Raspberry and coconut chia parfait with cacaw mousse.
Raspberry and coconut chia parfait with cacaw mousse. Nolan Verheij-Full

Chia seeds: fad or new super food?

LIVING NATURALLY with Olwen Anderson



FASHIONS in foods come and go. There was the excitement about kale, then perhaps everyone became a little bored and shifted focus to coconut as the super food of the moment. But one fashionable food hasn't yet been over-hyped: chia seeds.

Not much scientific research has been done so far on chia seeds, apart from dissecting them for their nutritional components. They contain 30% good oils, but they also contain a large amount of protein (about 20%) and lots of fibre (5g in every tablespoon). There's a little carbohydrate but not too much, and almost no sugar. Plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. A pretty powerful food when you dissect the data.

Scientists have posed questions yet to be answered: could these seeds be useful for improving cardiovascular health, hormone balance and glucose tolerance?

Good bowel health

Chia seeds are already well known amongst naturopaths as a most useful tool in the quest for better bowel health. They contain a great deal of soluble fibre; which means they create a lovely soft gel-like texture as they soak up fluids. A soft, gentle and yet effective fibre supplement. Soluble fibre also readily soaks up toxins released by your liver into bile, and carries them out of your body.

Although chia has long been part of the traditional South American diet, it's only been a few years that this plant has been available in Australia. Perhaps one reason they've take a while to catch on is because we're just not used to them. They're not yet part of our recipe repertoire.

Chia pudding

You can buy a small quantity of chia seeds from the bulk foods store to try them out. Doesn't matter which colour (black or white). One delicious process is to create a simple chia 'pudding'. Take one tablespoon of chia seeds, stir into a quarter cup of coconut cream, add a tablespoon of water and combine. If you have it on hand, a quarter teaspoon of vanilla paste is a nice addition. After a few minutes, stir again. Within 30 minutes you'll have a creamy pudding texture that you can now enjoy as it is, or enhance with some fresh fruit.

Other ways to use chia include adding it to your muesli or enhancing your stir-fries. Some people add it to their smoothies (but aren't smoothies supposed to have a smooth texture?). Whichever way you try them, chia seeds could be a super food trend worth joining.

Olwen Anderson is a naturopath and counsellor. www.olwenanderson.com.au

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