There are many foods that we know about today, which offer a wide variety of nutritional benefits and support our health. One of these foods is the chia seed. Originating in South America, today chia seeds can be widely found across North America. One type of chia seed is Salba, and in this article I will share with you about its specific characteristics.
What is Salba?
Salba is the branded name of a tiny seed that is grown and cultivated in South America. Its botanical name is Salvia hispanica L. It is known for its excellent source of various nutrients like vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
When I first wrote this article in 2008, Salba stood out amongst the poor and cheaper quality chia seeds that became available on the market. It had a strong presence and its superior nutritional differences seemed sure and apparent.
Fast forward 5 years later and a lot has changed. Since then Source Salba —the Canadian Salba source has come and gone, as has Ancient Naturals —the US source, both of whom were my main sources for the information I shared with you here. It appears that along the way the politics of attaining a patent for Salba had something to do with the major changes, a patent that has since been abandoned.
Today, Salba is marketed as Salba Chia by Salba Smart. This company was founded in 2006 with the intention of producing a chia see “that was nutritionally consistent enough for clinical studies.” Salba chia is the only form of chia for which there are positive published Health and Medical studies. All Salba Smart products are grown using organic practices in South America and are Non-GMO Project Verified.
Nutritional Properties of Salba
Salba chia has the following nutritional characteristics:
- Considered the richest whole food source of Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) in nature (gram for gram basis)
Every 15g serving of Salba chia provides over 3,400 mg of Omega-3s (ALA)
Considered the richest whole food source of fiber found in nature (gram for gram basis)
Every 15g serving of Salba chia provides over 5,000 mg (5 g) of dietary fiber
Salba has less than 1 g net carbohydrate per serving
- Trans-fat free
- Cholesterol free
- Gluten free
Gram for gram, Salba chia provides:
- 6 times (600%) more calcium than milk
- 5 times (500%) more folate than spinach
- 3 times (300%) more iron than spinach
- 6 times (600%) more iron than kidney beans
- 15 times (1500%) more magnesium than broccoli
- 2 times (200%) more potassium than bananas
- 8 times (800%) more omega-3 (ALA) than Salmon
- 25% more fiber than flax seeds
- 30% more antioxidants than blueberries
- 70% more vegetable protein than soybeans
- 325% more fiber than oatmeal
A serving of Salba chia, 15g provides:
- 3,425mg of Omega-3 (ALA)
- 5.1g of dietary fiber
- 115.5mg of calcium
- 1.25mg of iron
- 57mg of magnesium
Salba chia is also a source of:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothnate)
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
- Vitamin C
Is Salba the same as Chia?
Not quite. Botanically Salba is Salvia hispanic L., while chia is Salvia hispanica and Salvia columbariae.
As an oily crop, the oil content and fatty acid profile can change up to 30% depending on weather conditions during growth stages. Salba chia has been grown to reflect consistent nutritional standards, where as generic chia is grown in the wild, in different geographic locations and soils that vary its nutritional profile. Salba chia is grown by one grower under strictly controlled growing conditions. This is one of the reasons why Salba chia is grown in Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia; the steady climate insures consistency in every harvest.
Salba chia is white, where as generic chia is white or black.
Is Salba’s nutrition documented scientifically?
Salba has been documented in several human nutritional studies. Salba has been researched by the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor and Modification Center at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, ON and The University of Toronto, Faculty of Nutritional Sciences, and Faculty of Medicine, Canada.
Here is one of the most prominent examples of a scientific study that involved Salba:
- From the American Diabetes Association, Salba chia improves cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes. (See also: American Diabetes Association)
However, it is interesting to note a few key facts about this study and it is a great example of why just being something has a scientific study backing it, does not mean that it is superior in some way or even credible. The most important thing to ask and consider is always who is funding the study (and why). If we want real answers, as the saying goes, we need to “follow the money”.
The above study was funded by ChiaNova Research, Inc.—a company that has since been changed and dissolved several times. At the time of the study a patent application was pending for Salba, which has since been abandoned. As one can imagine it was in the researchers best interest to make Salba look good enough, or important enough to patent.
Therefore while there is no doubt that Salba chia does have excellent nutritional properties, it is hard to say if it really would be significantly different than a high quality generic chia, had someone else been doing the research.
What health benefits can I expect from Salba?
There are many health benefits that one can expect from Salba chia and specific ones will vary, as well as depend on one’s overall health. Due to Salba’s excellent nutrition profile and nutrition characteristics, it can help in or with:
- Reducing inflammation
- Reducing high blood pressure
- Improving circulation and blood coagulation
- Stabilizing blood glucose and helping with diabetes
- Weight loss
- Reducing risk of cancers
- Improving bowel movement and colon health
- Improving overall health and vitality
- Enhancing the immune system
What does Salba taste like?
