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Linda Barrett is a master baker and health enthusiast who rediscoverd the chia seed as a food source more than 20 years ago. She has been a passionate advocate for developing Chia seed agriculture and incorporating Chia into our nutrition.  Linda  offers consultation on Chia recipe development to companies who want to use Chia to optimize the nutritional value of their baked products.

CHIA NUTRITION - A TRUE SUPERFOOD

Chia, Earthʼs Complete Nutrition Food

USDA Nutritional Profile of the Chia Seed -CLICK HERE

Why Eat Chia?

Chia Seed (Salvia Hispanica L.), known today as the “Ancient Food of the Future” is undoubtedly the worldʼs most promising food to supply the evergrowing demands of nutrition for the population of our planet. It is rapidly gaining the reputation of being a ʻcomplete nutrition foodʼ and the most versatile ingredient food which can be added to nearly any prepared food to increase important essential nutrients, without altering flavor. With unlimited growing potential Chiaʼs supply is limited only by demand.

Chiaʼs greatest value lies in its rich content of Omega-3. While fish supplies are diminishing and becoming increasingly contaminated, the demand for Omega-3 is growing.

Chia seed is the richest plant source of Omega-3. Omega-3 is more easily digested and assimilated when combined with soluble fiber, also rich in Chia. The greatest concentrations of Omega-3 are in the membrane of the cells in our brain and must be adequate for optimum health and function of the cells. The health and functions of our entire body are controlled and maintained by the brain, making Omega-3 paramount. 

In addition, Chiaʼs unusually rich content of soluble and insoluble fiber is also of great value, as increased fiber, especially soluble fiber, is crucial in controlling blood sugar levels to prevent diabetes and obesity. The soluble fiber in Chia forms a mucilaginous gel which slows the absorption of sugars and provides a stable release of energy, without the spikes and lows of energy that lead to diabetes.

Diabetes is the most costly and most rapidly growing disease in the US. This same gel helps to reduce cholesterol by carrying bile acids from the body. The body then uses excess cholesterol to make more bile acid for digestion. High levels of cholesterol is the major contributor of Heart/Vascular Disease, the biggest preventable killer in the US which claims over 750,000 lives each year in our country. 

Chiaʼs ability to hold over 12 times its weight in water makes it a food which provides time-release hydration in our bodies and is the key factor in preventing electrolyte loss, which creates endurance. Adequate hydration is necessary for all bio-functions and metabolism in our bodies. A mere 6% loss of hydration can cause cell damage or cell death. Cell damage is revealed as the ʻeffects of agingʼ.

I believe chiaʼs ability to retain hydration is why chia is known as the “Ancient Indian Running Food”. It is well documented that Indians ran down and exhausted their prey on as little as 1 teaspoon of chia in a 24 hr period. Chiaʼs ability to provide enduring energy is what we believe today was the secret of the Aztec civilization, the strongest civilization in recorded history. It was also recognized by the Conquistadors to be the source of their great strength and led them to destroy their fields of Chia by burning this oil-rich crop. Believing that the spiritual ceremonies surrounding Chia were somehow the source of extraordinary strength displayed by the ancient Aztec, Mayan, Inca and numerous other ancient Native American civilizations who included chia as a staple in their diets, the conquerors outlawed the growing of Chia through a sort of 16th century novel food act, shock therapy for an ancient economy that may have contributed to their demise.

Chia seed began to make a comeback in the 1960ʼs with the beginning of the natural-food revolution. A small pocketbook named the “Golden Chia” was written by Harrison Doyle. He grew up with some of the last native American Indian ʻrunnersʼ near San Diego in the early 1900s who had knowledge of Chia. He was so amazed by their endurance that he wanted to write about Chia. This book created a demand in health food stores which then began to carry small quantities supplied by Bob Anderson of Health Best.

