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Chia Seeds vs. Flax Seeds — Is One Better Than the Other?

<article> <section> <p>Batman vs. Superman. Godzilla vs. Mothra. Spy vs. Spy. Chia seeds vs. flax seeds. Yes, this superfood matchup is one of the greatest battles of all time: Which seed is better for your health?</p> <p>Both chia seeds and flax seeds are tiny nutritional powerhouses. They’re loaded with far more health benefits than their small size indicates. But when you’re looking to make the most of your dietary choices, should you be choosing one over the other?</p> <p>That depends on what you’re looking for! Let’s take a deep dive into the chia seeds vs. flax seeds debate.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Are Chia Seeds or Flax Seeds Better?</header> <p>When it comes to superfoods, there’s no denying that both chia seeds and flax seeds are among the most potent. But what, exactly, are these little wonders, anyway?</p> <p>Chia seeds were once known simply as a kitschy, fun 1970s toys that grew hairlike grass from a silly sculpture. But the ancient Maya knew better. They not only ate these tiny black and white seeds, they used them in religious rituals. The seeds of the <i>Salvia hispanica</i> plant, chia was a high-protein dietary staple in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Soaked in water, the seeds develop a gelatinous coating that makes them very handy as a thickening agent in vegan recipes, replacing eggs.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="woman-hand-spoon-chia-pudding"> </picture> <p>Flax seeds are a bit larger and flatter than chia. They tend to have a golden color and slightly nutty flavor. The fibers of the flax plant have been used to make textiles for millennia(this is where we get linen!) while the seeds are eaten either whole or ground. Flax meal makes an excellent <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">low-carb flour replacement</a>. You can use it as a thickener or even as breading in keto recipes.</p> <p>Both types of seeds contain loads of good-for-you nutrients and boast an array of health benefits. However, they differ a bit in their nutritional profiles.</p> <div class="sub-head">Calories, Protein, and Carbs</div> <p>When it comes to calories, chia seeds win. Yet, they fall behind flax if you’re interested in maximizing protein while minimizing carbs. Here’s the basic nutritional profile for a 1-ounce serving (about 3 tablespoons) of each seed:</p> <table style="width:85%" border="1"> <tr> <th></th> <th>Chia Seeds</th> <th>Flax Seeds</th> </tr> <tr> <td><b>Calories</b></td> <td>137</td> <td>150</td> </tr> <tr> <td><b>Carbs</b></td> <td>12 grams</td> <td>8 grams</td> </tr> <tr> <td><b>Protein</b></td> <td>4 grams</td> <td>5 grams</td> </tr> <tr> <td><b>Fat (total)</b></td> <td>9 grams</td> <td>12 grams</td> </tr> </table> <p>Looking at these amounts, it seems as though it’s about an even split depending on what you’re looking for in your diet. If you’re on a high-fat, low-carb diet like keto, you’ll want to eat more flax seeds. If you’re looking for fewer calories and less fat, but don’t mind the carb count so much, chia is a good choice.</p> <p>But these numbers only tell part of the story!</p> <div class="sub-head">Fiber</div> <p>A large part of the carb content of both chia and flax seeds is fiber. Flax seeds contain 8 grams of insoluble fiber per serving, whereas chia seeds have 11 grams of fiber. That means an ounce of flax has 0 net carbs, whereas an ounce of chia seeds has 1 gram of net carbs. </p> <p>The higher amount of fiber in a serving of chia seeds means they may help you feel fuller after a meal. And they may improve your digestive health even more than flax seeds do. We’ll take a look at that in just a bit!</p> <div class="sub-head">Omega-3 Fatty Acids</div> <p>Flax seeds have a bit more fat per serving than chia seeds do. The more important difference, however, comes in the form of that fat. Flax seeds have considerably more omega-3 fatty acids than chia seeds do: 6,400 mg to chia’s 4,900 mg.</p> <p>That’s important because omega-3 fatty acids are some of the most powerful health-boosting substances known to science!</p> <p>Omega-3s help alleviate depression and anxiety, prevent macular degeneration and eye disease, fight inflammation, prevent dementia, and improve sleep <sup>1-5</sup>. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg—scientists are confirming the crucial importance of omega-3 fatty acids to a healthy diet and lifestyle in new ways every day.</p> <div class="sub-head">Other Nutrients</div> <p>Beyond healthy compounds like omega-3s, both flax and chia seeds have many other beneficial nutrients. Chia is higher in calcium and phosphorus, both of which support bone health. Meanwhile, flax has higher concentrations of manganese, copper and potassium—all of which contribute to increased energy, muscle health, and red blood cell production.