The seeds set to be the next superfood craze

Chia, the healthy eating sensation in New York, is expected to be a hit here

Choking down wheatgrass juice or stuffing your face with acai berries is rarely an enjoyable experience, even if you are sure of the nutritional benefits.

But health-conscious Britons could soon feast on a more manageable "superfood" that is now a sensation in New York and Los Angeles.

Chia seeds, once worshipped by the Aztecs as the food of the Gods, could be allowed into products after a review by the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes – an expert panel that helps the Food Standards Agency.

That isn't to say they're dangerous. Chia is sold at Holland and Barrett at £12.05 for 400g, but it is advertised as a bread ingredient. The seeds are subject to the same legislation as all "novel" food that enters the UK. Nutritionist Patrick Holford called it "bureaucracy gone wrong".The chia plant is a member of the mint family, meaning pests tend to give it a wide berth. The seeds, which turn black or white when mature, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, minerals and antioxidants. Their soluble fibres make a gloopy mess mixed with liquid, which aids dieters (they make you feel fuller) and diabetes sufferers (they help cut blood sugar levels).

"It's not like other supposed miracle foods that come out only to be dismissed as dangerous months later," said Dr Wayne Coates, a professor at the University of Arizona. "You can add it to anything. My wife sprinkles it on our salad. It lowers cholesterol, it reduces joint pain. "

Dr Coates calls himself Mr Chia, and has been studying the plant since 1991. Since then, Australia, Bolivia and Ecuador have overtaken Mexico as the largest centres of production. Dr Coates became a supplier himself, and his Chia Bia brand supplies Holland and Barrett.

Isn't it unethical to preach about chia's benefits as an academic and sell it for profit? "If you look at how much we're making... we have to pay the bills," he said, claiming proceeds from his book sales "only make $150 (£94.50) a year."

On board with Dr Coates' message is Patrick Holford, but he warned that the category of Omega-3 oils found in chia seeds is less "potent" than those in a portion of salmon. He recommended eating the seeds alongside a piece of fruit for breakfast. Whatever the FSA decides, it is unlikely to deter ardent health fanatics from their purchase. Some claim the seeds are flavourless, others detect a nutty aroma, but few have condemned the taste – which can't be said of other superfoods. They are so innocuous that in 2011, they infiltrated 72 new products, including baby foods, yogurts and sweets.

The FSA's initial opinion on chia, thought to be largely positive, has been sent to the European Commission.

From Gwyneth's nectar to Goji: Other superfoods

Agave nectar

Sales of agave nectar soared after the syrupy solution, from the spiky monocot plant of the same name, was plugged by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. “Your body will thank you,” she said. The British Nutrition Foundation said benefits would be less keenly felt here as we use healthier sugars than in the US.

Goji berries

Marketed as a health food berries are grown in Europe and Asia. Pound for pound, they have more vitamin C than oranges and more iron than steak. But a dietician said: “One berry is not going to turn your life around.”

Pomegranate juice

Probably not one of your desert island essentials, but pomegranate juice often helps to lower cholesterol and can help to prevent heart disease. It can thin the blood, boosting circulation.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Casual Visitor Experience Assistants

    £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To work within the Visitor Experience Departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high