Monday, December 3, 2012

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are more or less flavorless, and can be added to yogurts, wholesome-food bars and fruit salads.

2012-12-02 "Are Chia Seeds a Superfood?" by Jan Cho[]:
A staple of the pre-Columbian Mayan and Aztec diets, chia seeds are making a comeback as the latest so-called superfood.
Loaded with omega-3′s, antioxidants, fiber, calcium, protein and a number of other vitamins and minerals, chia seeds are about as nutrient-dense as you can imagine a food to be. They’re said to be able to aid with weight loss, control blood sugar and reduce the risk of heart disease, though none of these claims have been backed up by scientific evidence.
In “Born to Run,” author Christopher McDougall attests to the seeds’ ability to boost stamina and energy, describing how ancient Aztecs chomped on the seeds as they made their conquests and how the Tarahumara Indians today use the seeds to fuel long-distance runs barefoot. “Among Wall Street’s trading desks and bullpens,” Bloomberg Businessweek adds [], “chia seeds are becoming the stimulant of choice” — “healthier than coffee, cheaper (and obviously more legal) than cocaine, and less juvenile than a 5-hour Energy drink.”
So the trend has set in and the craze will ensue. Whole and ground chia seeds are being added to smoothies, puddings, soups, cereals and a variety of baked goods. It was only a matter of time before they were co-opted by the food industry. Dole, according to a recent New York Times article [], “chose chia as the first ingredient it would promote in its new Nutrition Plus line of products, which aim to provide a functional benefit to consumers.” The seeds have entered the broader market and can now be found in many mainstream grocery stores. Demand for chia products has grown fivefold this past year, says John Roulac, founder of Nutiva, which sells organic chia seeds.
But are chia seeds really a superfood? Are they any more “super” than the blueberries, almonds and acai berries of yesteryear? The truth of it is, as Michael P. Hirsch, vice president of the company that sells Chia Pets, said, “Everybody is looking at this because everybody is always looking for something new.”
In reality, the hype over chia seeds as a superfood isn’t about health. It’s about marketing and about marketers having found the next nutritional “it” product to peddle. Consider acai, which “became one of the fastest-growing foods in history, billed as a miracle cure for, among other things, obesity, attention-deficit disorder, autism, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and erectile dysfunction,” as reported in the New Yorker last year. But these claims now seem farfetched, and acai has lost a lot of its luster. The fruit hovers in an “uneasy limbo,” wrote John Colapinto for the New Yorker — “not quite written off as yesterday’s news but perilously close.” It’s telling that the leading acai juice company in the U.S. hired a former Coca-Cola executive as its new marketing director to revive demand for the fruit.
In short, “superfoods” are a marketing conceit. Choosing what to eat for health entails simply choosing food that’s real and whole. In fact, I can’t think of any real food that couldn’t also be or hasn’t already been touted as a superfood — whether it’s broccoli or apples or salmon or spinach or walnuts or beans or tofu. Today it just happens to be chia seeds. They’re new, they’re exotic, they have a good back story and they’re extremely versatile. They’re a marketer’s dream.

2012-05-24 "Chia Seeds, Wall Street's Stimulant of Choice" by David Sax
Christine Kenney, a triathlete who works the equity capital markets execution desk at Citigroup (C) in Manhattan, starts every morning at work with a bowl of low-fat yogurt, honey, and a heap of chia seeds. Throughout the day she subsists on chia snack bars. “It’s better for my job because I’m not supposed to be off the desk very much,” she says, noting how she’s gotten most of the co-workers from her desk hooked on the seeds. “There’s other seeds out there that are nutritious, but this is the best. It’s the alpha seed.”
Among Wall Street’s trading desks and bullpens, chia seeds are becoming the stimulant of choice. Healthier than coffee, cheaper (and obviously more legal) than cocaine, and less juvenile than a 5-hour Energy drink, chia has undergone a total metamorphosis from 1980s punchline (Chia Pet’s “ch-ch-ch-chia” jingle still haunts Gen Xers) to superfood.
Credit for chia’s second coming belongs partly to the 2009 bestselling book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, about a remote Mexican tribe of marathon-running Tarahumara Indians who have been bullish on chia since Aztec days—eating it ground, mixed into drinks, or raw. After reading it, Dan Gluck and Nick Morris, a manager and trader at a New York hedge fund, began supplementing their post-workout breakfasts with chia seeds, rich in protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. They spread the chia gospel to friends in finance and soon had a following. In 2011 they launched Health Warrior, which markets chia seeds and snack bars boasting chia’s purported benefits, from sustained energy to enhanced focus and better digestion.
While research on those benefits is relatively sparse, Wall Street chia heads aren’t waiting for further studies. “Instead of snacking on the trading desk, I will make a chia smoothie or grab one of their Health Warrior Chia Bars,” says Jason Feinberg, managing director of U.S. equity trading at Barclays Capital (BCS). Shane Emmett, Health Warrior’s chief executive officer, says an investment bank and a hedge fund have begun buying in bulk. “I’m sure the ‘warrior’ speaks a little bit to the aggressive nature of folks on the Street,” he says.

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