Chia seeds should come with a health warning!

Chia seeds should come with a health warning!

Warning: too many bandwagons can be bad for your health.  I have hopped aboard a fair few health bandwagons in my time; why not? If something is new in health, touted as the ultimate superfood etc, there is every likelihood I'll have looked into it and possibly tasted it (and possibly binged on it until I got bored/found a new bandwagon).

Stuff I have dabbled in off the top of my head: 

  • Ecuadorian organic cacao powder (yawn)
  • cacao nibs (bleurgh)
  • carob (mmm)
  • couscous (whatever)
  • quinoa (short-lived)
  • non-dairy milk (soy for years, currently on almond, excellent bandwagon)
  • almond meal as flour substitute (nice)
  • spelt flour (bought for a specific recipe, used once)
  • edamame beans (I wish I could get them here)
  • goji berries (think I put them in my breakfast, manky little things)
  • acai (the odd smoothie, not overly-enamoured)
  • green tea (the most enduring of my 'health' things)

I am also currently experimenting with coconut oil, for cooking, baking, cleansing, moisturising and even shaving. I have jars in the kitchen and bathroom and yes it does look a bit weird.

So there you go. I like playing with fads and phenoms: a far cry from the days when I'd supplement my diet of toast and cereal (for any and all meals) with a Jelly Babies chewy vitamin and consider that adequate.

So, along came chia and, eventually, I opted to give it a go, throwing it into my breakfast trifle (don't ask) each morning along with a spoonful of linseed.  The benefits of chia are said to be multifarious: fibre, omega 3 stuff, antioxidants etc etc. Nothing these boys can't do.

However, after a while, I started getting stomach pains after breakfast. These became annoying; as the linseed and chia seeds seemed to be the only dietary changes I had made in recent times, I ditched them both (didn't bother doing any experiments to see which one it was - just discarded both in a fit of anti-seed pique).

All was well, for months. Good times.

This week I made chilli con carne. I picked up some wraps to have with the chilli, guacamole and brown rice (like a fajita, I thought!). The wraps had chia seeds in them, but I am young and reckless and, anyway, a wrap never hurt anyone, right? (Full disclosure: I also thought, ooh chia seeds, they're good for you: why did I stop eating them? Come here, healthy chia.)

Dinner time came and my beautiful meal was devoured in minutes. In no time at all, however, I felt a little off-colour. An hour or so later, I felt a lot off-colour. I was crippled with stomach pains that went on for the next NINE hours. Worried I had poisoned us (but knowing I hadn't, because half of us was fine), I spent the night in miserable ignorance.

The next morning (still ropey at 5am), I thought back to those infernal chia seeds. Could they really cause such a severe reaction (seriously, it was horrible)? Dr Google would know.

Sure enough, the first entry that popped up was from a blogger who had spent the night on the bathroom floor doubled up in pain following chia consumption. Aha! Further 'research' revealed similar tales of woe; this superfood bites! Here comes the science bit.

If you don't soak chia seeds before eating, they (wait for it) expand in your stomach instead. The seeds absorb the liquid you have in your stomach and grow, making you want to perform surgery on yourself to get them out.

This is all the evidence I need to give them up forever - chia seeds, when soaked, have a weird, thoroughly unappealing gel-like consistency that I don't like thinking about; it was bad enough when they came into contact with my soy milk for a couple of minutes during breakfast times. But you might like weird gels, so consider this a public service announcement: soak your chia or drink with plenty of water, otherwise you may end up with nine hours of chia expansion taking place inside your body.

So that's my good deed for the day. Gastronomic experimentation is all well and good, but take care: the consequences can be chia agony.