significant improvements in depressive symptoms, sleep, anxiety, libido and decreased thoughts of suicide. (Archives of General Psychiatry October 2002).

Whether it's by contributing to a better communication between the brain cells, by regulating the heart rate or by acting as powerful anti-inflammatory molecules, these long-chain omega-3 acids are absolutely essential to maintain our health. However, these benefits are not only associated with long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Several studies have shown that short-chain omega-3 fats, such as linolenic acid, also have significant anti-inflammatory effects and constitute therefore an essential aspect of chronic disease prevention.

Researchers from the University of Toronto found adding chia to the diet of diabetic people for three months resulted in an important reduction (40%) of certain inflammation markers and a significant blood pressure reduction. Since these two aspects are well-known cardiovascular diseases risk factors, these reductions suggest adding chia to your diet is a simple way to reduce your risk of developing these diseases. Unlike flaxseeds, they don't have to be ground to be absorbed by your digestive tract, so you can easily add these seeds to your breakfast cereals and other snacks.

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Chia has been Cultivated for Thousands of years in Mesoamerica

Chia seeds were the power food of the ancient Aztecs. Historical records that survived the Spanish conquest show that the crops of the Valley of Tehuacan, near present day Mexico City, had included chia since 3400 BC (Schery, 1972; Solbrig and Solbrig, 1990; Harlan, 1992; Rodriquez Vallejo, 1992). At the time of the conquest, amaranth, corn, beans, and chia were the main components of the daily diet of Mesoamerica. Chia was prized not only for its nutritional valuce, but also as an important medicinal, especially for illness involving fevers or coughs (Anderson and Dibble,1963:181; Hernandez, 1576:49; Planchon and Collin, 1895). The Spanish conquest suppressed the natives and their traditions, and destroyed most of the intensive agricultural production and commercialization system that had existed. Chia managed to survive extinction as a crop by small groups of indigenous people in the mountains of Guatemala and southwestern Mexico.

In pre-Columbian times, chia seeds were a component of the Aztec and Mayan diets and the basic survival ration of Aztec warriors; they even played a role in religious ceremonies. Supposedly, 1 tablespoon of the seeds could sustain a person for 24 hours. The Aztecs also used chia medicinally to relieve joint pain and skin conditions. It was a major crop in central and southern Mexico well into the 16th century, but it was banned after the Spanish chia seeds were a component of the Aztec and Mayan diets conquest because of its association with the Aztec "pagan" religion. Over the past few decades, commercial production has resumed in Latin America. And here is more good news: Insects hate the chia plant, so it's easy to find organic seeds. Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family that grows in southern Mexico.

The Magic of Chia: Revival of an Ancient Wonder Food

In his latest book, The Magic of Chia: Revival of an Ancient Wonder Food, popular health and nutrition author James F. Scheer, presents a possibility for a food-based energy-builder -- chia seed -- that's actually so old that it's new to most physicians and patients. Scarce until recently, because it grows wild in deserts in difficult-to-harvest form, chia has more recently been domesticated, and there's n ow sufficient supply to use chia as a food supplement. According to Scheer, a thousand years ago, chia was a prized by the ancient Aztecs as a food for energy, endurance, strength and good health, and chia seed even became legal tender. From that very period until the last few generations, natives of the southwestern deserts of what is now part of the United States depended on wild chia seed as a staple food and a source of remedies. According to Scheer, historian Harrison Doyle, who, in the early 20th century lived with various tribes, has written that " it was nothing for tribesmen to run for 24 hours on a tablespoon of chia seed and a gourd of water."

Chia seeds are said to contain:

  • 2 times the protein of any other seed or grain.
  • 5 times the calcium of milk, plus boron which is a trace mineral that helps transfer calcium into your bones,
  • 2 times the amount of potassium as bananas,
  • 3 times the reported antioxidant strength of blueberries
  • 3 times more iron than spinach
  • copious amounts of omega-3 and omega-6, which are essential fatty acids

Gluten-Free - Chia seed protein contains no gluten. This makes it ideal for anyone with a gluten sensitivity or simply wanting to find a replacement for gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, rye and oats.

