THE Seed for Better Anti-Inflammatory Protection (Hint: It’s Not Chia!)

My latest Care 2 newsletter had an article on a healthy seed I’d never heard about. In case you haven’t heard of it either, I’m passing this exciting information on.

Just when we thought chia seeds were the ULTIMATE in the superfood world (because of their high omega-3 fatty acid, vegan protein and fiber content), along comes another amazing superseed: perilla.

The perilla is a staple food in many Asian cultures. It’s also known as shisho or beefsteak (the leaf). What’s so especially remarkable about this seed is its fatty acids concentration. It contains as much as 40 to 45 percent omega 3 fatty acids! Compare that to chia seed, with its impressive 30-32 omega 3s!

The perilla seed’s omega-fatty acid ratio is six-to-one omega-3s to omega-6 fatty acids; that’s the highest ratio of three to six of any known seed.

And the dazzle continues: Perilla is higher in ALA content (alpha-Linolenic acid) as well. This seed contains as much as 60 percent of the healthy fat (chia seeds contain only about half of that).

So what’s the big deal about this omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acid count? Well, diets high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are common in vegetable oils (think fried fast-food), have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity and other inflammation-related illnesses including arthritis.

But omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. People suffering from or at risk of developing inflammation-related illnesses, are advised to increase their intake of omega-3 fatty acids. An ideal healthy diet contains a more closely balanced ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6s (most like the oils found in hemp seeds).

So with the spread of the Western diet leaving a trail of inflammation in its wake, more and more people are looking at ways to increase their omega-3 fatty acids. And up to now, the chia seed has been an effective way to do this. Now, though, we can do even better by adding the perilla seed to the plate!

I’ll close with a few more things to know about the perilla seed:

  1. Unlike the chia seed, which can stay stable for a long period of time, the perilla seed is more delicate (because of its high lipid content), so it must be pressed sooner. This means that rather than the whole seeds, you’re most likely to find the oil or supplements available at your whole/health foods market (although some Asian markets do carry the seeds).

  2. Perilla may also be a good choice for another reason: chia seeds are becoming more challenging to get on the market as Western demand outpaces production.

  3. And finally, another reason perilla seeds are a good choice is their cost. They’re less expensive than chia (or even flax seeds, another high omega-3 fatty acid seed), making them an economical choice for people seeking to add healthy omega fats to their diet.

The take-away from all this information, then? For long-term storage, still stick to chia seed. But for a significant boost in omega 3s (and thus better anti-inflammatory protection), choose perilla seeds!


    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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