I also wondered if we might need to grind chia seeds, since flax seeds require grinding. Does grinding chia make it more bioavailable?
“Not really,” Dr. Coates replied. With flax you have to grind it, because it has a hard seed coat. Chia doesn’t, so you don’t need to grind it.
I persisted. It seems to me that the chia is more palatable when I grind it. So is there any reason not to?
“No, there is definitely no reason not to, except for the hassle of doing it,” he answered. “Grinding will not hurt anything, and if in fact you do grind it, the nice thing is that it has natural anti-oxidants so it won’t go rancid like flax.”
What about cooking? I broiled ground chia on my bison burger last night. Does cooking destroy anything of the chia?
Again, that is not really a problem, Dr. Coates replied. “Whether ground or whole there is no detrimental effects. Of course, the higher the heat there will be some destruction, but not a lot. I think it is slightly better to add it at the table.
"Now, if you cook with chia oil, it isn’t stable, because the antioxidants are in the seed and the seed coat,” he says. So don’t use chia oil for cooking, he adds, just as you wouldn’t use flax oil for cooking, because both of them will oxidize.
Then, I asked Dr. Coates what his take on Salba was. A company in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has begun to promote it heavily.
I told him that I just ran across an article by Vladmir Vuksan and his associates about Salba. The article is “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,” in Diabetes Care, November 2007, pp. 2804-2810.
“It’s a joke,” Dr. Coates replied forcefully. “Salba is just the white chia. You can go to our website where we compare white versus black chia.”
Then, what about organic chia? I told him that I ran across a source of chia that purports to be certified organic.
Dr. Coates replied point blank, “There is no certified organic chia. That is another falsehood. But the chia is never sprayed with pesticides because insects never bother it. So there are never any chemicals on the outside of the seed. It is harvested with combines mechanically and it is mechanically cleaned. We don’t irradiate it; we don’t do anything to it. It is natural.”
Then, I said that I heard that you can take too much fish oil and I wondered if you could take too much chia.
“You can OD on fish oil and algae oil,” Dr. Coates replied. But there are no know restrictions or limitations on chia. You can eat a cup a day. You cannot OD on ALA. Your body takes the ALA and converts it to fish oil.”
But doesn’t ALA convert to fish oil with less bioavailability than the fish oil itself?
“There is a big argument about how much ALA gets converted,” Dr. Coates replied. “Your body is going to convert what you need rather than converting extra. So you are going to convert differently from what I am going to convert. That’s why nothing has come out about what percentage is converted.”