Mountain Rose Organic Chia Seeds - The seeds have twice the protein of any other seed or grain, five times the calcium of milk, boron which is trace mineral that helps transfer calcium into your bones, omega 3 and omega 6 which are essential oils for the body. They also have a very long list of valuable nutrients in them naturally. The soluble fiber in the gel forms a wall between carbohydrates and the body, releasing them slowly into the body. This has been found to be very helpful for people who have trouble controlling their sugar levels like Diabetics. Dieters love the seeds because it can be added to any food or drink in a ratio of 75% to the volume of food or drink and will not change the taste. Because the carbohydrates are released slowly you will get the feeling of being full. Many use the seeds as a way to control their appetites. The gel has no taste.

Horses, Dogs and cats have experienced remarkable results. Pet owners will grind the chia, and serve it to their pets mixed with food. Pets with blood sugar control issues have been helped in particular. Diabetic pets can receive lower insulin dosages, and some go off it altogether. Dr. Randy DVM offers pets with blood sugar issues a comprehensive nutritional program that includes chia seeds.

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Seeds: Buffer against Cancer

An interesting chapter in the book is is "Seeds: Buffer Against Cancer," in which Scheer features the research of Walter Troll, PhD., a professor of environmental medicine at New York University. Dr. Troll describes how the protease inhibitors in seeds may prevent or slow cancer development or spread. Scheer describes a study that reveals a survey of 41 countries, showing that those living where seed intake is highest have the lowest rates of breast, colon and prostate cancer. Overall, however, Scheer's research emphasizes that enhanced energy and endurance levels and helping people to lose weight are chia seeds' major contributions to good health.

In his book, Scheer indicates that energy-seekers can pour a tablespoon of chia seeds into a glass of water, whisking them with a wire whisk. Within 30 to 45 minutes, they form a neutral tasting gel. Orange, lime or any other fruit juice can flavor the gel. Taken with or after breakfast, Scheer indicates that this drink often delays hunger until hours after noon. Scheer discusses how children's nutritional values can be upgraded by mixing chia gel into hotcake, waffle or French toast batter, into hot cereals such as oatmeal, cornmeal, wheat or eggs for scrambling, hamburger meat, yogurt, puddings, milkshakes and malts. According to Scheer, chia gel is a great food extender, calorie-cutter and nutrient-enricher. Added to mayonnaise in an equal amount, chia gel doubles its volume without changing its taste. Mixed with a spread such as butter, it slashes calories and the amount of saturated fat.

Chia seeds were also used by the Indians and missionaries as a poultice for gunshot wounds and other serious injuries. They would pack the wounds with Chia seeds to avoid infections and promote healing. If you place a seed or two in your eyes it will clean your eyes and will also help to clear up any infections. There is a wealth of benefits beyond the information outlined in this article and treasure-trove of benefits yet to be discovered. Chia seed, having a qualitatively unique situational richness along with a profound nutritive profile is one of man’s most useful and beneficial foods and is destined to be the Ancient Food of the Future.

The Magic of Chia New York Times health columnist Jane E. Brody wrote a revealing article about type II diabetes rampant among Arizona Native Americans and their effort to restore their health by reclaiming ancient foods -- chia seeds among them. The Magic of Chia discusses her explanations that native foods such as chia, cholla and mesquite contain a lot of soluble fibers that form edible gels, gums and mucilages and a type of starch, amylose, that are digested very slowly. Chia seed has the potential to help those trying to lose weight, because in water or in stomach digestive juices, it swells from seven to nine times its original weight, giving a feeling of fullness.

According to Brody, overweight patients with type II diabetes, as well as those with low blood sugar, can be helped by these foods. "The combined effect is to prevent wide swing in blood sugar, slow down the digestive process and delay the return of hunger," writes Brody. "Peaks in blood sugar increase the body's need for insulin and drops in blood sugar can bring on feelings of hunger. In the form of diabetes that strikes these Indians, their overweight bodies become insensitive to insulin, and slow digestion diminishes the need for insulin," she concludes.

One advantage of chia is that because it has such a high antioxidant content the seeds stay stable for much longer. Unlike flaxseed, chia seeds can easily be stored dry for 4-5 years without deterioration in flavour, odour or nutritional value and without becoming rancid. Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds don't require grinding Chia provides fiber (about 2 tablespoons--25 g--give you 7 g of fiber) as well as other important nutrients, including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, niacin, and zinc. In a preliminary study from the University of Toronto, researchers fed 21 diabetics either a supplement made from chia or grains with similar fiber content. After 3 months, blood pressure in patients taking chia dropped (10 points diastolic, 5 points systolic) while the grain group's BP remained steady.

