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 its health and nutrition benefits, how it differs from regular chia seeds, and how to use it in your diet.
When I first wrote this article in 2008, Salba stood out amongst the poor and cheap 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 several 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 included in this article. 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.
Currently, 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.
What is Salba Chia?
Salba Chia is the branded name of the tiny chia seed that is grown and cultivated in South America. Its botanical name is Salvia hispanica L., while chia is Salvia hispanica and Salvia columbariae. Salba is white, whereas generic chia is white or black.
Salba was brought forth through the work of Dr. Vladimir Vuksan, Professor of Endocrinology and Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. Salba Chia defines the only two registered varieties of chia in the world—Sahi Alba 911 and Sahi Alba 912—for their consistent size, shape, and nutritional quality.
Salba Chia is known for its excellent source of various nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. As an oily crop, the oil content and fatty acid profile of standard chia seeds can change up to 30% depending on weather conditions during growth stages. Salba has been grown to reflect consistent nutritional standards, whereas generic chia is grown in the wild, in different geographic locations, and soils that vary in their nutritional profiles. Salba is grown by one grower under strictly controlled growing conditions in countries like Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia.
What are the nutritional properties of Salba?
Salba chia has the following nutritional characteristics:
- It is a rich whole food source of Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA)
- Every 15g serving of Salba chia provides over 3,400 mg of Omega-3s (ALA)
- It is considered the richest whole food source of fiber found in nature (gram for gram)
- 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
- Salba is trans-fat free
- Salba is cholesterol-free
- Salba is 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 (Pantothenate)
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
- Vitamin C
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, where Salba Chia was found to improve cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes.
Of course, any scientific study is only as valid and reliable as the quality and integrity of the experiment. It must be noted that 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.
Regardless, we do not need a scientific study to prove that a whole plant food, like the chia seed, is good for our health and helps to prevent and heal chronic diseases. This is the basic foundation and power of all whole plant foods. 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 superior to generic chia seeds.
What are the health benefits of Salba Chia?
From a nutritional standpoint, chia seeds rank as one of the top three seeds to incorporate as part of an optimally healthy diet thanks to their superior nutrition density and anti-inflammatory omega-3 content. (The other two being flax and hemp seeds.)
Thanks to Salba’s excellent nutrition profile and characteristics, it can help with:
- Reducing inflammation
- Reducing high blood pressure
- Improving circulation and blood coagulation
- Stabilizing blood glucose and helping with diabetes
- Weight loss
- Reducing the risk of cancers
- Improving bowel movement and colon health
- Improving overall health and vitality
- Enhancing the immune system
How to eat Salba Chia?
Like all chia seeds, Salba has a mild and neutral flavor, it does not require any cooking or processing, and it can be eaten “as is” on or in any food or suitable dish. Most commonly it is added to smoothies, smoothie bowls, cereals and cereal bowls, and baked goods. It is used to make chia pudding and chia eggs that serve as egg replacers in egg-free baked goods.
For sample meal ideas with Salba Chia, see the following:
Who can eat Salba Chia?
Salba can be eaten anytime and anywhere by most adults and older children. Younger children, elderly people, and those who have trouble chewing or swallowing should consume it in some blended form. It is not a food that is a known or suspected allergen, and so the only people who should not eat Salba are those who may have an allergy to seed oils.
What problems may be associated with eating Salba Chia?
Salba chia seeds are extremely small. As such, it is very difficult to chew them properly and they easily get stuck in the teeth.
Salba also has the capacity to absorb a lot of water. Therefore, it can be dehydrating or constipating at first, especially for those who do not drink enough water daily or who do not have a high fiber or high fruit and vegetable diet. Be sure to drink enough water for your daily needs when eating this seed and avoid consuming it in large quantities.
Is Salba Chia genetically modified?
No. Salba was cultivated using natural selective breeding techniques.
Is Salba Chia organic?
There are both organic and non-organic varieties of Salba Chia. Whatever chia seed we get, whether Salba Chia or not, we want to ensure that we are buying a high-quality chia seed, which is very prevalent and easy to find today.
Is Salba Chia 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 because the seed helps to stabilize blood sugar levels given its high-performance fiber content. The fiber can hold 14 times its weight in water and forms a bulk that 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 Chia suitable for vegans or vegetarians?
Yes. It is 100% plant food.
Is Salba Chia safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
Yes. Salba is a natural, whole, plant food, and therefore, safe for pregnant and lactating women. Also, the fact that it contains omega-3, iron, folate, and other valuable nutrients helps to provide the mother’s body with more support for her during these strenuous times. Being a rich source of folate, for example, Salba Chia is beneficial for the normal development of the baby’s spine, brain, and skull especially during the first four weeks of pregnancy.
Is Salba Chia suitable for children?
Yes. Salba can help provide the key nutrients children and adolescents need to develop into strong and healthy adults. As shared above, it should be fed in blended forms to younger children who cannot chew their food well.
Does Salba Chia require cooking?
No. The seeds are eaten in their raw, natural state. Subjecting these seeds to sources of heat would only damage their sensitive and valuable fats and nutrients.
Does Salba Chia require soaking?
No; soaking is optional depending on the intended use of the seed. Soaking Salba Chia seeds will result in a gelatinous mixture, which is perfect for making chia pudding or chia eggs or for use in smoothies and cereals. But otherwise, Salba Chia should not be soaked.
How much Salba Chia should be eaten daily?
A daily serving of Salba Chia is about 12 - 15 g or 1.5 to 2 tablespoons. More is not necessarily better and it may be too filling or dehydrating in larger amounts. Be sure to drink enough water to avoid increased thirst or disrupted regularity of bowel movements.
What forms is Salba Chia available in?
Salba Chia is available as a whole seed or in ground form.
How do I store Salba Chia?
Like all nuts and seeds, Salba Chia should be stored in a cool and dry place. In hot climates, it should be stored in the fridge to prevent oxidation and rancidity of the fats. Excess amounts can be stored in the freezer to prolong its shelf-life.
How much does Salba Chia cost?
Salba Chia costs a bit more than regular chia seeds and whether the higher price makes sense or is worth it remains debatable. If Salba Chia is easy for your to buy and the price is within your budget, then you can definitely go for it. But don’t prevent yourself from eating the highly nutritious chia seeds if you cannot source or pay for the Salba Chia brand.
Where to buy Salba Chia?
Salba Chia is sold in very few health food stores and online stores throughout North America. It is much easier to find a quality organic chia seed, which is very common in all health food stores, major grocery stores, and online stores, including Amazon.com below.