Bob also supplied Chia seed for the Chia Pet, which we believe slowed the advance in the food industry by giving Chia the reputation of being a seed for use as a novelty “hobby store” art medium. The sprouts of the Chia seed are virtually inedible because of their bitter taste (indicating nutrient-rich content), distancing it further from use as a food. It wasnʼt until Bob Andersen required a large quantity of Chia, that he contracted a farmer in Mexico to grow Chia commercially for the 1st time since the Aztec era, 500 years prior. This Chia seed was grown to supply Bobʼs effort to expand the Chia Pet into Europe. The Chia Pet was not well receimved in Europe. That is when he began searching for market opportunity, for his stockpile of Chia, in the food industry.

Simultaneously, Linda Barrett was searching for a supply of affordable chia for their newly developed Bean Breads. She was searching for a seed that would ʻstickʼ on the top of her newly formulated, ʻcompleteprotein ʼ Western Bean Breads. She stumbled onto Chia seed, which is, in itself, also a ʻcomplete-proteinʼ. This discovery further enhanced her breads. Adding Chia to the dough caused them to rise better and to her amazement was a seed that ʻstuckʼ to the top of the breads, without a single seed falling off! She found Guatemala to be the only commercial source for Chia in 1990. The Tarahumara Indians and natives of Guatemala handcrafted the seeds from the wild. Linda was in communication with Vivian at the Guatemalan embassy in 1991 to have 6,000 lb of Chia gathered for use in her newly developed Chia Breads, when Vivian printed Lʼs contact information in the Guatemalan non-traditional export guide. That is when Bob Andersen, looking for markets in the food industry found Linda Barrett’s company and drove 500 miles to taste the Chia Breads. This is also when Linda requested of Bob that he ask his growers if they could pick the white seed out and grow it for her white breads to increase fiber content without noticing the seed. White breads still accounted for over 70% of the bread market. That was the beginning of the white chia development that took over 15 years to become available in large quantities. Bob asked if there would be interest in collaborating on writing a book “The Magic of Chia” with James F. Scheer. The 10 year endeavor was finally completed in 2001 and information for Chiaʼs use as a food released. The book was just what Linda Barrett’s company website (Menu 4 Life the first web site making Chia food seeds available in the U.S. in 1997) needed to bring credibility to this seed that had been virtually lost for 500 years from food industry, worldwide. Menu 4 Life created ever-growing awareness to the public and industry of the amazing health and enhanced product benefits of using Chia in recipe formulations and the seemingly miraculous nature of this seed on all fronts, from the opportunity in farming to the end result of providing healthier foods to the consumer.

The market for Chia has been a steady incline and we are now at the cusp of an explosion of use, worldwide. Thorough nutritional studies have been done by much laboratory testing in recent years, confirming that Chia is quite certainly our planetʼs single most nutritious and versatile food.

Dr. Vladamir Vuksan who studied Chia at the University of Toronto and member of the World Health Organization stated that
if there were a single crop that could rid our planet of hunger,
it would be Chia.

 

Chia has the specific nutrient/ structural profile to raise the nutrition standard of nearly any food formulation to help combat the major causes of preventable death in our country. At a time when we cannot afford the high cost of treating symptoms of preventable diseases, Chia (Salvia Hispanica L.) is truly living up to its name, which means “to SAVE”.  

Chia is the richest known source of diverse antioxidants, with 10 identified. This rich antioxidant content accounts for its long shelf-life, as compared to flax seed (the other significant plant source of Omega-3) which will go rancid in less than 1 year as it is very low in antioxidant content and contains only about 1/2 the soluble fiber. Chia seed has richer content of Omega-3 than flax seed. The versatility of Flax is also limited by its strong flavor.

Linda Barrett did a shelf-life test of chia between 1991 and 2002. The seed, kept only in a warehouse, began to go rancid in only the 11th year!  She has a fruit leather product still in testing from June, 1996 which has very little flavor loss and no rancidity after almost 16 years!

Chia used, as an ingredient, extends the shelf life of products nutritionally enhanced with this superfood and extends moisture content and freshness of baked goods. It does this while never altering the flavor of foods and often times enhances the texture and flavor of foods, as the ʻcontrolled moistureʼ Chia provides brings out flavor in nearly ALL baked goods.