One of the exceptional qualities of the Chia seed is its hydrophilic properties, having the ability to absorb more than 12 times its weigh in water. Its ability to hold on to water offers the ability to prolong hydration. Fluids and electrolytes provide the environment that supports the life of all the body’s cells. Their concentration and composition are regulated to remain as constant as possible. With Chia seeds, you retain moisture, regulate, more efficiently, the bodies absorption of nutrients and body fluids. Because there is a greater efficiency in the utilization of body fluids, the electrolyte balance is maintained.

If you mix a spoon of Chia seeds in a glass of water and leave it for 30 minutes or so, you will get a glass with almost solid gelatin. This gel-forming process is due to the soluble fiber in the Chia. Researchers believe this same gel-forming phenomenon may take place in the stomach when food containing these fibers, known as mucilages, are eaten. The gel that is formed in the stomach creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar. The seeds have a nut like flavor. You can sprinkle ground or whole chia seeds on cereal, yogurt, or salads; eat a handful of whole seeds as a snack; or grind them up and mix with flour when making muffins or other baked goods.

Whole, water-soaked chia seeds are easily digested and absorbed. Their tiny dinosaur-egg-like shells break down quickly. They feel light in the body, yet energizing. Their nutrients can be quickly assimilated into the body. Chia seeds bulk up, then work like an incredible digestive broom, sweeping through your intestinal tract, helping to dislodge and eliminate old accumulated waste in the intestines. Many people find their stools also become more regular once they eat chia.

Chia seeds are a complete source of protein, providing all the essential amino acids in an easily digestible form. They are also a fabulous source of soluble fiber. Like flax, chia is highly hydrophilic: the seeds absorb water and create a mucilaginous gel. They can hold 9-12 times their weight in water and they absorb it very rapidly - in under 10 minutes. The taste of chia is very mild and pleasant. That means you can easily combine it with other foods without changing the taste dramatically. People add chia to their sauces, bread batters, puddings, smoothies and more. The flavor is retained, plus a lot more nutrition is added.

Chia seeds were the power food of the ancient Aztecs. According to Spanish manuscripts, the Aztecs ate the Chia seeds to improve their endurance - they called it their "running food" because messengers could purportedly run all day on just a handful.

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Nutritional Information & Properties

Each 15 gram (1/2 oz) serving of Omega 3 Chia contains:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids-equal to 250 grams (9 oz) of salmon
  • Antioxidants-equal to 15 grams of blueberries
  • Fiber-equal to 17 grams of bran
  • Protein-equal to 44 grams of kidney beans
  • Calcium-equal to 3 oz whole milk
  • Magnesium-equal to 73 grams of spinich
  • Iron-equal to 103 grams of spinich
  • Gluten-free.

Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L.) contain oil amounts varying between 32-39%, with the oil offering the highest known natural percentage of alpha-linolenic fatty acid (60-63%). Alpha-linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid acting in the human body as a substratum for the transformation into EPA and DHA through the action of desaturation and elongation enzymes. These seeds also contain some omega-6 essential fatty acids and exhibit a favorable omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 3:2. Modern diets contain too few omega-3 fatty acids [and too much omega-6 - LG]. The seeds possess 19-23% protein and the amino acids of chia protein have no limiting factors in the adult diet (i.e., they are a complete protein source having all of the essential amino acids in an appropriate balance). Chia seeds are also a good source of B vitamins, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, potassium, boron, and copper. They also have demonstrated strong antioxidant activity.

Chia Seeds are a powerhouse nutritional food with benefits superior to flax seeds. The seeds have twice the protein of any other seed or grain, five times the calcium of milk, boron which is trace mineral that helps transfer calcium into your bones, omega 3 and omega 6 which are essential oils for the body. They also have a very long list of valuable nutrients in them naturally. The soluble fiber in the gel forms a wall between carbohydrates and the body, releasing them slowly into the body. This has been found to be very helpful for people who have trouble controlling their sugar levels like Diabetics. Dieters love the seeds because it can be added to any food or drink in a ratio of 75% to the volume of food or drink and will not change the taste. Because the carbohydrates are released slowly you will get the feeling of being full. Many use the seeds as a way to control their appetites. The gel has no taste.

