Chia Seed Power

Patient Expert

If my article on Chia Seeds that I wrote here in 2007 didn't convince you to eat them regularly, probably nothing will. Of the more than 600 articles that I've written here, that article is probably the one that received the most attention. Certainly it has received the most comments -- 134 so far -- and almost all of them are positive.

But now I am trying again. And this time I have more support from the man who rediscovered this ancient Aztec superfood. He also developed the system currently used to harvest and clean chia seeds.

Dr. Coates Races

That man is Wayne Coates, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the Office of Arid Land Studies at the University of Arizona. His latest book is Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood. This 190-page trade paperback is available on his website for $12.95.

An agricultural engineer, Dr. Coates in 1991 was working on the Northwestern Argentina Regional Project of the University of Arizona. His team researched new crops that might grow well there, and chia seeds performed the best. Then, they analyzed the seed and found its health properties, including its high fiber content, its high ratio of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 to the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, and its impressive amounts of antioxidants. It is also a complete protein, with a NutritionData score of 115, where a score of 100 or more is a measure of completeness.

Dr. Coates tells me that he adds chia seeds to a glass of orange juice at breakfast and to his salad at night. But he is especially sure to use chia seeds to power his running. Dr. Coates regularly runs races as long as 100 miles.

"When I do a long run, I carry chia seeds in a film canister," he told me.   "When I need it, I dump half of it in my mouth and wash it down with water."

Since Dr. Coates retired almost five years ago from the University of Arizona, I felt it was a fair question to ask him his age. As a journalist, I sometimes ask questions that others might consider impolite.

But he was quite willing to tell me that he is 64 years old. While he can't credit his good health solely to chia, I'm willing to bet that it helps him a lot.

I too also eat chia regularly, and while I am not a long-distance runner, I am also a healthy senior citizen, a 76-year-old who often tackles hikes of 10 miles or more in the Rocky Mountains. I not only love the health benefits of chia seeds but I also love their crunchiness. I sprinkle a generous helping of two or three tablespoonfuls on my salads and in my yogurt. This summer I have been feasting on a dish -- actually a meal -- of plain yogurt to which I add a few blueberries, the chia seeds, and a little stevia for sweetening.

I have found that eating chia seeds regularly helps me to lose weight and maintain my weight loss. Particularly as a person who has diabetes, weight is a big issue with me.

The new book by Dr. Coates contains more than 70 other ways to add chia to your diet. But it also contains so much other information that it will probably answer all of your questions about it. It did answer mine.

The three big questions in my mind were whole or ground, organic or non-organic, and seed color, whether black, white, or brown.

You can grind chia seeds, but unlike flax seeds you don't need to. The natural antioxidants in chia seeds prevent it from going rancid. You can even make a gel from it, but that's a matter of personal preference only.

One of the many valuable sidebars that the book has says, "Certified organic chia is available today--however insects never bother it, so chia is grown without the use of pesticides (unlike most other agricultural crops). Consequently, there are never any chemicals on the outside of the seed."

Chia seeds come in three different colors, black, dark gray, or white. The white chia seed gets a lot of heavy promotion from its marketers, but Chia says that the color is the only difference. "They taste the same, behave the same, and are equally nutritious."

But packages sold as chia seeds can contain brown seeds. They are actually grass or weed seeds, which can have an unpleasantly bitter taste, or immature seeds, which have fewer nutrients than mature chia seeds.

That's one reason why I buy my chia seeds from, the website that Dr. Coates established to educate the public to the remarkable benefits of chia and to make it more widely available. While more and more retail stores are selling chia seeds since I wrote my first article about it, you can also get it from this site at a much better price.