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What’s Old Is New Again – Can You Say "Chia Pet?"

Written by Wellness Club on February 9, 2009 – 3:54 pm -

What’s Old Is New Again – Can You Say "Chia Pet?"

By Nurse Mark

There’s a New Kid On The Fiber Block… and his name is Salba.


Like you, our email has been bombarded with ads and claims and articles and come-on’s for what is being touted as being a miracle food.

Well, I decided to do a little research – because we don’t carry this "New Miracle Food" and I wanted to be sure that we were not missing out on something that would benefit our patients and customers.

You see, we had looked at Salba previously, and found that in our opinion it didn’t have any clear advantages over tried-and-true flax seed. Yet now, with ad after ad and with pseudo-scientific "come-on’s" breathlessly trumpeting the wonders of this new offering, I just had to be sure.

I looked up Salba – it turns out that "Salba" is a made-up name; a trade name for Salvia hispanica which is also known more traditionally (and popularly) as Chia Seed. Yep, the same stuff that your Chia Pet grows from… You won’t find Salba listed in the USDA Nutritional Database, but you will find Chia seed. I then looked up Flax seed in the USDA Nutritional Database – I really wanted to be sure I was making a true comparison, with data from a respected source, so that I could be sure I was comparing apples and apples – not apples and oranges.

Various of these ads glowingly proclaim that "Salba’s nutritional content leaves flaxseed in the dust. Gram for gram, it’s got more Omega 3, more fiber and way more calcium and magnesium." That really got my attention.

Is that fact I wondered? Well, let’s look at the advertising hype, and at the facts, according to the USDA:

More Omega 3? Nope – according to the USDA figures, Flax beats Salba for Omega 3′s by a pretty good margin.

More Fiber? Yes, Salba does have a little more fiber per 100 grams – but at what cost? Salba’s 37.7 grams of fiber comes at the price of 43.85 grams of carbohydrates – while flax, with 27.3 grams of fiber will cost you only 28.88 grams of carbs – much closer to the ideal 1:1 ratio of fiber to carbs. This might not make a difference if your weight is ideal, but it sure could make a big difference if you are on a low-carb diet…

Calcium? Yes, Salba has more. ‘Way more. But should you rely on this for your daily calcium intake? Not hardly! We recommend at least 1000 mg of calcium daily, more for post-menopausal women. Our Maxi Multi contains 1000 mg of calcium and everybody should be taking Maxi Multi (or an equivalent multiple vitamin) every day.

Magnesium? Well, the USDA for some reason has not listed magnesium for chia (Salba) but looking at a Salba industry website (you knew that there would be a Salba growing industry didn’t you… complete with growers "organizations" and lobby groups and advertising campaigns…) it looks like, according to their figures Salba has 383 mg of magnesium per 100 grams. The USDA does list this important mineral for flax seed – at 392 mg per 100 grams. Hmmm… sounds like somebody’s math is off just a little bit… but again, neither food should be relied upon for one’s daily intake of this mineral.

Better taste? That’s an opinion call, but we haven’t heard any complaints about the mild, buttery taste of flax.

Salba keeps for up to 5 years. So does Flax seed. But why would you keep something around that long without using it?

So what else is there to compare? Well, most of these ads tout the protein content of Salba – proclaiming "more protein than soy!" Well, so does flax. In fact, flax has over 3 grams more protein per 100 grams that Salba!

As for other nutrients, Salba claims to provide a whole bunch of goodness in the form of antioxidants and other valuable micronutrients – but then so does flax. Flax even provides a surprising 651 mcg of eye-healthy Lutein + zeaxanthin per 100 grams – something that Salba does not claim.

So what does Salba do that flax doesn’t? It costs more!

One popular and respected internet source is selling Salba seed in 444gm (just less than 1 lb) bottles for $29.95. Yikes!

Flax seed can be found on our website at $6.49 per pound.

Let’s see: Salba = $29.95 per pound, flax = 6.49 per pound.

So, is Salba bad or worthless? Of course not! It is a fine and valuable food, both nutrient and fiber rich. But then so is flax.

Is it worth over four-and-a-half times the cost of flax? Not in our opinion!

We are also "Endorsing Birdseed" – in the form of flax seed. We’ll leave the chia seed in the Chia Pets where it belongs.

The chia seeds do have one benefit though – when they sprout on your Chia Pet they can be picked and eaten – they make a tasty addition to a fresh salad…


Nutrient Salba per 100 gm Flax per 100 gm
Energy 490 Kcal 534 Kcal
Carbohydrate 43.85 gm 28.88 gm
Protein 15.62 gm 18.29 gm
Fiber 37.7 gm 27.3 gm
Omega 3 (18:3) 17.550 gm 22.813 gm
Omega 6 (18:2) 5.785 gm 5.903 gm
Omega 9 (18:1) 2.007 gm 7.359 gm
Calcium 631 mg 255 mg
Phosphorus 948 mg 642 mg
Potassium 160 mg 813 mg
Zinc 3.49 mg 4.34 mg

All figures in this table are taken from the USDA National Nutrient Database

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