Chia has a very mild flavor, extremely rich in Omega-3 acids, easily digestible, and are a very good source of fiber and manganese and are a great natural source of antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, myricetin, quercetin and flavonols. Chia seeds are renowned to improve assimilation of food, increases nutrient absorption and encourages better elimination. It also prevents indigestion and heartburn without risk of harmful side effects. It is an exceptional food for diabetics as it slows the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar which stabilizes blood sugar and regulates the body’s absorption of fluids, i.e. electrolyte balance, more efficiently.

Chia seeds are:

  • Chia seeds are nutritious Nutritious. Chia seed provides ample calcium and protein to your tissues. The seeds are also rich in boron, which helps the body assimilate and use calcium. The nutrients also support proper brain functioning.
  • Water loving. The seed can soak up ten times its weight in water. Do this fun experiment. Put one tablespoon of chia seed in a cup of water and stir. Wait a few hours and see what happens. When inside your body, the seeds help you stay hydrated longer, and retain electrolytes in your bodily fluids.
  • Easily digestible. The shells are easily broken down, even when swallowed whole. This is an improvement over flax seed, which have to be ground up to be digested properly. If you eat flax seed whole, it will just pass through.
  • Concentrated. If I could only take one cup of food for a few days, I’d choose chia! The food value per volume is simply astounding. You don’t need much.
  • Mild tasting. Unlike some seeds, the flavour is very mild. The mild taste makes it easy to put in sauces, smoothies, breads, puddings, and whatever you want. They won’t really change the taste, but will add to your nutrition!
  • Energy enhancing. The health pioneer Paul Bragg did an experiment an endurance hike with friends. They divided up into a chia-eating group and another group, who ate whatever they wanted. The group eating only chia seeds finished the hike four hours, twenty seven minutes before the others, most of whom didn’t even finish at all.
  • Versatile. The seeds can be used to replace less-healthy fat in just about any recipe. You can use them in salad dressings, spreads, fruit shakes, ice cream, and just about anything you want. I usually just mix in a couple of teaspoons to my juice or water and drink them down!
  • Slimming and trimming. Yes, the seeds will help you lose weight, for two reasons. The first reason is that they are so filling that you will eat less of other foods. The second reason is that they actually bulk up and cleanse your body of old “junk” in your intestines.
  • Endurance enhancing. Chia seeds are known as the “Indian Running Food”. Also, the ancient Aztec warriors used chia seed during their conquests. Some runners use chia seed to enhance stamina and endurance on runs.
  • Regenerating. After eating, the nutrients travel to the cells very quickly due to the ease in digestion and assimilation. Use them when you want to build or regenerate healthy body tissue
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Chia Seed Testimonials

Lost 8-10 Pounds "In June 2007 I started taking the Omega 3 Chia seeds once in the morning and in the evening, in juice or water. Literally within a week I noticed a huge difference with my stomach when I ate and a difference with my colon once the food entered the colon, no gas and no bloating. In addition, I now have complete elimination every morning. This is absolutely wonderful. And I have so much energy and sleep soundly at night. Additionally, without dieting or changing my exercise routine I've lost between 8-10 pounds."

Fantastic Results Controlling Blood Sugar

"I am 74 years old and have been a Type 1 diabetic for 47 years and have always been insulin dependent. I am classified as a "Brittle" diabetic which means my blood sugars are nearly impossible to control. Literally I've struggled my entire life to control my sugars with little success. In the past my blood sugar levels were between 200-300. However since I've been taking the Omega 3 Chia seeds for 7 months now my blood sugar levels are between 90-150. And my sugars are much easier to control because of the Omega 3 Chia seeds and this means I do not have to take as much insulin. The only conclusion I can draw is the Omega 3 Chia seeds are helping my blood sugar levels. My diabetic doctor said, "I don't know what you're doing" and I answered, "I'm taking Chia seeds everyday" and he said "To continue what ever it is that is creating this positive change." - Trudy

