Meet the Seeds: Flax and Chia

Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

March 1, 2019

Flax and chia seeds have become popular over the last several years. You may have seen products like chia seed pudding or flax-infused baked goods popping up on the internet or social media. What is all the hype behind these two little seeds? Is one better than the other?

We’ve put together some basic information about these seeds, and compared them for nutritional value, research, and health benefits.

Side by Side Comparison

Nutrients

Both flax and chia seeds are rich in several different nutrients. Chia seeds have a bit of an advantage from a fiber standpoint, while being a bit lower in calories per serving.  At first glance, chia seeds may seem nutritionally superior to flaxseeds, but the research is not quite there to support this point. On the other hand, flaxseeds have been well researched and show a clear benefit in decreasing heart disease, improving both blood pressure and cholesterol, preventing certain types of cancer, and supporting the digestive system. Chia seeds also show promise in many of these areas as well.

Omega-3

Both of the seeds are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, but before you ditch your omega-3 supplement made from fish, there are a few important considerations. The omega-3’s found in flax and chia seeds are mostly ALA (alpha linoleic acid). In order for the body to use this form of omega-3’s they need to be converted to their active forms, EPA and DHA. Unfortunately the human body does not convert ALA well, leaving less of the active forms of EPA and DHA to be utilized. So, continue taking your fish oil or a plant-based DHA supplement to boost the amount of omega 3’s in your diet. Better yet, make fatty fish like salmon, trout, Pollock, anchovies, tuna, halibut, and rainbow trout a regular part of your weekly diet.

Preparation

Flax and chia seeds can be eaten whole, but studies indicate that the nutrients they contain may be better absorbed when eaten ground. This is especially true in the case of flax seeds due to their hard outer shell. Because of their high fat content, both types of seeds should be stored in the refrigerator and ground just before eating.

Summary

Many people ask which seed is better – flax or chia? It depends on your nutrition goals. Both seeds can benefit heart health and blood sugar levels. Flax seeds can help curb your appetite through reducing hunger. They also lower the risk of certain types of cancer.  Chia seeds will help you increase fiber intake and improve your bone health. The bottom line is that either flax or chia would be a great addition to your diet.

Try Them

I’ve created a delicious Cinnamon-Vanilla Granola recipe that uses both chia and flaxseed. Give it a try, and let us know what you think!

Cinnamon Vanilla Granola

Serves ~12

Serving Size: ¼ cup of granola

Ingredients:

2 cups old fashioned oats

1/4 cup ground flaxseed

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/2 tbsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup avocado oil or coconut oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix until oats are well coated. Place on baking sheet and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes, tossing about halfway through baking. Let it cool, then enjoy with yogurt, milk, or sprinkle some cinnamon in your oatmeal.