Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Grocery store lessons: Savi Seeds

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I’ve been curious about these savi seeds (traditionally known as sacha inchi seeds) for a little while now. They claim to be “the richest source of omega-3 on the planet” with 7000 mg of omega-3 per serving. In contrast, a 75 g serving of Atlantic salmon contains just under 2000 mg of omega-3.

I came across a sample of the plain variety the other day and decided to give them a try. One was enough. As I’ve heard from other people, they taste a touch fishy, and the consistency is a little odd. They crunch and then kind of crumble in your mouth. Personal opinion aside, I wondered about their nutrition claims.

An internet search showed me that Dr Oz endorsed them as the top snack food of 2010. Not generally a good sign. The thing I wondered about most though, was the omega-3 content. It turns out that I was right to be suspicious. The form of omega-3 present in savi seeds is ALA, the same form present in other plant sources of omega-3 (such as flax). The forms of omega-3 that we need most are EPA and DHA. These are the forms present in fish and fish oils. You’ve probably heard that our bodies can convert ALA into both EPA and DHA. While true, this statement is also highly misleading. Research indicates that our bodies can convert approximately 6% of ALA into EPA and only 0-4% to DHA. These conversion rates are based on diets in which other fats are primarily saturated. When most fats are polyunsaturated (as many of ours are with use of olive oil, canola oil, and other plant oils and margarines quite common in North America and fear of butter rife) the conversion rates become even lower. This means, at most, that you’ll obtain 420 mg of EPA and 280 mg of DHA from a serving of savi seeds.

I’m not saying that savi seeds are bad for you. They are certainly a healthy snack (although coating them in sugary flavours tends to make them less so). One ounce contains about 190 calories, 8 grams of protein, 5 g of fibre, and small amounts of both iron and calcium. However, the emphasis on their omega-3 content is extremely misleading to consumers who may not be aware of the different varieties of omega-3 and the limited conversion rates in our bodies.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

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