Sold on Digestive Benefits

"I noticed that my digestive system works more efficiently. Excellent fiber content! Surprisingly, it also satisfies my appetite, therefore balancing my sugar levels. I am not as hungry during the day and find myself choosing smaller meal's, even having to remind myself that it's time to eat! I'd also like to mention that Omega 3 Chia in my diet has increased my energy level which previously was sluggish. As far as I am concerned, I recommend Chia to anyone interested in benefiting their health!" - Barbara

Optimal Health and Energy

"I play sports, operate a growing company and, most importantly, value quality time with my family and friends. I take Chia every morning to maintain optimal health and energy. With my busy schedule I can not afford to be sick or lethargic. I now eat less and stay full longer. I have also saved money by eliminating protein powder and using Chia in my smoothies. Since Chia has no "taste", even my kids like it in their cereal and is their main source of antioxidants and omega 3. - Sam, CEO

Chia seeds have a long history of use as human food

There is evidence that chia seeds were first used as a food as early as 3500 B.C., and served as a cash crop in central Mexico between 1500 and 900 B.C. For centuries this tiny little seed was used as a staple food by the Indians of the Southwest (US) and Mexico. These seeds were known as the "running food". It was said the Aztec warriors subsisted on the Chia seed and water during the conquests. Ancient documents shows that in Mayan times there were four important crops: corn, beans, chia, and amaranth. These four crops comprised the main components of the Aztec and Mayan diets when Columbus arrived in the New World. After conquering Mexico, Spaniards banned growing Chia plants because they played a role in pagan religious ceremonies. Tribute and taxes to the Aztec priesthood and nobility were often paid in chia seeds. The seeds of Chia have tremendous nutritional value and medicinal properties.

Chia seeds were eaten as a grain alone or mixed with other seed crops, drank as a beverage when dissolved in water, ground into flour, included in medicines, and pressed for oil and used as a base for face and body paints. Aztec rulers received chia seeds as an annual tribute from conquered nations, and the seeds were offered to the gods during religious ceremonies. Chia was one of the main dietary components of not only the Aztecs, but also of another great Pre-Columbian civilization that developed in Mesoamerica, the Mayans. The Mexican State of Chiapas, located within the limits of what was ancient Mayan territory, derives its name from the Nahuatl word Chiapan which means "river of chia". This indicates that existence of chia as a crop in this region also extends from very early times. The species was named hispanica ("of Spain") because Linnaeus described the species from cultivated plants in Spain.

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Flax Seeds versus Chia Seeds

Imbalances in the types of fatty acids found in modern diets appears to account for many of the dietary-induced illnesses found in our country. For example, the ratio of saturated fatty acids to polyunsaturated fatty acids is about 3 times that found in prehistoric diets, and those of indigenous people today. Within the category of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), an even greater imbalance is found: the 1994-1986 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, published by the US Department of Agriculture, showing the average omega-6 to omega-3 ratio to be 10:1. This ratio is found to be closer to 2:1 in diets of prehistoric man and indigenous people today. Since mammals are unable to synthesize their own PUFAs, they are considered essential fatty acids. Numerous studies have found that the elevated omega-6 PUFA found in Western diets is a stronger risk factor for cardiovascular disease than is the serum level of cholesterol which doctors try to control by treatments of statin drugs such as Zocor, as well as recommendations of diets with lower levels of cholesterol. Many scientific studies over the past few decades have demonstrated that an increase in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce to risk of cardiovascular disease. (To give you an idea of the scope of the cardiovascular disease problem in our country, in 2003 the direct cost of cardiovascular disease in the US was $352 billion, according to the American Heart Association.)

Since 1990, the Canadian and British governments have issued recommendations for dietary increases of omega-3 fatty acids and reductions in levels of omega-6 fatty acids. The US FDA has not similarly issued a recommendation for increased omega-3 fatty acids in diets, but has approved food supplement labeling to claim that a beneficial action of omega-e fatty acids is decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Many people today have turned to the consumption of flax seeds or flax seed oils for supplementing their diets with omega-3 fatty acids, but there are some serious problems with the use of flax seed in the diet. There are some toxins and anti-nutritional factors found in flax seed.

