The Benefits of Chia Seeds vs Flax Seeds
Once upon a time, if you heard the word "chia," you might have pictured a fuzzy green desk ornament. And if you heard the word "flax," you might picture... um, a flower maybe? (We actually don't remember having a lot of flax-oriented conversations 20 years ago).
But these days it seems everyone is talking about the health benefits of these two superseeds. And for good reason: both are extremely versatile ingredients loaded with dietary benefits. If you're one of the few who have yet to incorporate them into your weekly meal planning, we made this handy chart outlining the benefits of chia seeds vs flax seeds, along with a list of uses for both.
Benefits of chia seeds
Chia seeds have been used for centuries and are renowned for their nutty flavor. The cool thing about them is that they absorb liquids and puff up into tiny, jelly-like orbs in just 10–20 minutes. But don't be fooled by that squishy consistency—chia seeds are actually whole grains! Here's a breakdown of the other good stuff they deliver:
- Protein: One serving delivers about 4 grams.
- Fiber: There's a whopping 11 grams in a serving of chia seeds vs flax seeds, which have 7.5 grams per serving (that's still a lot!).
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Chia seeds contain more omega 3s than an equal amount of salmon.
- Vitamins and minerals: Chia seeds provide bodies with calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins B1, B2, and B3.
Uses for chia seeds
Bubble tea: Soak chia seeds in juice and you can make your own teeny-tiny boba for bubble tea. Their diminutive size is an asset, as they contain fewer carbs and more protein than those sugary tapioca pearls, making them all fluff and all tough.
Pudding: For a dessert that's nutritious enough for breakfast, steep seeds in almond or soy milk, then add vanilla, a sweetener, and some fruit. Blend it if you want a smoother texture.
Meatballs: Add chia seeds to the meat mix, and they'll be your binder—no eggs, breadcrumbs, or team-building exercises necessary.
Jam: Macerate some berries and add chia seeds to the mix instead of pectin. Whirl it through the food processor to break up chunks, if desired. You can also cook the berries on the stove with some honey, then, when the berries start to release their juices, stir in chia seeds to thicken everything back up and cook for 10 more minutes.
Flax seed benefits
Studies have shown that flax seeds may help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. They're high in fiber, but low in carbs, and may aid in digestion. They're also good sources of the following nutrients:
- Omega 3s: Flax seeds provide a bit more omega-3 fatty acids per serving than chia seeds.
- Protein: Flax seeds are also a slightly better source of protein, delivering 5 grams per serving.
- Iron and copper: Flax seeds provide 9% and 17% of the recommended daily allowances of these minerals, respectively.
- Lignans: Flax seeds are an excellent source of these phytochemicals, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
One important note: the hulls of flax seeds are too tough for our puny human digestive systems, so buy them ground or run them through a coffee grinder.
Uses for flax seeds
Eggs: Flax seeds make a great vegan alternative for eggs in almost any baked recipe. For each egg a recipe calls for, mix 1 tablespoon of flax-seed meal in 3 tablespoons of water. Let it sit for a few minutes to allow it to thicken before adding it to the batter.
Porridge: Pour boiling water over flax-seed meal, wait for it to absorb the water, then add salt, sweetener, chopped fruit, and cinnamon.
Butter: Another vegan shortcut! Substitute 3 tablespoons of flax-seed meal for each tablespoon of butter or margarine.
Gravy: To thicken gravy and add nutrients, use ground flax seeds instead of flour or cornstarch.
Oil-based dressings: Add flax-seed meal to hot water one tablespoon at a time and stir well. Keep adding the meal until it's about the consistency of oil, and let cool. It'll thicken more as it does.
Uses for Both
The best advice for using both chia seeds and flax seeds can be summed up in five words: just add them to stuff.
- Throw a few tablespoons into a batch of muffins for a nutty crunch.
- Put all three into a smoothie with fruit, yogurt, and/or milk. Add some spinach if you want. You'll never know the seeds are there.
- Toss them together with seasonings to make a breading for fish or chicken.
- Add them to salads for some reduced-carb crispiness.
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