Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Whole Chia Seed or Milled Chia Seed?

There is increasing discussion about the benefits of whole chia seed, compared to milled chia seed.

Some argue that whole chia seed will simply pass through the body leaving you with little to no benefit with all the components simply excreted.

This is definitely the case for flaxseed since it has a very hard seed coat. Unless the seed is opened, sprouted, cooked etc. and the coat opened, it will pass through the body.

Chia seed, on the other hand, has a soft seed coat. The omega3 fatty acid in the seed being protected by the natural antioxidants it contains, rather than being protected by a hard seed coat, as in the case of flaxseed.

Now some people have said I looked in the toilet and saw the seeds.  No that is not what they are seeing, rather it is the seed coat which is the insoluble part of the seed.  If one were to carefully examine the remains it would be a hollow incomplete shell.

In theory it would make sense that opening the seed would expose more of the inside of the seed to the stomach so that the benefits could be gained.  It may be true that it might act a bit faster, but that is about it.

Why do I say the seeds do not need to be milled to be taken advantage of? 

There are just way too many people that have consumed only whole chia seeds and have seen remarkable changes in cholesterol, weight loss, less joint pain, lessened glycemic spikes, more energy, etc.  I doubt these people are making up their unsolicited stories to please the world.  They are simply telling the world how well whole chia seed has helped them.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chia Varieties, Chia Strains? - not factual terms

there are over 100 chia varieties 
there are variants of the most potent strains of chia  

I can tell you without reservation that after having worked on chia for more than 20 years, that there are essentially only 3 kinds of chia being grown commercially.

They are: Solid black, mottled grey black, and white or cream.

Note that the last two comprise what is generally being grown and sold today as black chia, and are the source from which essentially all chia originated.

These 3 "types" have been referred to as: varieties, selections, strains, to name a few terms used.

Truly the best description as to what these should be called are germplasm lines.

In no way are they varieties nor strains. People have been simply using these “buzz” words as marketing tools.

The following technical definitions are provided by a very well qualified plant scientist. Use them to help you decide.


Cultivar: A cultivar is a cultivated variety. This is a bred and released line which has something different from others which will give growers certain characteristics repeatedly. In other words, a cultivar is a group of plants selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by different propagation techniques. This, although not very recent, is a newer term for what we used to call varieties. To the point, cultivars have characteristics that are easily distinguishable from other cultivars, and the characteristic is uniform/stable under repeated propagation. The plants in a cultivar may not all be genetically identical, but they breed true for the desired characteristics. Even though we all use these terms, Variety, Selection and Strain can be confusing, ambiguous and often interchanged, which just adds to confusion among non-plant breeders. We all talk about “improving strains,” for instance, but strain can mean different things to different people, so perhaps best to avoid these terms.

Variety: This is a released line that is genetically different and should breed true for whatever traits it has been bred for. The term variety is also confused because in botanical hierarchies, there can be varieties found under species that have nothing to do with plant breeding. Selection: Selection is really a technique where a new or desired trait is chosen by a plant breeder, and really depends upon the mode of reproduction for the plant. These techniques can range from single-plant selection, to half-sib selection, to full-sib selection, to mass selection, among others, all depending upon the plants reproductive biology. In many new/alternative crops, much improvement has been done by either mass selection, where the best plants are selected for a trait, and their seed bulked and then planted the next generation; or single-plant selection, where individuals with desired traits are selected and their progeny tested for the trait. Unfortunately, the progeny of these techniques are often just called selections, and that name can stick for quite some time.  

Strain: Here is an example of how terms get confused from the Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook, under the section title of How to Select a New Strain from an Existing Variety: “The easiest way to create new plant varieties is by simple 'selection.' Selection means allowing only plants that show desirable traits to produce seeds. If any plants don't show the traits you are looking for, you prevent them from pollinating the plants you have selected.” Strain is a word we all use, but its exact meaning is often dependent upon context.

Germplasm: Is all of the genetic resources for a species (plant or animal).

Germplasm line: Is a breeding stock that is maintained to preserve genetic diversity from which selections can be made (a valuable resource for breeders). Germplasm lines can be land races, open pollinated varieties, exotic accessions, wild species, etc., and are usually in a germplasm collection (e.g., USDA or a seed company). Whether from an individual or a group of plants, a germplasm line contains enough genetic diversity from which selections can be made, and often have a specific marker genotype (e.g., black seed or white seed). A plant breeder would take a germplasm line, make selections and make it uniform for the desired traits.