Tiny Seed with Powerful Punch

Valued for its sprout-ability, chia appears to be a diabetes superfood.

By Rebecca Abma

chiapetseedsSurprising fact number one: The hair that sprouts on the cultishly famous Chia Pets comes from an ancient grain whose Latin name is Salvia hispanica. Surprising fact number-two: Eating the seeds that are packed onto those clay figurines may help with blood sugar control, reduce insulin resistance, and improve cardiovascular risk factors for people with type 2 diabetes.

Used as both food and medicine by the Aztecs and Mayans, chia is rich in the omega-3 oil known as alpha linolenic acid. In fact, the word chia means oily. The seeds are also an excellent source of fiber, with 10 grams per ounce, and they contain protein, calcium, antioxidants, and other nutrients. Chia is available in health food stores as seeds, oil, or oil capsules. It's sold under the names of chia, Salvia hispanica, or Salba , a brand name.

In one small study published in Diabetes Care (2007), Canadian researchers found that chia seeds reduced cardiovascular risk factors in people with well-controlled type 2 diabetes. Twenty patients were randomly assigned to receive 37g a day (about 2 1/2 tablespoons) of either Salba or wheat bran. After 12 weeks, Salba lowered A1C levels and blood pressure, and other markers of heart disease risk decreased as well.


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Last Modified Date: June 24, 2013

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