Within a humble plant, lies a secret worshiped by ancient civilizations, but until now, all but ignored by our own.
Now the facts have the health industry buzzing. “This Chia seed is the richest plant- based-form of Omega 3. It originated in Central America as an Aztec crop -- it was one that was revered by them, it was an energy and a running food”, said John Foss, a fourth generation farmer.
In modern day medicine, Omega 3 is well known for its prevention of heart disease and strokes.
What began in South America has taken off in Australia and John Foss is now the world's largest producer of Chia seeds. “It's a hard crop to grow. It's latitude specific so it only grows in parts of the world and originally in that Central and South American region, which is the same latitude as where we grow it in Kimberley region in WA. The latitude is what determines the Omega 3 and Omega 6 in the oil”, John added.
It may be an ancient Aztec secret but in Australia the dietary benefits of Chia have only recently been re-discovered. Touted as nature's multivitamin, the seeds (per gram) have:
Twice the amount of protein than wheat, barley and rice - boosting the immune system
5 times the calcium of milk - for stronger bones
Twice the amount of potassium as bananas - for digestion
3 times more iron than spinach - increasing oxygen to the body
And 7 times more vitamin C than oranges - for the repair and growth of tissue in the body
“It depends on the person, but a scoop or two a day gives you all you need. That has all the Omega 3 dietary fibre and antioxidants that you need for the day. On your cereal, in your smoothie, baking or salads and you get the benefits”, John said.
Bakers Delight has even added Chia bread to their shelves. “In 2009 we sent one of our bakers to South America to research the Aztec ancient grains and seeds in their diet and he came back with a very short list of grains we wanted to pursue to add into a healthy product -- Chia was sitting right at the top of the list” said General Manger, Chris Caldwell.
90,000 loaves are baked every day, packed full of the super seed. “I'm a parent myself and I know that feeding children seeded products or seeded bread is very, very challenging. But Chia bread is something they eat easily without noticing the seeds are in it and Chia bread has 60% more fibre than your regular white supermarket bread”, Chris said.
“It takes the body longer to digest, so there are some promising benefits for people with diabetes”, said Dietician Emma Stirling.
According to Emma, whole-foods like Chia provide much more nutrients than bottled vitamins and minerals. “They can really boost the nutrient content of your diet and certainly Chia is being touted as the new super food”, Emma said.
“Chia seeds are very high anti-inflammatory and I needed something for my own back. I'm part Native American and studied the natural foods and therapies to help put our bodies back to normal and Chia seeds I kept coming across”, said John Merrill who runs Chiaenergy.
On the NSW mid north coast, John imports his seeds from Western Australia and Mexico and has developed a Chia skin care range -- even Chia milk. “Chia milk is the first of its kind. We've been working on it for 4 years. A lot of people with eczema, psoriasis are concerned about the chemicals that are in stuff. We use everything natural”, John said.
“Much of the research the positive things like heart health has been on the marine type of Omega 3's -- from fish and seafood -- so I still think that Chia seeds are a great choice but we should try to clock up two to three serves of fish a week”, Emma said.
For further information visit the website at: www.thechiaco.com.au