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The Healthy Food Guide team believe that making small diet and lifestyle changes brings the best long-term gains. We look at the science behind the headlines and promote a balanced way of eating.

From chia and flaxseed to spirulina powder, here’s how to sprinkle a little extra nutrition on your food

BEFORE SPLASHING OUT on exotic-sounding nutrition powders and seeds, it’s worth finding out whether the benefits live up to the hype. Here are the ones we rate:

CHIA SEEDS

Good for…
Heart health: rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant form of omega-3, for people who don’t regularly eat oil-rich fish
High in fibre, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium
Contain all eight essential amino acids needed for the body to make complete proteins – a good choice for vegans or vegetarians

Watch out for…
1tbsp provides just 6% of our daily needs for protein, so other protein-rich foods need to be eaten if you follow a vegan/vegetarian diet
Some health claims in marketing material may be exaggerated and linked to research based on omega-3 fats rather than chia seeds directly

Recommended quantity
Around 1tbsp (15g) per day

Calorie count
Chia Bia Whole Chia Seed ( Holland and Barrett) contains 79kcal and 4.6g fat per 15g (1tbsp)

Try with
Salads, cereals or yogurt; add to baked products such as muffins or bread; mix with water and blend into soups, stews or smoothies

FLAXSEED

Good for…
Also known as linseed, it’s a useful vegetarian source of omega-3 in the form of ALA: a 15g (1tbsp) serving of Linwoods Milled Organic Flaxseed (linwoodshealthfoods.com/uk) provides 3.6g ALA
Rich in protein, fibre and iron
Contains high quantities of lignans (seven times more than sesame and over 300 times more than sunflower seeds), which mimic the effect of oestrogen in the body. Studies suggest eating flaxseed helps reduce the risk of breast cancer

Recommended quantity
1–2tbsp per day

Calorie count
A 15g (1tbsp) serving contains around 75kcal and 7g fat

Try with…
Breakfast cereal, porridge, yogurt or salad; blend into smoothies

SPIRULINA POWDER

Good for…
High in fibre, vitamin E, a range of B vitamins (not B12), calcium, iron and zinc

Watch out for…
Exaggerated claims it’s a superfood. As spirulina is only eaten in small amounts (it doesn’t taste great), it only makes a small contribution to our overall nutritional needs

Recommended quantity
A typical serving is 7–10g per day

Calorie count
7g provides around 20kcal

Try with…
Blend into smoothies and yogurts – but note that whatever you add it to will turn green!

BAOBAB FRUIT POWDER

Good for…
Vitamin C: Minvita Baobab Superfruit Powder (Holland & Barrett) provides 18% of the NRV for vitamin C for less than 10kcal
High in vitamin B1, potassium, calcium and magnesium

Watch out for…
Check the label if buying baobab-containing products. Many contain low quantities of baobab, but are often packed with other ingredients that are high in sugar and fat

Recommended quantity
No specific daily quantity: any amount provides a useful boost to your diet

Calorie count
A 5g serving of baobab fruit powder has around 9kcal

Try with…
Contains pectin, a form of soluble fibre that acts as a natural thickener when added to sauces. Stir into smoothies, fruit juice or yogurt; sprinkle over breakfast cereal or porridge; add to homemade bakes

*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.