</p> <p>You won’t go wrong choosing to include either kind of seed in your diet. But if you’re looking for more omega-3s, choose flax seeds. If you’re looking for fewer calories, more fiber, and more bone-boosting nutrients, go with chia.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Health Benefits of Chia and Flax Seeds</header> <p>Both chia and flax seeds have tons of health benefits. Incorporating either—or, better yet, both!—into your diet can improve your health and well-being in numerous ways.</p> <div class="sub-head">Heart Health</div> <p>As we’ve seen, both flax and chia contain a lot of omega-3s. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the specific kind of omega-3 fatty acid in both, is proven to be incredibly good for your cardiovascular health. Your body can’t produce this crucial fat—it has to get it from plant-based sources. But eating just a little ALA can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 14 percent! <sup>6</sup></p> <p>Flax seeds have slightly more ALA than chia seeds do, although both are rich sources of this heart-healthy fat. If you’re trying to lower your risk of stroke or heart attack, control your blood pressure, or help manage your cholesterol, incorporate more flax into your diet.</p> <div class="sub-head">Digestion and Gut Health</div> <p>Scientists are finding that good digestion and proper gut health are essential to our overall well-being. Maintaining a <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">healthy gut biome</a>, with the right types of good bacteria, can benefit everything from your energy level to your mental health<sup>7</sup>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="woman-hands-making-heart"> </picture> <p>While flax seeds and chia seeds are both great sources of dietary fiber, chia seeds come out on top here. They pack 11 grams into a serving—that’s 60 percent of a woman’s daily recommended amount, and about 40 percent of a man’s. Both seeds contain soluble and insoluble fiber and may help reduce constipation or diarrhea by improving the passage of food through your gut.</p> <p>The fiber in these seeds also acts as a prebiotic, nourishing the good bacteria in your gut and promoting a healthy biome.</p> <div class="sub-head">Cancer Prevention</div> <p>The fiber, omega-3s, and other nutrients in both flax and chia seeds help fight various kinds of cancer (like prostate cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer). However, flax seeds are one of the richest food sources of lignans, a powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant <sup>8</sup>. Eating just one ounce—about two tablespoons—of flax seeds daily can help prevent several kinds of tumors from forming.</p> <div class="sub-head">Blood Sugar Levels</div> <p>The high amounts of fiber in chia and flax seeds does more than keep you regular. It also regulates your blood sugar. Fiber helps control how fast carbs are digested in your body, so consuming lots of fiber with a meal can help prevent blood sugar spikes.</p> <p>This protects you against developing type 2 diabetes, and also helps prevent energy crashes after a meal or snack <sup>9</sup>.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Do Chia Seeds Really Help You Lose Weight?</header> <p>One of the main claims to superfood fame by trendy chia seeds is that they can help you lose weight.</p> <p>Turns out, the rumors are true!</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="diet-woman-tape-measure"> </picture> <p>The insoluble fiber found in chia seeds can’t be digested in the intestine. As that bulk passes through, you feel fuller, prompting you to eat less. Eating 30 grams of fiber daily can lead to the same weight loss achievements as following a more complicated diet. Ingesting two tablespoons of chia seeds provides about half that fiber! <sup>10</sup></p> <p>Although you can get dietary fiber from many sources, some are easier to integrate into your daily routine than others. Cooking with chia or flax seeds may just help you meet your goals for both fiber and weight loss.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Chia Seeds and Flax on the Keto Diet</header> <p>High in healthy fats, low in carbs, and very versatile, chia and flax seeds are staples of the low-carb lifestyle. They help thicken baked goods and sauces, lend texture to treats, and make delicious substitutions for starches and flours.</p> <div class="sub-head">How to Cook with Chia and Flax</div> <p>When cooking with flax and chia, you’ll want to choose the right seed for the job. </p> <p>Chia seeds are most often used whole, typically to add texture to the final dish. You can incorporate them into a crunchy dredge for meat or fish, mix them into <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">keto fat bombs</a> for extra crunch, or whirl them into a smoothie. Chia seeds also make a great vegan replacement for eggs—simply soak them in water to activate their outer gel coating.