Salba is the registered trademark of one variety of chia, a member of the mint family. Chia grows abundantly in southern Mexico; chia sees are famous for growing, hair-like, in novelty ceramic planters. Chia seeds, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, were important in the diets of the Aztecs and Mayans.
Salba vs. Chia
Salba marketers claim that it has 35 percent more fiber and 19 percent more omega-3 than flax seed. As a source of omega-3 fatty acids, it does not contain mercury and other heavy metals as do some species of fish. They also claim that it contains 30 percent more omega-3 and 36 percent more protein than chia seed.
Dr. Wayne Coats, a former research professor at the University of Arizona, and the co-author with Ricardo Ayerza, Jr., of "Chia: Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs," says that distinguishing between chia and Salba seeds is "a joke. Salba is just the white chia."
You can eat Salba/chia seeds whole or grind them in a coffee grinder to use as thickener. To make a gel, add 2 tbsp. of ground seeds to ½ cup of cold water and stir. Add the gel to puddings, yogurts, cereals or beverages. Use ¼ cup of Salba/chia gel to replace one egg in recipes.
The Mexicans make a drink called "chia fresco" by mixing chia with lemon or lime juice, sugar and water.
Alternative health advocates claim that chia seeds boost strength, bolster endurance, help regulate levels of blood sugar, aid regular bowel movements and weight loss, and gives energy.
Salba.com, which markets Salba seeds, says that the seeds can help strengthen bones, flush out free radicals, improve cardiovascular health and calm digestive stress.
Wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil writes that "Chia is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, even more so than flax seeds. And it has another advantage over flax: chia is so rich in antioxidants that the seeds don't deteriorate and can be stored for long periods without becoming rancid. And, unlike flax, they do not have to be ground to make their nutrients available to the body."
North Star Salba submitted labeling data on the content of its seed as a dietary supplement to the National Library of Medicine. North Star's analysis is based on a 12g serving of seeds (about 1 tbsp.).
One serving contains 4.14g of fiber (17 percent of the minimum daily requirement, MDR), 46 calories, 0.2mg of copper (10 percent of MDR), 92mg of calcium (8 percent MDR), 46mg of magnesium (11 percent of MDR), plus numerous other minerals.
No minimum daily requirements have been established for omega-3 fatty acids.
The FDA has not tested the accuracy of North Star's label claims. In fact, the FDA has no fact sheet on Salba/chia seeds, and no FDA or other clinical studies have evaluated the purported benefits of Salba/chia seeds.