You’ve heard of chia, right? (No, I don’t mean “chia pets,” fellow children of the 70′s, although it is the same plant.)
I’m talking about chia, an ancient seed named for the Mayan word for “strength.” Chia is a whole, unprocessed food chock-full of protein, omega-3′s, fiber, calcium and more — and it can be used by the body in seed form (unlike flax). The USDA gives some more background on the plant itself here, and this page shows the USDA’s nutritional analysis for dried chia seeds. WebMD says it’s one of their top 5 hunger-busting foods.
“Use chia seeds in foods, not as a supplement, but as an alternative to processed grains like white bread because it is a much healthier whole grain that is great-tasting in foods like muffins,” suggests Michael Roizen, MD, co-author of You Staying Young.
In the book, Roizen and Mehmet Oz, MD, recommend two daily doses, each consisting of 20 grams (a little less than 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds. The authors also note that the antioxidant activity of chia seeds is higher than any whole food, even blueberries.”
I had the opportunity recently to try Mila, and I have to say I’m impressed. Mila is a proprietary blend of chia seeds, grown and harvested ethically, and ground in an exclusive method that preserves nutrition and enhances bioavailability (and texture, too, if you ask me). During our winter break, we were out of town and I didn’t take any with me — and I missed it!
I know you count on me for real-world reviews, so that’s what follows. I’m really enjoying Mila, and I’m almost at the end of my first supply, so I plan on buying more. Here’s why:
- It’s a nutritional superhero: protein, essential fatty acids, calcium, vitamins, fiber, minerals and antioxidants all in one tidy, mighty little package.
- Health benefits include improvement of cholesterol levels, blood sugar control (important for anyone, not just diabetics), sustained energy, and reduction of inflammation.
- Chia is more bioavailable than flax (even in whole-seed form) and is more shelf-stable — you don’t need to refrigerate it. Apparently, it’s also heat-stable** — meaning you can throw it into a baked recipe without losing health benefits, as you would with flax.
- As one of the rare plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, it’s vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore friendly.
- It makes a great addition to just about any smoothie or juice, especially the green ones.
- It’s affordable.
- It’s sustainable and ethical.
- If you’re into it, you can even turn it into a tidy income stream by becoming a distributor.
- The whole family can enjoy it — even the pets! There’s a whole marketing line directed toward veterinary usage of Mila!
- It’s REAL FOOD. I can’t overemphasize the importance of that: it’s the actual food that came from the earth — no isolates, no synthetics. It’s plant-based protein, omega-3′s and more, which are incredibly important for overall good health PLUS a host of medical problems.
- You can’t actually hide it in everything. Chia may be a superhero food, but my kids have the superpower of detecting even the tiniest fleck of a healthy addition to their foods, so in lighter-colored or very smooth-textured foods, they found it. (The good news is they sometimes ate it anyway, believing it was “fairy dust” or “ground-up dinosaur bones.” Why are you looking at me? I didn’t tell them that. Okay, I did, but don’t judge me.)
- While it’s affordable for many, it may still be out of reach for the lower income brackets — but then again, so is plain chia, flax, and most other good food. Don’t get me started on why a Coke often costs half the price of a bottled water in convenience outlets.
- If you start right away with too much Mila (which any consultant will advise you carefully against), it may cause some digestive issues. Start with a little and build up as your body acclimates to the added fiber.
- It’s not a weight loss panacea. This is REAL FOOD, people. (This is also a definite “pro,” as you’ll see above.) Don’t use Mila if you expect to drop 20 pounds in a week — go find the synthetic ingredients that are impossible to prounounce if that’s what you’re after. That said, I’ve found that Mila has blunted my craving for sugary foods (yes, even health and fitness pros crave chocolate), which in turn has cut my calorie consumption — so it’s not out of line to say that you might lose weight by eating more healthfully.
- (This one’s a little unclear….bear with me.) Certain people on blood thinners or medication for high blood pressure may need to avoid chia because it may cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Then again, there have been cases in which chia has helped those with high blood pressure scale back or eliminate their medicines. As always, folks with a serious condition like high blood pressure should talk to their doctors first before making big changes to any health regimen. Anyone with a rare allergy to mustard or sesame seeds should also avoid chia.
So — have you tried chia? Share your recipes!
Have you grown your own, or would you?
If you haven’t tried it, what’s stopping you?
This piece isn’t intended to be medical advice — please talk to your doctor if you have any concern whatsoever about trying a new food.
*I was lucky enough to receive Mila as a gift, but I’m not a distributor or getting any financial gain from this review.
**At the time of this post, I haven’t yet found any information substantiating that, but I’ll keep looking and update you when I find some. My impression comes from the great big number of recipes recommended that include both chia and baking (breads, granolas, etc.)
UPDATE as of 4/29/13: I’ve come to love Mila so much that I can’t do without it – and I can’t stop myself from sharing it! Eating Mila daily, I have more energy and less joint pain than I can remember. It’s made such a difference in my life that I joined the team! So, this post now contains affiliate links and easy ways for you to try Mila too!