Most of us have heard about the importance of Omega-3 fatty acids for our health. They're essential, which means our bodies can't make them, aka the only way to get them is through our diet. To quickly break it down, there are 3 main types of Omega-3 fats; EPA, DHA and ALA. EPA and DHA comes from the animal kingdom, and are the type of fatty acids that our bodies can use immediately. These are essential for brain function, so to get enough is beyond important. DHA alone makes up about 15-20% of your brain's cerebral cortex.
Chia seeds are probably popular for many reasons, but I've noticed that one of them is their high Omega-3 content, which is why I decided to write this post. See, that's a little sneaky and misleading... If we take a closer look at these little guys, we’ll find that they’re sadly not the super food we thought they were.
When it comes to human nutrition, we have to always look at biochemistry and bioavailability before we deem any food as healthy. If we start with the Omega-3 content in chia seeds, then yes, at a first glance it looks pretty damn awesome. But looking closer we see they contain ALA, an Omega-3 that our bodies can't use directly. Instead our bodies need to convert it into EPA for us to be able to use it, something we simply aren’t capable of doing very well. This study for example showed that vegetarian men had small increases in EPA from consuming up to 15.4 grams of ALA daily, but compared to the men who ate meat (and in particular fish), it was still much, much lower. So yes, chia seeds will get you loaded up on Omega-3, but your body will only be able to use a fraction of it. So maybe at least add some pasture raised eggs on the side with that delicious chia pudding, or your upgraded smoothie, deal? Deal.