Salba does not have any particular taste and hence can be a complement to any food or dish.
Is Salba genetically modified?
No. Salba was cultivated using natural selective breeding techniques.
Is Salba organic?
All Salba chia is grown using organic practices, however the bottled whole or ground seed (versus the bagged) is certified organic by the USDA.
Is Salba safe for Celiac’s Disease?
Yes. Salba is gluten free.
Is Salba suitable for Diabetics?
Yes. Salba can actually help to stabilize blood glucose as it is virtually sugar free. Salba may also decrease cardiovascular risk in diabetics.
Salba stabilizes blood sugar levels because it contains high performance fibre. The fibre can hold 14 times its weight in water, and forms a bulk which slows down the digestion of the carbs in our intestines. This way, the carbs from other foods are absorbed into the blood slower and more gradually.
Is Salba suitable for vegans or vegetarians?
Yes. It is a 100% plant food.
Is Salba safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
Yes. Salba is an organic natural whole food and hence safe for pregnant and lactating women. Also, the fact that it contains omega-3, helps in cognitive functioning, and prevents depression in the mother. Folate in Salba is beneficial for the normal development of the baby’s spine, brain, and skull especially during the first four weeks of pregnancy.
Is Salba suitable for children?
Yes. Salba can help provide the key nutrients children and adolescents need to develop into strong and healthy adults.
Does Salba require cooking?
No. The Salba seeds are eaten in their raw, natural state.
Does Salba require soaking?
No. Soaking Salba will result in it forming a gelatinous mixture. This can be useful if one chooses to make Salba into a type of pudding-like meal, or to use it as an egg replacer in recipes. But otherwise, Salba should not be soaked.
How much Salba should I eat daily?
A serving of Salba 12-15g or 1.5-2 tablespoonfuls is a sufficient daily amount. More is not always better. Unique personal needs must be considered such as quality of overall diet and health. Salba is a natural, whole food and eating more should not cause the same problems synthetic sources of vitamins and minerals can. If in doubt, consult your naturopathic doctor or natural health care provider.
Please note that because Salba absorbs so much water, it is essential to pay attention to making sure one is drinking enough water throughout the day, especially when consuming Salba. Otherwise, there may be an increased thirst or even disrupted regularity of bowel movements.
What forms is Salba available in?
Salba chia is available in a whole seed, ground form, as well as a sprouted form.
How do I incorporate Salba into my diet?
Salba can be added to literally any meal:
- Shakes, smoothies and yogurts
- Sprinkled on fruit or vegetable salads
- Sprinkled on/into soups
- Sprinkled as part of a whole grain cereal
- Sprinkled on any main dish
- Used in baked goods
- Used as an egg replacer
- Made into puddings and yogurt like meals
- Used as the basis for various sauces and salad dressings
For sample meal ideas see the following:
Where can I buy Salba?
Salba is sold in various health food stores and online stores throughout North America. In the US, it can be purchased directly from Salba Smart, Amazon.com (see images below), or your favorite online health food store. In Canada, it can be purchased from Well.ca or NationalNutrition.ca
How much does Salba cost?
- $11 - $16 for Whole Seed (regular) 300g or 10 - 13oz bags
- $8 - $12 for Ground Seed (regular) 150g or 5.3 to 6.4oz bags
- $10 - $13 for Sprouted Seed (regular) 150g
- $24 - $27 for Whole Seed (organic) 16oz
- $16 - $20 for Ground Seed (organic) 9oz
How do I store Salba?
Salba is best stored in a cool and dry place. This may include the refrigerator but is not necessary.
From a nutritional standpoint, chia seeds rank as one of my top three seeds to incorporate as part of a regular diet. (The other two being flax and hemp seeds.) There is no doubt that the nutritional benefits for our health are outstanding and this seed is a smart addition to any health-oriented diet. On this note, I also recommend that one chooses a high quality chia seed. This means that the seed is preferably organic, and comes from a reputable company. My personal favorite includes Nutiva.
But whether the premium in price for Salba chia makes sense or is worth it, remains debatable. Today we know that clever marketing can create illusory differences or amplify commonplace characteristics within and between products. As I have shared in my review of Mila, another exclusively marketed type of chia seed, the price point just does not make sense to me, and feels too much like unjustified gauging. At least with Salba chia the price point is closer to what many generic chia, and organic ones at that, cost.
So there is no doubt that chia seeds are an excellent food choice, but whether Salba chia is right for you, instead of some other high quality generic chia, in the end is your choice to be made.