Ancient chia seed may provide a nutritious, heart-healthy supply of protein.
Chia protein generally refers to the nutrient-rich seeds of the chia plant. It is believed to impart such potential benefits as:
- Promoting cardiovascular health. Chia may lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disorders.
- Combating inflammation. An abundant supply of omega-3 fatty acids may enable chia to reduce inflammation and related health complications.
Chia protein is derived primarily from the Salvia hispanica plant, though a few other plants share the “chia” name. It was highly valued by the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican cultures as a staple food and considered one of their principal crops, second only to corn.
The widespread commercial production of chia continues to this day. Whether milled, ground, or whole, chia seeds are a rich source of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, notably magnesium and the B vitamins.
Early stages of chia research have identified a distinct likelihood to promote good health, especially due to its high quantity of omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with cardiovascular health.
Chia Protein’s Beneficial Bio-Activities
Improving cholesterol levels
Boosting omega-3 fatty acid content
Most fried, baked, and oily foods contain excessively high amounts of omega-6, which increases the otherwise stable ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (n-6 to n-3 ratio) that is so critical for cardiovascular well-being. By providing a high dose of omega-3’s, especially alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), chia protein may help improve vascular endothelial function, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation.3 4
Chia Protein’s Reputation and Benefits
Chia seeds may be an excellent source of heart-healthy protein. Chia seeds are most commonly viewed as an organic and vegetarian food with excellent nutrition and low calories. Its potential health benefits have ties to the cardiovascular system and include:
- Stabilizing blood pressure
- Improving arterial function
- Reducing inflammation
Chia has most prominently been shown to combat dyslipidemia, which includes any abnormalities in fat and cholesterol levels in the body. Researchers are still in the process of determining to what extent chia seeds and protein are able to reduce risk factors of cardiovascular disease.5 6 More on protein supplements.
Animal research emphasizes the capacity of chia seeds to improve cardiovascular health.
In this investigation, 32 male rats were fed corn oil, whole chia seeds, ground chia seeds, or chia oil for a period of 30 days. All forms of chia decreased triglyceride content and increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Significant improvements were also observed in the n-6/n-3 fatty acid ratio for all chia diets compared to the control, which is crucial for cardiovascular health.
- The study concluded that “chia decreased serum TG content and increased HDL content.”7
In this investigation, rats were fed either a sucrose-rich diet (SRD) or a sucrose and chia diet for 2 months. The results indicated that dietary chia seed was able to prevent the onset of dyslipidemia and insulin resistance unlike the control.
- The study concluded that it “provides new data regarding the beneficial effect of chia seed upon lipid and glucose homeostasis in an experimental model of dislipidaemia and IR.”8
Clinical studies demonstrate chia’s potential as a supplement for cardiovascular health. Its use for specific health complications, particularly diabetes and obesity, requires further investigation.
In this single-blind investigation, 2o type-2 diabetics were given either 37 ± 4 grams of Salba® chia seed or wheat bran for 12 weeks while continuing their standard diabetes therapy. Salba® was found to significantly reduce blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors. Furthermore, the omega-3 fatty acid levels of the Salba® group doubled.
- The study concluded that “long-term supplementation with Salba attenuated a major cardiovascular risk factor (SBP) and emerging factors (hs-CRP and vWF) safely beyond conventional therapy, while maintaining good glycemic and lipid control in people with well-controlled type 2 diabetes.”9
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 62 overweight women between the ages of 49 and 75 were given milled chia seeds, whole chia seeds, or a placebo of poppy seeds every day for 10 weeks. Compared to the whole chia seed and placebo, the milled chia seed group had significantly higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids α-linolenic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). No significant differences in body composition, inflammation, blood pressure, and cholesterol were noted.
- The study concluded that “ingestion of 25 g/day milled chia seed compared to whole chia seed or placebo for 10 weeks by overweight women increased plasma ALA and EPA, but had no influence on inflammation or disease risk factors.”10
Chia Protein Dosage
- Successful research studies used from 25 – 50 grams of chia seeds per day
- Typical chia protein supplements come as whole or ground seeds, although some products also remove the oil
- Whole chia seeds
- Chia seed powder
- Chia seed protein powder (majority of oil removed)
Supplements in Review Says
- Chia seed as Salba, 15 grams daily.
Chia seeds may improve cardiovascular health. Chia is not only a healthy vegan alternative to the more common protein sources, but also comes with nutritional advantages, especially for the heart and blood vessels.
Try 15 grams of Salba®, the clinically tested chia seed supplement. Salba® has shown potential in reducing cardiovascular risk factors. Start with the recommended serving size of 15 grams per day.
- Ayerza R, et al. Dietary levels of chia: influence on yolk cholesterol, lipid content and fatty acid composition for two strains of hens. Poult Sci. 2000 May;79(5):724-39. ↩
- Ayerza R, et al. Chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) as an omega-3 fatty acid source for broilers: influence on fatty acid composition, cholesterol and fat content of white and dark meats, growth performance, and sensory characteristics. Poult Sci. 2002 Jun;81(6):826-37. ↩
- Jin F, et al. Supplementation of milled chia seeds increases plasma ALA and EPA in postmenopausal women. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2012 Jun;67(2):105-10. ↩
- Wijendran V, et al. Dietary n-6 and n-3 fatty acid balance and cardiovascular health. Annu Rev Nutr. 2004;24:597-615. ↩
- De Souza Ferrara C, et al. EFFECT OF CHIA SEED (SALVIA HISPANICA L.) CONSUMPTION ON CARDIOVASCULAR RISK FACTORS IN HUMANS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW. Nutr Hosp. 2015 Nov 1;32(5):1909-18. ↩
- Mohd Ali N, et al. The promising future of chia, Salvia hispanica L. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012;2012:171956. ↩
- Ayerza R Jr, et al. Effect of dietary alpha-linolenic fatty acid derived from chia when fed as ground seed, whole seed and oil on lipid content and fatty acid composition of rat plasma. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(1):27-34. ↩
- Chicco AG, et al. Dietary chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) rich in alpha-linolenic acid improves adiposity and normalises hypertriacylglycerolaemia and insulin resistance in dyslipaemic rats. Br J Nutr. 2009 Jan;101(1):41-50. ↩
- Vuksan V, et al. Supplementation of conventional therapy with the novel grain Salba (Salvia hispanica L.) improves major and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: results of a randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care 2007;30:2804-10. ↩
- Nieman DC, et al. Chia seed supplementation and disease risk factors in overweight women: a metabolomics investigation. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Jul;18(7):700-8. ↩