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Amazing Chia Plant

January 15, 2015

Small seed packed with big benefits.

 

Chia, a cheerful upright plant that can grow to a height of about 3 feet, has a square shaped stem and oblong pointed bright green leaves.

 

Chia ( Salvia Hispanica ), a member of the mint ( Lamiacea ) family, prefers well drained soil and a sunny location. The small blue flowers bloom on a cylindrical spike-like head in random order. The seeds require a long summer to mature and have a cool and moist energy. This plant grows well in parts of South America and subtropical climates like Bolivia and Ecuador.

 

The tiny brown and white seeds of the Chia plant are packed with nutrition, antioxidants, fiber, amino acids, vitamins and essential fatty acids.

 

Amino Acids

 

Amino acids are vital for almost all body functions of a horse. Amazingly, chia seeds have 18 of the 22 amino acids required by a horse, including 9 essential amino acids and the complementary nonessential amino acids in proper proportions. Pretty impressive for such a small seed!

 

Essential Fatty Acids – High Omega 3

 

Chia seeds are high in omega 3 fatty acid , having a 3:1 ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 essential fatty acids. This balance of EFAs makes chia seed a strong anti-inflammatory, as well as boosting immune function, supporting healthy skin, hooves, mucous membranes and shiny coats.

 

Fiber and Mucilage

 

When soaked in water, chia seeds form a polysaccharide rich, thick gel coating that can help your horse in a few ways. First, it is helpful for clearing sand, much like psyllium. Both soluble and insoluble fiber in chia seeds help sweep debris out of the intestines. This gel also helps to heal gut mucosa, reducing inflammation, which would be beneficial for a horse with ulcers. Another benefit of the gel is slowing down the absorption of sugar by the body, helping to keep blood sugar levels more balanced. A clinical animal study (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24120122 ) showed prevention and reversal of insulin resistance that had been caused by a high sucrose diet, suggesting chia seed could be helpful in the diet of metabolic horses.

 

Hydration

 

Chia seeds’ ability to absorb up to 12x their weight in water can help your horse stay hydrated. The balance of electrolytes in the body is assisted by the chia seed’s ability to retain moisture, slowing carbohydrate consumption, a plus for endurance or performance horses.

 

Antioxidants

 

Chia seeds are high in antioxidants including the flavonoids quercetin and kampherol, which are both anti-inflammatory and help to reduce free radicals in the body. The high levels of antioxidants in the seeds help to stabilize the EFAs in the seeds from rancidity, and not lose their nutritional value, giving it a long shelf life in your feed room.

 

Minerals

 

Chia seeds contain small amounts of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, manganese and boron (boron and magnesium work together to increase calcium absorption).

 

Sacred and Powerful

 

Historically, chia seeds were considered sacred, used in religious ceremonies and a staple in the diet of the Southwest Native Americans, Aztecs and Mayans. Aztec warriors were able to run long distances powered only by small amounts of chia seeds and water. The commonly known name of Chia was translated from the Aztec word ‘Chian’ which means oily, while the Mayan translation comes from the word ‘Chiabann’ meaning strengthening.

 

The seeds of the chia plant offer numerous health benefits for your horse packed into a tiny palatable seed.

 

Note:  Chia seeds are more bioavailable when ground and soak up water quicker.  A good starting place for an average size horse is 1/3 cup a day. I feed soaked with at least 4 parts water to 1 part Chia seed. 

 

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