Hemp seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds are all packed with nutrition. Today we're exploring the difference between Hemp Seeds vs Flax Seeds vs Chia Seeds to find out what makes them 'superseeds'!
Seeds such as hemp, flax and chia can be an incredibly valuable addition to your diet. They’re easy to add to almost anything and they’re packed full of nutrients. It’s truly amazing that something so tiny can be packed with so many essential nutrients!
All this talk about ‘superseeds’ can be overwhelming, so as a Registered Dietitian I wanted to provide you with a brief run down of each seed, as well as some ways you can add them to your diet and where to buy them, to help you decide which ones will be a good addition to your diet!
Table of contents
Hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, have been around for many years, however, due to the fact that they are derived from the same plant as marijuana, hemp was only recently introduced to the Canadian food supply (1). Although hemp seeds and marijuana come from the same plant, they do far different things in the body. When preparing hemp seeds, manufacturers remove all traces of THC, leaving us with little seeds packed with nutrients!
Some key nutrient benefits of hemp seeds include:
- High protein content
- Contain lots of omega 3 fatty acids
- Contain antioxidants such as vitamin E
Hemp hearts contain all 9 essential amino acids, meaning they are a complete protein, making them a great option for anyone trying to increase their protein intake (3).
Hemp hearts have heart health benefits due to their fatty acid composition and their abundance of omega 3 fatty acids. These are what you may know of as “good” fats. They play a role in lowering blood pressure and protecting against strokes and cardiovascular disease (7).
The antioxidants in hemp hearts play a vital part in keeping us healthy, protecting our cells by removing harmful agents. Their protective factors have been seen to have positive effects on fighting against cancer and cardiovascular disease (7).
Hemp seeds can be such an easy, nutritious addition to your diet, as they don’t need to be soaked or ground, just simply sprinkled on top of or mixed into almost anything!
Chia seeds are tiny round seeds that come from the salvia hispanica plant which is part of the mint family (2). Chia seeds come in both a brown variety, as well as a white variety, and although they may look different, the nutritional value of the two is the same.
Some key nutrient benefits of chia seeds include:
- High in omega 3 fatty acids
- High in fibre
- Contain iron and magnesium
Photo Credits: Delphine Hourlay via Pexels
Chia seeds are high in omega 3 fatty acids, giving them incredible heart health benefits! Just one tablespoon of chia seeds will provide you with enough omega 3 fatty acids to meet the recommended amount for the entire day (4).
Fibre is an incredibly important nutrient, helping us have regular bowel movements, regulate blood sugar and help us stay full for longer. Chia seeds provide about 4 grams of fibre for every tablespoon, making them a great addition to a diet that is lacking fibre!
Chia seeds also contain essential nutrients such as iron and magnesium, which are all incredibly important for your overall health. One tablespoon of chia seed will provide you with about 10% of your daily iron and magnesium needs.
Do you need to soak chia seeds?
You may have heard that in order to reap the benefits from chia seeds, they must be soaked for 5-10 minutes before consuming, however, this is not true.* Soaking chia seeds will make them swell up and become softer, which may make them more palatable and enjoyable to eat, but it is definitely not necessary nutritionally. Adding chia seeds to your diet, whether they are dry or soaked is a great way to sneak in some extra nutrients that you may be lacking (8)!
*Non-soaked chia seeds are typically safe to consume for the majority of the population however, individuals with with swallowing problems should never consume dry chia without first thoroughly soaking the seeds in liquid until completely plump
Flax seeds, also called linseeds, are small, hard seeds from the flax plant that are packed with essential nutrients. Flax seeds can be bought in their whole form, which includes a shiny outer shell, or in ground form, which is also known as flax meal or flaxseed flour (5).
Some key nutrition benefits of flax seeds include:
- Packed with omega 3 fatty acids
- Lots of fibre
- Contain lignans
Photo Credits: Delphine Hourlay via Pexels
Flax seeds are a great source of healthy omega 3 fatty acids, packing in about 2.5 grams per tablespoon. This is higher than both chia seeds and hemp seeds (5).
These tiny seeds are also packed with fibre, with about 3 grams in every tablespoon. They are a great option to help you regulate your bowel movements and to keep us full after a meal (6).
