By Tigger Montague, Formulator (BioStar EQ)
Chia seeds were a major component of the Aztec and Mayan diets, as well as the Indian nations of the southwest United States. Chia was banned by the Spanish after conquering central America and Mexico because the Spanish believed the seeds aided in the great strengths of the Indigenous warriors.
The nutritional profile of chia seeds is an impressive one: higher in omega 3 essential fatty acids than flax, provides 18 amino acids including Lysine (essential for horses) and Arginine (a substrate for Nitric Oxide production) plus Proline, the major constituent of collagen. Chia provides Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and Phosphorus, plus the trace elements Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Iron, Boron and Strontium.*
Chia for Metabolic Horses:
Chia seeds are high in soluble fiber and produce a gelatinous gel when mixed with water. In the digestive tract the gel creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar. Slowing down this conversion is very beneficial to metabolic horses, because it diminishes the blood sugar surges of highs and lows.
Chia seeds are hydrophilic, meaning they readily absorb water/moisture. Chia’s ability to hold water increases and prolongs hydration. By retaining moisture, the body can regulate more efficiently the electrolyte balance. Since fluid is lost during sweat or in cases of diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance can occur. Extracellular fluids are essential to intercellular fluid balance.
Supports Healthy GI Tract:
The gel produced by chia seeds helps to protect the mucous lining of the intestinal tract. The high oil content of the seeds (80% oil) is primarily omega 3, which has shown in several studies to have important anti inflammatory effects.
Alternative to Pysillium:
The gel also is beneficial in moving sand out of the gut, and reducing incidents of sand colic. Chia has 50% more mucilage content than flax, and 20% more than pysillium.
Chia for Equine Athletes:
Chia’s ability to slow the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar makes chia an excellent food for performance horses, because prolonging the conversion to sugar creates a longer duration of the fueling effects of carbohydrates.
Stability of Chia Seeds:
Chia seeds contain potent anti oxidants that protect the seed from oxidation. Fish oils and stabilized flax seed need additives to protect the oils from rancidity. These stabilizers are often petro-chemical versions of vitamin A and vitamin E. These additives are not needed for chia seeds, as the inherent anti oxidants in chia give the seeds a long shelf life, even in less than favorable conditions like high heat temperatures.
How To Use Chia Seeds:
Chia seeds can be substituted for flax. Chia seeds can be fed dry or allowed to soak with beet pulp, or other feeds. The gel can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Generally most horses do well on ¼ cup to 1/3 cup chia seeds per feeding. For performance horses who need a little extra energy during competition, increase to ½ cup chia seeds per feeding.
* boron and strontium are trace elements not found in North American soils any longer. Sources for boron and strontium include: Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Bolivia, so chia seeds from those countries will provide boron and strontium. Biostar purchases chia seeds from Ecuador and Bolivia; both co-operatives there are sustainable.
- Ayerza, Ricardo and Coates, Wayne. 2005. Chia. The University of Arizona Press.
- Castro-Martinez, R., D.E Pratt, and E. E. Miller. 1986. Natural antioxidants of chia seeds. In Proceedings of the world conference on emerging technologies in the fats and oils industry, ed. American Oil Chemists’ Society, 392-96. Champaign, Ill.: American Oil Chemists’ Society Press.
- Eaton, S.B., S. B. Eaton III, M.J. Konner, and M. Shostak. 1996. An evolutionary perspective enhances understanding of human nutritional requirements. Journal of Nutrition 126: 1732-40
- Scheer, James. 2001. The Magic of Chia: Revival of an ancient wonder food. Berkley, CA. North Atlantic Books.
- Weber, C.W., H. S. Gentry, E. A. Kohlhepp, and P.R. McCrohan. 1991. The nutritional and chemical evaluation of chia seeds. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 26:119-25