Can chia seeds hurt your stomach

Chia seeds and Co: Consumer advocates don't think superfoods are great

Vienna - Chia seeds, goji and acai berries, raw cocoa, quinoa, spirulina or chlorella freshwater algae are not only edible, but are also supposed to act like medicine. The so-called superfood allegedly reduces the risk of cancer, Alzheimer's and cardiovascular diseases. It is also said to lower blood lipid levels and strengthen the immune system.

Testers from the consumer protection magazine "Konsument" have now carefully examined the relevant products. The conclusion of the study: Superfoods are foods like others. The big difference: the fruits, seeds, grasses and algae are one thing above all: expensive.


The vitamins, minerals and secondary plant substances can also be found in local foods. The disadvantage of the "exotic" is that they are harvested too early and heavily processed. In addition, the processing for transport and storage for weeks in shipping containers at the expense of the sensitive ingredients. The perishable acai berries can only be transported to Europe frozen, as pulp (processed, production-ready fiber, note) or freeze-dried. This means that there is often only environmentally harmful transport by plane.

When buying, you should make sure that the goods are residue-controlled, advise consumer advocates. In the case of Chinese goji berries, for example, high levels of pesticide loads have already been found several times. In the case of chia seeds, there are indications of the use of weed killers, which are banned in Europe. "Consuming certain substances in concentrated, isolated form is generally not advisable because of possible undesirable effects. If you have superfood, it is best to eat the whole fruit and avoid powder and capsules," the testers write in their report.

Domestic fruit is cheaper

Chia seeds, for example, are said to be superior to other foods because of their high fiber, protein and mineral content. The healing seeds of the Maya are also said to promote digestion, regulate blood sugar and alleviate joint pain and heartburn. Chia seeds are currently between nine and 57 per kilogram. It could also be cheaper. Flaxseed provides roughly the same amount of protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, but costs only three to 19 euros per kilogram.

Acai berries are also expensive. The fruits of a palm species contain many minerals, especially a lot of calcium, as well as anthocyanins, which are hailed as radical scavengers (dark plant pigments, note). The acai powder costs between 160 and 262 euros per kilogram.

Austria could easily use blackberries, elderberries, blueberries, chokeberries, cherries, red grapes or even red cabbage, as the consumer advocates emphasize. These fruits and vegetables are also rich in color and are nowhere near as expensive. The expensive goji berries with their high vitamin C content could also be grown in Austria, as these wolfberry bushes also thrive in this country.

Similar results

The German magazine "├ľko-Test" also tested various superfoods in April 2016. Here, too, it became apparent that some of the products were heavily contaminated with pesticides, mineral oil, cadmium and other pollutants - including those from organic farming. As far as the health effects are concerned, skepticism prevailed here too: "Superfood is usually said to have a particularly high antioxidant potential," said Angela Clausen from the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer center.

Antioxidants are molecules that protect the body's cells from harmful free radicals. Free radicals come from cigarette smoke and alcohol, for example, but they also arise naturally during metabolism in the body. Too many free radicals in the body can trigger oxidative stress, which in turn causes cell damage that has been linked to diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

The antioxidant potential of food can be measured in a test tube and is occasionally given as an ORAC value (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). It says how many free radicals can be neutralized with one gram of juice or fruit. "The ORAC values, however, are purely laboratory values. The reaction taking place during the measurement does not take place in the human body," as Angela Clausen is quoted in the eco-test report.

There has been criticism for a long time

By the way, the criticism of superfood is not new. As early as 2012, the European Food Information Center (EUFIC) stated in a statement: "It is unrealistic to expect that a small range of so-called superfoods will significantly increase our well-being. (...) We have to ensure a balanced nutrient intake eat more diverse foods instead of just concentrating on a handful of supposed superfoods. (red, APA, June 24, 2016)