Flax Seeds vs Chia seeds
Chia seeds, known for their role in hair-growing potted plants, rival flaxseeds for nutritional super status. Both offer high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, while offering protein, fiber and antioxidants. Understanding the dietary benefits of both seeds can help you determine how to utilize them to the best nutritional advantage. So which seed should you choose? We break it down below.
Unlike flax that has a nice nutty taste, chia seeds are virtually tasteless. This is great if you’re just looking to add nutrition to your meals or just need a thickening agent. However, if you want a dose of flavor, chia’s not the seed to turn to.
So…which is better: chia or flax?
Both chia and flax should be a part of every vegan’s diet. For a more rounded dose of nutrients, go with chia, but don’t ignore flax either. As you can see, they each have benefits and uses that make them necessary and helpful whether you’re a vegan or an omnivore.
1 tablespoon chia seeds 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
Calories 60 37
Total Fat (g) 4 3
Saturated Fat (g) 0 0
Carbs (g) 4 2
Fiber (g) 4 2
Protein (g) 2 1
Calcium (mg) 64 17.9
Iron (mg) 1 0.4
Omega-3s (g) 2.4 1.6
Omega-6s (g) 0.8 0.4
How to Eat
An important note about flax seeds: they should be eaten ground, as the whole seed is likely to pass through you undigested, taking all its benefits with it. If you’re going to store ground flax, make sure you do so in the fridge in order to prevent oxidation, which will make it taste rancid. Your best bet is to buy flax whole and grind small amounts at a time — a coffee grinder works well for this. Chia seeds, however, can be eaten ground or whole.
The reason why most people eat flaxseeds and chia seeds is for the omega 3 fatty acids. Indeed, most of the fat in these seeds are the inflammation fighting omega 3s.
For example, one tablespoon of flaxseeds provides you with 146% of the recommended omega 3s for the day. Likewise, one tablespoon of chia seeds gives you 132%.
Ounce for ounce, flaxseeds and chia seeds have more omega 3s than salmon. However, this is the plant form, or ALA form, of omega 3.
In contrast, salmon is packed with the DHA form of omega 3. When it comes to omega 3s and the prevention of chronic diseases, the DHA form of omega 3 may be more important.
Unfortunately, the body converts little of the ALA form to the DHA form. Thus, to get all of your omega 3 types, you may need to add in marine algae or fish.
Flax and chia seeds are both a rich source of fiber. While one ounce of flaxseed contains 8 grams of fiber, the same amount of chia seeds holds 11 grams. The ratio of soluble fiber to insoluble fiber in chia seeds can be particularly valuable for diabetics because it helps to slow the body’s absorption of glucose. It is important to note that foods high in fiber should be gradually incorporated into the diet to avoid digestive problems.
Due to varied nutritional content, both flax and chia seeds may be a beneficial addition to the diet. With a light, nutty flavor, they can be added to a range of foods from cereals to salads to main dishes. They are also a common ingredient found in all-natural health supplements.
Chia, like flax, is high in protein for a grain/seed, both usually falling somewhere within the 15-25% range. Chia’s protein is a slightly higher quality protein than flax due to its better amino acid profile, and while this is favourable to chia, in the context of a horse who is already receiving adequate protein in their diet but who requires Omega 3 supplementation, the difference in protein quality need not be a big player in the decision for or against either seed.
Where to Find Chia and Flax Seeds
Chia and flax seeds are marketed as both health supplements (near the vitamins) and as cooking ingredients (commonly in the baking aisle). Look for the seeds packaged as cooking ingredients they are much less expensive. These days, many grocery stores have both varieties of seeds. My Tom Thumb (owned by Safeway) has them in small bags near the flours and other baking ingredients. In stores that sell from bulk bins — like Whole Foods and Sprouts you will almost surely find them.
Both flax and chia seeds are definitely worth eating because of their high nutritional value. However, the chia seed contains such an advantage in phosphorus, fiber and calcium that it gains a nutritional edge over the flax seeds. Chia seeds also contain a complete protein which makes it a good supplement for those that are vegetarian or otherwise protein deficient. However, each of these seeds contains individual antioxidants that cannot be found in the other, which makes it worth your while to include both in your diet. Including a variety of healthy products such as flax and chia seeds is quite beneficial to guaranteeing a healthy diet and providing your body with all of the nutrients your body needs.