“Flaxseed has been used by humans for four thousand years (Schery, 1972). Although attempts have been made to show flaxseed being used as a staple food, it has never used or even [been] considered as a food by any civilization. However, industrial products such as fiber for clothing and oil for lighting were made from the stalks and seeds, respectively, by a number of ancient cultures such as the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Arabs (Cooley, 1899; Gil, 1965p Crawford, 1979; Palagia, 1984; Mayerson, 1997). Flax is mentioned eighty-nine times in the Bible (Moldenke and Moldenke, 1952); however, it is never referred to as a food but rather as a source of fiber for clothing.

“Flax has been questioned as a food because it contains a number of factors that interfere with the normal development of humans and animals. The concern about human use of flax is due mainly to the presence of toxic cianoglicosides (limarin), vitamin B6 antagonist factors (Butler, Bailey, and Kennedy, 1965; Stitt, 1988; Center for Alternative Plant and Animal Products, 1995, Vetter, 2000) and other antinutritional factors, including cyanogenic glycosides, trypsin inhibitors, phytic acid, allergens, and goitrogens (Madhusudhan et al., 1986; Bhatty, 1993; Trevino et al., 2000). All flax varieties contain these antinutritional factors. This includes FP967, a genetically modified variety that has a concentration of cyanogenic compounds (linamarin, linustatin, and neolinustatin) no different from traditional varieties (Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 1998).

“The antagonistic factors of the vitamin B group that are found in flaxseeds have been specified as a risk factor for human health. Recent findings show that low blood levels of B vitamins are linked with an increased risk of fatal coronary heart disease and stroke (American Heart Association, 1999). Research on animals has brought to light concerns about the negative influence that flax has on pregnancy and reproductive development. These effects have been attributed to a compound known as diclycoside ecoisolariciresinol (SDG), which through microbial action suppresses the effect of estrogen in mammals. Flax is known to be the richest source of SDG, and therefore special caution is recommended if it is consumed during pregnancy and lactation (Toug, Chen, and Thompson, 1998; Rickard and Thompson, 1998). Both the complex ester form of SDG and the free form of SDG remain stable when flaxseeds are baked in bread (Muir and Westcott, 2000). Thus, commercially prepared bread, muffins, and cookies containing flax carry the warning of being potentially harmful. In order to safely use flax in animal and human diets the seeds should be detoxified. However, the most efficient processes require the use of solvents, and even in the best case the seeds cannot be completely detoxified (Madhusudhan et al., 1986; Mazza and Oomah, 1996).

The amino acid balance of chia also compares favorably with that of other cereals, having higher levels of lysine, methionine, and cysteine.

Comparison of the vitamin content of chia with other crops shows that it is higher in niacin than corn, soybeans, rice, and safflower but lower in vitamin A than corn. Thiamin and riboflavin contents are similar to rice and corn, but lower than soybeans and safflower.

Chia seeds are an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and copper. It has 6 times more calcium, 11 times more phosphorus, and 4.6 times more potassium than does milk, according the USDA (2001), Brown (2003), and the Instituto Nacional de Alimentos (2003).

Chia is highly enriched with antioxidants to protect its PUFAs from becoming oxidized and going rancid, to the extent that chia seed can be ground to flour and stored at room temperature until use (Taga, Miller, and Pratt, 1984; Castro-Martinez, Pratt, and Miller, 1986). The most important antioxidants in chia are chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid as well as myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol flavonols. These antioxidants have been shown to provide protection to lipids, proteins, and DNA from oxidation, and work to inhibit lipid peroxidation with strong free radical and superoxide scavenging activity. They are more effective than vitamin C and vitamin E in their antioxidant properties (Kweon, Hwang, and Sung, 2001). Epidemiological studies have indicated that consumption of high levels of flavonol-rich foods and beverages may protect against cardiovascular disease (Hertog et al., 1993; Hertog, Kromhout, and Aravanis, 1995; Hertog and Hollman 1996; Cook and Samaman, 1996; Knekt et al., 1996), stroke (Keli et al., 1996), lung cancer (Knekt et al., 1997), and stomach cancer (Garcia Closas et al., 1999).

The cultivation of Chia requires a long growing season, so it can only be cultivated in southern Texas and California in the US. It is currently being grown commercially from Argentina and Bolivia, through Central American to Mexico and the United States.