</p> <p>You can use flax seeds whole or ground into flax meal. They have a nuttier flavor than chia seeds, so you may notice them more in the final product. However, when combined with almond or coconut flour, flax meal makes a fantastic baking option for low-carb diets. Like chia, ground flax can be mixed with water to make an egg replacement. Just stir together 1 tablespoon of flax meal with 2.5 tablespoons of water and let stand for 5 minutes before using in place of an egg in most recipes.</p> <div class="sub-head">Chia and Flax Recipes</div> <p>Want to add more chia and flax into your diet to make the most of these amazing seeds’ health benefits? Try one of these great recipes!</p> <div class="sub-head"><span style="font-size:.9em;"><i>Asparagus and Gruyere Quiche</i></span></div> <p>Quiche makes a fantastic last-minute dinner or an impressive brunch, packing in plenty of flavor for very little effort. <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">This asparagus and gruyere version</a> looks extra-fancy and adds heart-healthy chia and flax to the crust.</p> <div class="sub-head"><span style="font-size:.9em;"><i>Smoky Bacon Zucchini Fritters</i></span></div> <p>Have too much zucchini on hand? <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Make fritters</a>! Flax meal provides extra binding power for these smoky bacon-loaded treats, which are perfect as either dinner or a side dish.</p> <div class="sub-head"><span style="font-size:.9em;"><i>Broccoli Cheese Soup</i></span></div> <p>There’s no need to feel guilty about the creamy decadence of a <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">cheese-loaded soup</a> when it’s also packed with cancer-fighting flax meal.</p> <div class="sub-head"><span style="font-size:.9em;"><i>Lemon Poppyseed Scones</i></span></div> <p>Why give up your favorite breakfast treats to live a keto lifestyle? Flax meal helps replace carb-loaded white flour in <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">this classic scone recipe</a>. For added health benefits, try including a tablespoon or two of chia seeds and upping the heavy cream by the same amount. The chia seeds will complement the crunch of the poppyseeds and give you extra fiber to boot! </p> <div class="sub-head"><span style="font-size:.9em;"><i>Keto Overnight Oatmeal</i></span></div> <p>Overnight oatmeal makes an easy breakfast option, but it’s too high in carbs for a keto diet. Instead of relying on oats, try using healthy flax and chia seeds instead! <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Just soak overnight in coconut milk</a> for a delicious treat in the morning.</p> <p>When it comes to superfood seeds, you really can’t lose: chia seeds and flax seeds are both winners! Both pack a ton of nutrition into a very small package. If you’re looking to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer, consider making flax a regular part of your diet. Want to lose weight and improve your gut health and digestion? Go with a daily dose of chia instead.</p> <p>But no matter which seed you choose, you’re sure to reap the benefits.</p> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li>Su K, Huang S, Chiu C, Shen W. Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder. <i>European Neuropsychopharmacology</i>. 2003;13(4):267-271. doi:10.1016/s0924-977x(03)00032-4</li> <li>Merle B, Benlian P, Puche N, Bassols A, Delcourt C, Souied E. Circulating Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration. <i>Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science</i>. 2014;55(3):2010. doi:10.1167/iovs.14-13916</li> <li>Calder P. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory processes: nutrition or pharmacology?. Br J <i>Clin Pharmacol</i>. 2013;75(3):645-662. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04374.x</li> <li>Cole G, Ma Q, Frautschy S. Omega-3 fatty acids and dementia. <i>Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids</i>. 2009;81(2-3):213-221. doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2009.05.015</li> <li>Hansen A, Dahl L, Olson G et al. Fish Consumption, Sleep, Daily Functioning, and Heart Rate Variability. <i>Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine</i>. 2014. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3714</li> <li>Pan A, Chen M, Chowdhury R et al. α-Linolenic acid and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. <i>Am J Clin Nutr.</i> 2012;96(6):1262-1273. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.044040</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">The Gut Brain Connection: How Gut Health Affects Mental Health</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Flaxseed Lignans and Cancer</a></li> <li>Weickert M, Pfeiffer A. Metabolic Effects of Dietary Fiber Consumption and Prevention of Diabetes. <i>J Nutr</i>. 2008;138(3):439-442. doi:10.1093/jn/138.3.439</li> <li>Ma Y, Olendzki B, Wang J et al. Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome. <i>Ann Intern Med</i>. 2015;162(4):248. doi:10.7326/m14-0611</li> </ol> </section> </article>

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