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Chia, This Ancient Seed Lowers Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar

January 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Diabetic Diet Plan

This Ancient Seed Lowers Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar, and Heart Attack

Risks But it has a dark secret that some people are hiding from you Imagine a food that lowers your blood pressure, prevents blood clots, and protects your heart. Then imagine this same food also fighting cancer, lowering cholesterol, and putting you in a great mood.

Would you be interested? Of course you would. But what if I told the only way to get this food is to pay an exorbitant amount of money. Your heart would sink, wouldn’t it? Well, that’s what a lot of marketers are doing with food these days. You may have heard the latest buzzword in health these days is “superfoods.”

Magazines, websites, and other newsletters are touting these superfoods. And rightly so. Most of them are whole food products that are exceptional for your health. So much so that using them daily could dramatically help you regain health.

You know that I consider nutrition to be the foundation of all health and the first place to attack “disease.” And these superfoods offer super protection against disease and aging. But there’s a dark secret about some of these superfoods that you won’t read about anywhere else.

People are repackaging them and selling them at extremely high prices. The good news, though, is that you don’t have to pay these sky high prices. In fact, this month, I’m going to tell you about a superfood that has incredible health benefits. And I’m going to show you how to buy this superfood at a fraction of the cost you’ve seen it in some advertisements.

This superfood is Salvia. The plant family is Salvia Hispanica L. However, you have probably seen advertisements by a different name – chia. That’s right! These are the seeds made famous by the TV commercials for the Chia Pet. Chia is a tiny seed (smaller than flax) from South America. It was a food treasured by the Aztecs.

At one point, they valued the seeds so highly that they used it as a currency. When I first learned about its nutritional properties, this seed instantly zoomed to the top of my food list. Here’s why: The Aztec warriors used chia seeds during their conquests.

Their runners used the seed to enhance stamina and endurance on messenger runs. The seeds came to be known as the “Indian Running Food.” Modern health pioneer Paul Bragg recently noted chia’s ability to improve physical performance.

He decided to study the seed to see if it really helped endurance. He divided some volunteers into two groups – a chia-eating group and another group that ate whatever they wanted. Then he had them go on a long-distance hike. This is what first caught my attention.

As a hiker, I was amazed to see that the group eating only chia seeds finished an endurance hike four hours, 27 minutes before those in the other group, most of whom didn’t even finish at all. But that’s only the beginning of the research on the amazing chia seed.

In another study, researchers took 20 subjects (average age 64) with type-2 diabetes. They randomly assigned the volunteers to eat either chia seeds (about 37 grams) or wheat bran daily for 12 weeks.

They didn’t make any changes to their conventional diabetic therapies. Compared to the wheat bran control group, the chia group had their systolic blood pressure go down by six points.

Their C-reactive protein, a good marker for cardiovascular risk, dropped by some 40%. And a clotting factor dropped by 21%. But the best news was that hemoglobin A1C and fibrinogen also dropped significantly.

The former means that the chia users had significantly better glucose control. The latter means that their blood was less thick, less likely to clot. How can this tiny seed do so much? Chia is packed with nutrition.

It possesses 19-23% protein. Compare that to wheat (14%), corn (14%), rice (8.5%), oats (8.5%), barley (9.2%), and amaranth (14.8%). But, unlike most plant products, and all of the grains above, it contains all the essential amino acids, and in excellent proportions

It’s a complete protein! And, none of the protein is gluten, which is toxic to so many people. Chia is loaded with essential fatty acids. In fact, it carries the highest amount of EFAs of any known plant, up to 83% by weight!

And, most amazingly, it has far more of the hard-to-get omega-3 EFAs than omega-6. The ratio of most plants is somewhere between 6:1 and 20:1 of omega-6 to omega-3. But chia is closer to 1:3.

This beats all of my formerly favorite sources of EFA, including walnuts, flax, and especially hemp seeds. Two ounces of chia will give you as much omega-3 as almost 1 3/4 pounds of salmon! But the health benefits of chia get even better. Chia is also very rich in antioxidant flavanols.

The list includes some of the most potent of these: quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin. They protect the EFAs in chia from oxidizing and becoming rancid, a major problem with other EFA sources.

Furthermore, these compounds are extremely protective against cancer and heart disease. Almost unbelievably, chia has three times more flavanols ounce-for-ounce than my favorite fruit — blueberries.

These miraculous compounds will keep ground-up seeds fresh for up to three months in your refrigerator. Left whole, the seeds will keep up to five years on the shelf! What about minerals? It’s fabulously rich. Ounce-for-ounce, it has 15 times more magnesium than broccoli, three times more iron than spinach, six times more calcium than milk, and two times more potassium than bananas.

