Quinoa, chia, amaranth… you would be forgiven for being overwhelmed by the onslaught of seeds pouring into your health store with names that sound like characters from a bad YA novel. Dubbed ‘ancient grains’ by the food industry’s marketing team, chia seeds are one of the more popular members of the club. A staple food of many Aztec cultures, they claim to be high in protein, omega-3 fatty acid and fibre. They also have a mesmerising ability to expand into gel balls, which I theorise is 95 percent of the reason people like them.
Whilst chia seeds do contain omega-3 fatty acid, it is in the form least beneficial to cardiovascular health. Chia seeds are 17 percent protein, so 2 tablespoons will give you about 4 grams of ‘complete’ protein, which contains the amino acids our bodies cannot synthesise. However, if your diet is already well-balanced then increasing your protein intake is unnecessary.
The same cannot be said for fibre. Most people’s diets are abysmally fibre-deficient, with few reaching the recommended 30g per day. Chia seeds are a clear winner in fibre content, not just in the grains category but in food as a whole. They are 34 percent fibre, compared to white rice at 0.4 percent. Slipping two tablespoons of chia into porridge or a smoothie gives you a third of your daily fibre allowance.
However, they are pricey, so if you are not willing to pay for Aztec-approved colon health, opt for cheaper sources of fibre and omega-3 like lentils and oily fish.