This tiny seed whose origins date back to the Aztec and Mayan civilizations provides a powerhouse of nutrition for humans and horses. Providing a higher percentage of omega 3 than flax, chia also has a higher protein content than oats, barley, corn, rice, and wheat. Chia’s protein averages 19%. Chia provides a balance of the amino acids, including Lysine. But what really stands out in chia’s amino acid profile is it’s high content of Proline. Proline is the major constituent of collagen. For horses with tendon and ligament injury, adding chia can provide the body an essential component in collagen repair.
Chia seeds are antioxidant powerhouses, despite their diminutive size. These antioxidants protect chia’s polyunsaturated fatty acids from becoming oxidized and rancid; thus making chia an incredibly stable seed. Chia provides the specific flavanol antioxidants: myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol which protect lipids, proteins and DNA from oxidation by means of strong free radical and superoxide scavenging activity. Quercitin has been a much- studied flavanol due to it’s anti inflammatory properties.
The mineral profile of chia seeds includes calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, and boron. According to the USDA (2001) chia provides 6 times more calcium than milk. Chia grown in Mexico, Equador, Bolivia and other Central American countries has a higher content of the trace minerals boron and strontium. Soils in the US, which in the 1920’s were high boron and strontium soils, now have virtually none.
One of the unique qualities of chia is it’s ability to absorb more than 9 times it’s volume in water. This benefit is known as chia gel, which has several amazing benefits: helps to slow the digestion of carbohydrates, and sustain balanced blood sugar levels---of particular importance to the metabolic horse. The gel prolongs hydration and helps to retain electrolytes, which is of huge benefit to performance horses.
The chia gel’s insoluble fiber content helps to remove sand and debris from the GI tract, so can be fed as an alternative to psyllium.
Chia isn’t just for horses…it’s great nutrition for riders too. You can add chia to your smoothie, sprinkle it on food, or make the gel ahead of time and refrigerate it, and take a Tablespoon of it once or twice a day.
My favorite chia gel is with pomegranate juice:
¼ cup chia seeds added to 1.5 cups water (always add chia to the water, not water to the chia), and ½ cup pomegranate juice. Stir. Let stand for 15 minutes, stir again, then refrigerate. Keeps well for 2 weeks, but in my house it doesn’t last that long!
You can feed horses dry chia seeds, but I recommend adding them to soaked or wet feed, so that chia’s hydroscopic qualities (the gel) are ready to work as soon as the horse starts eating.
Chia seeds aren’t just for chia pets anymore!