What's the Difference Between Flax and Chia? Comparing the Super Seeds
In the last few years, seeds have emerged as popular health foods, more than ever before. Now and then, you will find reports published by health research organizations exploring the benefits of plant-based super seeds such as Chia seeds and flax seeds. Both the seeds are rich sources of nutrients that help maintain and improve human health. These are trendy new healthy foods that have high levels of protein, fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 and, omega-6 fatty acids. So, now the question arises, which one of the two seeds is better? Which of the seeds is the best source of nutrients to be called the superstar of the seeds department?
If you’re on the edge of your seat to know about which one is better or you are just not certain about how you should be eating each day, then read on to know more.
What Is a Chia Seed?
Chia seeds are obtained most commonly from Salvia columbariae, a desert plant and a member of the mint family. Chia seeds are small and oval-shaped seeds that were introduced in Aztec times in South America and Mexico, although Australia is now the world's leading irrigated commercial Chia seeds producer. These seeds come in black and white colors. However, nutrient value is same in both types of seeds. These are also sometimes known as Salba seed which is a better variety of chia seed.
Chia seeds are usually bought whole, have been used as a staple seed throughout history to boost energy, satiety, vitality, and a healthy mood in humans, a few health benefits of chia seeds. Chia seeds are pretty bland and virtually tasteless; it doesn't change or add to the flavor of the dish when used in it.
Chia seeds can be absorbed by the body as seeds, even if consumed in raw form. About two tablespoons contain around 139 calories, 4 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fat, and 11 grams of fiber as well as other nutrients (1).
What Is Flaxseed?
Flaxseeds, also known as linseed, found in brown and golden colors come from the flower of the flax plant and is be grown almost anywhere in North America and other parts of the world. However, it is said to be originating in Egypt. You can find flax seed in various consumer products available in the market. Flaxseed is one of the richest plant sources of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid that are important for heart health and brain functioning, as well as Lignan, a type of antioxidant known as a phytochemical. One tablespoon of Flaxseeds can contain 2.350g ALA content. (4)
Chia Seed Nutrition Value vs. Flaxseed
Fiber Content: Including any of the seeds in your diet is a great way to enhance the daily fiber content, but Chia is a better choice as two tablespoons of it gives you 11.2 grams of fiber which is 42 % of your recommended daily intake, in comparison to 7.6 grams and 28% for flax. Chia is one of the richest sources of soluble fiber which adds bulk to stool and slows glucose absorption. The fiber in flax is mostly soluble fiber, which has been associated with lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. (3)
2 Tablespoons of Chia seeds carry 138 calories or 7 percent of the daily intake required who is following a 2,000-calorie diet.
Flax seeds contain a little more energy; an ounce of whole seeds contains 151 calories or 7.5 of the daily recommended caloric intake for a 2,000-calorie diet.
Both the seeds are rich sources of essential minerals and vitamins. Chia provides significantly more iron, calcium and selenium per serving than flax. However, flax is a source of Choline, a nutrient necessary for brain function that is not found in Chia seed.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Content:
Flaxseeds are the number one plant-based food for Omega 3 fatty acids; One tablespoon of Flaxseeds can contain 2.350g ALA content, a common Omega 3. The same amount of Chia seeds, in comparison, has only 4915 mg of ALA.
Adding any of these two seeds can enhance the protein intake in your diet. Chia and flax contain the almost same amount of protein per ounce which is 4.4 grams and 5.1 grams respectively.
Flaxseed vs. Chia seeds: Constipation and Diarrhea
Constipation and diarrhea are two of the major side effects of poor digestion, and a huge number of the population have such issues on regular bases. This is owing to the fiber contents of these seeds which help to relieve constipation. Flax seeds contain more soluble fiber, which may help reduce diarrhea.
Flaxseed and Chia seeds: Weight Loss
Both seeds are low carb and packed with essential proteins and fiber which makes us conclude that these are good for weight loss and should benefit from shedding some pounds quickly. However, as per the studies, both seeds have been a disappointment when it comes to weight loss.
Weight loss largely depends on the healthier lifestyle choices rather than on a single food item.
Flaxseed and Chia seeds: Cholesterol Reduction
Chia seed and flaxseed are rich sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of plant-based omega-3 fat required for reduction of bad cholesterol. (5) Flaxseed-filled diets reduced levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol by up to 18%, and triglyceride levels by up to 11%, as per various studies conducted. However, some studies conducted to determine the effect of Chia seeds on blood cholesterol levels, have failed to report any cholesterol-lowering benefits. More studies are required to ascertain the benefits of Chia seeds. (2)
How to Eat Chia and Flaxseeds?
One of the most important facts to note that flaxseeds cannot be digested if consumed in raw ungrounded form. It is better to ground the flaxseed to ensure maximum absorption of nutrients from it. Flax seeds are more intense in flavor as compared to Chia seeds.
Both can be spattered on top of yogurts or incorporated into smoothies, oatmeal, pudding, porridge or baked goods.
They can also be used as egg substitutes in many recipes or to thicken sauces. Although many experts suggest to chose Chia seeds instead of flaxseeds, due to its gel-like consistency when mixed with water, to be used as a substitute for the egg.
You can add them to your homemade granola or granola bars.
Add whole Chia or ground flaxseeds to bread and muffins for better texture and enhanced nutrition at the same time
Toast either of the seeds over medium-high heat until dark and add them to soups and salads for a nice crunchy taste as we as a boost of nutrition.
There are various flaxseeds and Chia seed recipes available on the internet to try and incorporate these healthy seeds into your diet.
Make Chia and Flaxseeds a part of your regular diet!
Both Chia and flax should be a part of every vegan’s diet. For a maximum dose of nutrients go for Chia, you can also use both the seeds alternatively. From the above discussion, we can gather that both the seed have health benefits and uses that are necessary for better health. You need to choose from them according to your requirement. If you are looking for a fiber boost and add more calcium, your best source would be the Chia seeds. If you are looking for cholesterol reduction food alternative, reach for flaxseed to get some more omega 3’s.
1. Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD. The Truth About Chia Seeds. Web MD.
2. Delfin Rodriguez-Leyva, MD, PhD,1,2 Chantal MC Bassett, PhD,1 Richelle McCullough, BSc,1 and Grant N Pierce, PhD1. The cardiovascular effects of flaxseed and its omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. 2010 November, 26
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