As desserts go, this one may look fairly unremarkable. It's just a chocolate dessert, right? Well, no. It could easily be chocolate if we'd used cacao, but instead we used carob powder, often considered a naturally sweet alternative to chocolate. And we like it.
There's nothing fishy about it, either. Of course we don't for one moment imagine that you saw the photo and leapt to the conclusion that it must contain fish… that would be crazy. Or would it? How often do we instantly associate Omega 3 with fish? Probably almost as often as we link dairy with calcium which, for the record can be obtained from carob. This creamy, smoothie-like dessert (or mousse-like when we use less water) derives its creaminess primarily from Omega 3 rich seeds, namely chia, flax and hemp. And yes, we hear the question about ALA*, the type of Omega 3 in these seeds, not being the all important EPA or DHA. It's a valid point. Until relatively recently, it seemed to be the case that if you were vegan, or simply didn't eat fish then your only option was to supplement these Essential Omega 3 fatty acids, and the supplement was fish oil. It was always assumed that the ALA found in certain plant foods simply couldn't be converted to EPA and DHA. What hadn't really been taken into account was competitive inhibition. You see there's never been any question that the Omega 6 fat, LA will convert ultimately to the pro-inflammatory AA fatty acid, and we even mostly know that the typical western diet is disproportionately high in Omega 6, and that inflammation is a consequence. But what happens when the Omega 6 to 3 ratio is better? When the ratio lies somewhere between 4:1 and 1:1? Then, it seems, conversion can occur. But when Omega 6 is too dominant, the enzymes whose job it is to make the conversions simply give most of their attention to this group of fats, and the Omega 3s lose out. That's the competitive bit. When the ratio is more favourable, Omega 3s get a chance.
Is this all we need to know? Regrettably, no. Whilst conversion certainly can take place when fatty acid ratios are favourable, it doesn't always happen; some people just don't convert well. Testing is undoubtedly useful but in the absence of a test, it may well be relevant to take an EPA / DHA supplement which is now fairly easy to find in the form of algae oil, the Omega 3 fat that the fish eat.
We really feel that the possibility of low conversion should not be a deterrent to eating flax and chia seeds in particular, as they are the Omega 3 stars of the plant world and it's always relevant to be mindful of that potentially inflammatory effect of too much Omega 6. But as with all plants, they don't have just one nutritional quality; chia seeds, for example are a pretty good source of calcium, while flaxseeds are praised for their lignans which help to remove excess oestrogen from the body. Hemp seeds, which boast good values of both Omega 3 and 6 are also a good source of protein and zinc. And they make a dessert, sauce or dressing creamy, whilst the other two add thickness, and they all contribute fibre to the diet ... something that dairy simply cannot offer.
So this simple recipe for two people has a lot to recommend it. Let us know if you give it a try!
(Adjust according to your own preferences)
4 TSP chia seeds
2 TSP hemp seeds
2 TSP flaxseeds
2 - 3 TSP carob or cacao powder
Water as required
Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Serve and add any toppings you may like. This one is topped with goji berries and crunchy sprouted buckwheat.
ALA ▶️ EPA ▶️ DHA -- Omega 3 family fats
LA ▶️ GLA ▶️ AA -- Omega 6 family fats
ALA = Alpha Linolenic Acid
EPA = Eicosapentaenoic Acid
DHA = Docosahexaenoic Acid
LA = Linoleic Acid
GLA = Gamma Linoleic Acid
AA = Arachidonic Acid