That same two ounces will provide you with 770 mg of calcium, 380 mg of magnesium, and 35 grams of fiber. The calcium/magnesium ratio is about perfect. The seeds are rich in boron, important for your bones and sex hormones. It’s also rich in vitamins including folate and the B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin (vitamins B1, B2, and B3).

And, most surprisingly, even though it’s not a fruit or vegetable, those two ounces will provide a stunning 560 mg of vitamin C. And that vitamin C is complete with its flavonoid co-factors, unlike most supplemental vitamin C. Impressed? Well, it gets still better. The chia seed’s outer layer is rich in water-loving mucilloid-soluble fiber (about 5% by weight).

Each seed can soak up to 10 times its weight in water. Watch what happens when you add a tablespoon of seed to a cup of water. Inside your body, this property helps keep you hydrated longer (which helps with endurance). It will help you keep minerals in your bodily fluids longer.

On top of all that, the human body easily digests chia seeds. When mixed with water or stomach juices, the seeds form a gel. This creates a physical barrier between the seeds’ carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down.

The carbohydrates are digested slowly and release glucose at a slow, uniform rate. There’s no insulin surge or spike needed to lower the blood sugar level. That and its incredible nutritional properties (especially the essential fatty acids) are likely the reasons for the excellent result in the diabetes study.

You are now probably wondering if a food this terrific could be palatable. I recently got my first taste. I didn’t know what to expect. I was surprised to find that the seeds are, in fact, rather tasteless. That makes them a perfect addition to almost any food you’re preparing.

It will add moistness and a fatty texture to any food you make. And you know that it’ll be healthy, unlike adding toxic bottled oils. The seeds are delightfully crunchy and make a great snack on their own. There’s no gritty texture. They go down so very easy.

You can buy the seeds in two different colors, black and white. The seeds of the native plant are mostly black. However, it does produce a small amount of white seeds. One research team inbred the white seeds and produced a line of chia that yields solely white seeds.

They named it Salba, which you’ve probably read about in some advertisements. The ads claim that Salba is far superior to chia seeds. But is it? To find the answer to that question, I spent many hours interviewing people and reviewing nutritional statistics to sort out the truth for you as well as myself.

Here’s what I found: The diabetes medical study I mentioned above was done using Salba, the white seeds. The Salba marketers are telling you that the miraculous medicinal properties of Salvia are limited to Salba, and that there’s a huge difference between Salba and chia.

Well, in a fashion, part of that is certainly true. That’s because the study was done with the white Salba seeds. We don’t have that same study conducted with mostly dark chia seeds. However, I took a close look at the nutritional content of Salba versus common chia.

I couldn’t find any difference. Non-commercial research I reviewed shows that there are differences in fat, protein, and other nutrient content between seeds. But the difference is not between black vs. white seeds, or Salba vs. chia. The difference depends upon the location and soil where the seeds are grown.

So why is that important? After I started researching the subject, I was sent a beautifully done marketing piece promoting Salba at about $26 per pound. I about choked. Why? Because I quickly found sources on the Internet selling chia at less than one-third that price.

It’s true that the diabetes study was done with Salba. However, I can’t find any advantage of nutritional benefit of Salba over chia. The biggest difference between the two is color and cost.

I’m not discouraging you from purchasing Salba. However, I think your dollars would be better spent getting chia and using the savings to keep Second Opinion coming to your mailbox each month to keep you well informed!

The savings of just two months buying chia over Salba will keep Second Opinion coming for a year! Unfortunately, you probably won’t find chia at your local Whole Foods store. I couldn’t find it there.

But I did find a place on the Internet where I ordered bulk chia (55 pounds) for about $5 per pound, including shipping. That’s the best deal I’ve seen so far. Smaller quantities sell for about $6 per pound, plus shipping.

The company is Arizona Chia. You can find them on the web at www.arizonachia.com. Please search the web for other companies and deals. You might do better than I did. Salvia/Salba/chia is truly an incredible superfood.

You can eat it raw or cooked. You can eat it whole or ground. And you can add it to homemade pastries and breads to make them far healthier. You can even sprinkle the seeds on salads and pasta.

Or you can use it to thicken soup, stocks, and gravies. For vegetarians like me, it is an incredible source of complete protein. If you want to reduce your meat consumption, chia could be your trump card. You can eat as much of it as you want. But since the healthiest diet keeps fat calories at 10% of total calories, a typical daily dose is probably around one to two tablespoons per day.

For more information, please see James F. Scheer’s book The Magic of Chia: Revival of an Ancient Wonder Food (2001) and Ricardo Ayerza Jr. and Dr. Wayne Coates’ book Chia: Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs (Univ. of Arizona Press 2005). Ref: Diabetes Care, 2007 November;30(11):2804-10; Epub, 2007 August 8; www.eatchia.com/nutrition.htm

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