Is chia really worth the cost?

Chia pet dog

We're not sure how many people remember the rather infamous Chia Pets of the 1980's - little terracotta animals that miraculously spouted fur after a few weeks of watering. But for those of us who do remember, the explosive popularity of chia seeds as a healthy food item will always have a touch of whimsy.

But there's another factor about chia seeds (and other exotic superfoods like acai berries, quinoa, goji berries) that we don't find as whimsical - and that's the price. Romantic backstories about these foods regarding their long histories and geographic origins have made these foods exotic enough to justify some fairly exotic prices. As an example of these kinds of back stories,  here's a brief description from Bob's Red Mill as to why chia is considered a super food:

"Thousands of years ago, chia seed was a staple in the diets of ancient Mayans and Aztecs. The word chia is derived from the Mayan language, meaning "strength," and Aztec warriors relied on chia seed to boost energy and increase stamina. Today this tiny seed is a favorite of athletes, especially distance runners, who tout it as an endurance enhancing superfood.

Chia seed contains a wealth of fiber-5 grams in just one tablespoon. It is the fiber in chia that causes chia seed to swell when combined with water, creating chia gel. Whether you eat chia gel or just the raw seeds, the hydrophilic action of chia seed will keep you full longer than many other seeds." We should also note that chia seeds have lots of Omega-3 acids, (though, as this L.A. Times article notes, there are now questions about Omega 3 health benefits).

But while we don't have the credentials to opine on the health aspect, we do have concerns about the cost. For example, one pound of chia seeds from Bob's Red Mill is $12.50 (by the way - we love Bob's Red Mill and buy their products, so we're sorry if it looks like we're picking on them). We looked at another superfood, not as glamorous, blueberries. A pound of frozen blueberries from Trader Joe's is $4.00, about a third of the price.

Now we acknowledge that the cost per serving of the chia seeds is going to be much less, since you only use a tablespoon a day (more is likely to cause digestive issues), and you certainly use a lot more than a tablespoon of blueberries. But blueberries add a lot more flavor and vitamins. So we worry - Are people turning away from healthy fruits and vegetables - thinking they're getting all the nutrients they need from these superfoods? And spending too much?





1 Comment

  • FuzzyChef  on  9/10/2013 at 12:58 AM

    I just wish I could still order the John The Baptist Head chia pet.

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