Lignans are a class of polyphenols, which are a type of micronutrient that are found in plant foods. Lignans can act as antioxidants, and may play a role in protecting against diseases such as breast cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. These powerful nutrients are found in several different foods, but in low amounts, however, flax seeds are one of the best sources of lignans (5)(6)!
Tip: buy ground flax seeds when possible. The nutrients in the seeds are more available and better absorbed in your body when they are pre ground, allowing your body to gain more from them!
Easy ways to add seeds to your diet
Now that you know why you should add these seeds to your diet, let's talk about how you can add them to your diet.
From salads to baked goods, seeds are so versatile and can truly be added to anything, but here are a few tips and tricks to help you kickstart the introduction of seeds to your diet!
- Add to salad dressings: When making your favourite salad dressing, add in a few tablespoons of chia seeds for an easy nutrient boost!
- Add to smoothies: Blend chia, hemp or flax seeds into your smoothie, you won’t even notice they’re there!
- Sprinkle on salads, soups and yogurt: Hemp seeds are the perfect finishing touch to a delicious spinach salad, tomato soup or yogurt parfait, adding a little texture and a lot of nutrients!
- Add to muffins and loaves: When making your favourite blueberry muffins or banana loaf, try adding in some chia seeds or some ground flax and see how they turn out!
- Swap an egg for seeds: Swap out one egg in any baked good for a flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoon water) or a chia egg (1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoon water)
- Sprinkle of toast: Add a little crunch to your avocado toast or peanut butter toast with a sprinkle of hemp seeds
If you’re looking for even more ways to add these powerful seeds into your diet, here are some of my favourite recipes for each type of seed
Where to buy seeds
Nowadays, chia, flax and hemp seeds are pretty common products, making them available at almost any grocery store. If you want to start incorporating them into your diet but are not sure where to find them here are the first places you should check:
- The natural food section: many grocery stores have a natural foods section, where you may find products with organic food labels, protein bars, and supplements. This is also usually the section that houses the seeds you're looking for!
- Bulk food stores: if the price of seeds does not seem attainable to you, check bulk food stores. You can often find a wide variety of products, including seeds, for lower prices!
- Specialty food stores: if you can’t find any of these seeds at your local grocery store or bulk food store, try to find a specialty food store and check there!
How should I store my super seeds?
I always recommend storing any seeds including hemp seeds, flax seeds and chis seeds in an airtight jar or container the fridge or freezer! The cool temperatures will help maintain the freshness of the seeds, avoiding them going rancid too quickly!
If stored correctly, seeds can stay fresh in the fridge for up to one year.
The bottom line: which seeds should you be eating?
So, Hemp Seeds vs Flax Seeds vs Chia Seeds, which seeds are the best for you to eat? Depending on what you are looking to add into your diet, one may be more beneficial than the others so lets do a brief summary of which ones to add to your diet depending on your goals
- Looking to boost your protein intake? Try hemp seeds
- Looking to add more fibre? Chia seeds will be your best option
- Want to increase ‘healthy’ fat consumption? Add hemp seeds to your diet
Overall, even though all of the seeds hold different nutritional value, there is not one that is superior over the other. Regardless of what your goals are, chia, hemp and flax seeds are all easy and convenient ways to add an abundance of nutrients into your diet!
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PS. I love seeing my articles in action! If you decide to make any of these recipes featuring hemp seeds, flax seeds or chia seeds or found this information helpful, don't forget to snap a photo and tag me on Instagram- @nourishedbynic or leave a comment and rating below letting me know how you liked it!
*Contribution by Allison Vanier, nutrition student at Toronto Metropolitan University, Reviewed by Nicole Addison, MHSc, RD
- ½ cup golden flax seeds
- ½ cup chia seeds black or white
- ½ cup hemp seeds (or hemp hearts)
- In a high powered blender or food processor add flax seed and blend until smooth (grounding your flax seed will help make it easier for your body to digest the nutrients)! Add the ground flax seed to a airtight container.
- Add chia seeds and hemp seeds to the flax seed and mix. Store int he fridge and add to your favourite smoothies, toasts, oatmeal, bowls, salads or even baking!