The very same progenitors of a green-Afroed President -- take your pick, Obama or Washington -- are being touted as an elixir for everything from restoring energy to losing weight -- and a bunch of other wondrous things in between.
Hold the phone a minute on that weight-loss claim, though. The New York Times "Really?" column yesterday took at look at this latest "superfood" and resolved that, based on the findings of two studies, "there is little evidence that chia seeds or supplements promote weight loss." More study is needed, etc., etc.
My wife emailed me the results. She thinks the container of chia gel I keep in the refrigerator -- one cup of chia seeds mixed with two cups of water -- looks like "the drool that comes out of aliens' mouths" in bad science-fiction movies. I'm personally more inclined to think the mixture looks like a convocation of tail-less pollywogs but, either way, I must admit that some people find the presentation ... unappetizing.
But I don't throw chia seeds into my highly evolved and caloric morning smoothie (email me for the recipe), or mix them with a couple of tablespoons of raw local honey, a few capfuls of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar and 24 oz. of filtered water, to lose weight. They are purportedly packed with nutrients such as protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, dietary fiber and ALA, an Omega-3 fatty acid (the type that's good for you).
Like many other people, I first leaned about chia by reading Christopher McDougall's book, Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and The Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. At one point in the narrative, the exhausted author is handed some seeds while on a run and newfound energy surges through him. Who couldn't use a little bit of that? The seeds are a staple of the diet of a tribe in central Mexico, descended from the Aztecs, who are superior endurance runners.
Now we all know that there are substances that are bad for body, mind and spirit that seemingly accomplish the same effect but everything I've seen or heard about chia indicates that they are safe to ingest. Why even "Today Show" diet and nutrition editor Joy Bauer, MS, RD, says so.
(Poor McDougall. If he got a cut of every pair of Vibram Five Fingers and every package of chia seeds that have been sold as a result of his book -- not to mention the careers he has launched for a few of his characters and other barefoot running experts -- he'd be forefoot-prancing in the sun and soft sand somewhere instead of flogging his book at every race and retailer's convention that presents itself.)
Anyway, despite the slimy appearance of the seeds when they are mixed with water, they have a nutty to neutral taste that I personally have no problem with. Others do, and you'll find some vociferous negative comments here and there around the blogosphere.
I'm not going to tell you that I feel like running a marathon after downing a few tablespoons in my smoothie or the honey/apple cider vinegar concoction (which I drink when playing racquetball) but I think it beats sugar-laden, store-bought energy drinks.
Despite my entire family's aversion to the seeds, at least in the gel form I prefer, most of the online comments I've read are positive. Some are humorous. Writes one commenter to the Times' "Well" blog, which referred to the "really?" story yesterday: "Why is it that fat people are advised to eat leaves, seeds, berries and nuts -- and rich people get to eat these after they are processed by a higher life form, such as a nice cow?"
Finally, a word on where I got my chia seeds. I did a search on Amazon. Dozens of hits came up. I chose one from a supplier with reasonable pricing who participated in Amazon Prime (two-day free shipping). The package from The Raw Food World Store arrived with two free packets of additional products to sample, including ground chia seed. I thought that was a great idea.
An endearing, photocopied note in cursive script was also enclosed, thanking me for the order. The second graf of Matt Monarch's letter reads: "To be honest, we are not so interested in 'just' a one-time sale to you. We would love instead to serve you as a life-long customer, providing you with the best customer service available. We endeavor to take care of you and your orders, in all circumstances."
Okay, call me a sucker but this homespun homily, evoking a small, kitchen-table operation, worked. I've kept the info and will reorder from Matt and his wife, Angela (who, I also learned in the letter, has "released" 160 pounds over the last eight years by eating a raw diet).
I don't expect M&M's to ever lure me with a similar Xeroxed marketing campaign, of course. But they don't have to. They may not be as good for you, chia seeds or no, but there's no denying that addictive taste.