Chia Seeds VS Hemp Hearts VS Flax Seeds – Have you seen the hype in the media and wondered which is better, or why they are considered so “super”? Then continue reading!
Super Seed Bottom Line:
- In fact all have great health benefits. Super seeds like chia, hemp and flax are plant based alternative protein sources that provide are great sources of vitamins and minerals, fibre, healthy Omega 3 fats and phytochemicals (cancer fighting antioxidants that have other great health benefits).
- Hemp hearts: If you are looking for a protein alternative, hemp hearts have the highest content. They also have high omega 3 content. They can also be added to yogurts, cereal or salads.
- Chia seeds: If you are looking for a fibre boost, the richest source is chia seeds.
- Flax: Reach for that flax to get some omega 3’s (especially if you’re not a fan of the flavour of hemp hearts). So be adventurous and start adding some seeds to your yogurts, cereals, salads or when cooking or baking.
- All three are a great source of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
A little more about each seed:
Flax seeds are oval and flat shaped seeds that are slightly larger than sesame seeds. They have a crisp, chewy texture with a nutty flavour. Flax seeds can be brown or yellow in colour. They are a rich source of lignans; a phytochemical which reduces cancer risk by acting as an antioxidant.
Flaxseeds can be used as an alternative for fats in many recipes.
Substituting fat: Use 3 tablespoons (45 ml) ground flaxseed for each 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of margarine, butter or cooking oil or 1 cup of ground flax seed for 1/3 cup of oil (3:1 substitution ratio). Flax can be substituted for all or some of the fat depending on the recipe. If you choose to substitute all of the fat in the recipe with flax seed, you will need to increase your liquid by 75% of the amount of ground flax you are adding because the flaxseed will absorb moisture. Just a note: Baking with flax as a fat substitute will cause baked goods to brown more quickly.
Can be a substitute for 1 medium egg: 1 medium egg = 1 tablespoon ground flax seed + 3 tablespoons water. Let this 1:3 combination sit for several minutes together before adding to your recipe. The flax will absorb the water and gel up in a egg-like texture. Use hot water for faster results.
- Flax seeds need to be ground in order to reap health benefits. Ground flax seeds are the most ‘nutritious’. Grinding the seeds makes them easier to digest and helps release their nutrients. Your best bet is to enjoy ground flax seeds to get the most this seed has to offer. You can buy ground flax seeds or grind them yourself with the tools you already have in your kitchen. Grind flax seeds at home with a coffee grinder, food processor or blender.
- They tend to be the least expensive to buy compared to hemp hearts and chia seeds.
- What can you do with them? Sprinkle on cereal, yogurt, or salads, or bake with it in muffins or breads.
Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. Salvia hispanica seed is often sold under its common name “chia” as well as several trademarked names. Its origin is believed to be in Central America where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet.
Chia seeds have recently gained attention as an excellent source of omega-3 fats and contain protein and minerals including as iron, calcium (18% of your calcium requirement, magnesium and zinc and antioxidants.
Chia seeds contain the most fibre/serving (11.7g) (compare that to recommended daily intake of 25 g for women and 38g/men!).
A note about fibre:
Both soluble and insoluble fibres are undigested. They are therefore not absorbed into the bloodstream. Fibre content is often listed under “Total Carbohydrates” on a Nutrition Facts label. Because it is undigested, it provides 0 calories. Instead of being used for energy, fiber is excreted from our bodies. However they act a little different in the body…
Soluble fibre: forms thick viscous gel when mixed with water, slows down digestion, and takes longer to digest delays the emptying of the stomach and make you feel full. It has cholesterol lowering properties, helps manage blood sugars and diabetes. Examples: oatmeal, lentils, fruits and vegetables, beans, psyillum and CHIA.
Insoluble fibre: is a gut healthy fiber, helps regulate bowel movements, adds bulk/satiety to the diet, helps prevent constipation (when water intake is adequate), and passes through our intestines largely intact. Examples: whole wheat, grains, raisins, fruit and vegetable skins, brown rice, couscous.
- When making a food choice decision, don’t worry about choosing a specific type of fiber. Many foods such as oat, oat brans, psyllium husk and flax seed are rich in both insoluble and soluble fiber. Eating enough fiber is more important! The recommended intake of fiber for a healthy adult 26g.
- As you increase the fiber in your diet, you may experience more intestinal gas. Increasing fiber gradually will allow your body to adapt. Because some fibers absorb water, you should also drink more water as you increase fiber.
- How to reach 26g fiber/day:
- Eating 26 grams of fibre daily may seem like a lot but can be obtained by:
- Having 3-5 servings of each fruits and vegetables per day;
- Fruit as between-meal snacks;
- And choosing high fibre whole grains.
- Eating 26 grams of fibre daily may seem like a lot but can be obtained by:
White VS Black Chia Seeds:
While large-scale, independent research has not been conducted because it would not be cost-effective, researchers and growers agree that black chia seeds and white chia seeds are nutritionally identical. If anything, a difference in nutritional content would more be attributed to different production locations rather than the seeds themselves.
Chia seeds can be easily digested without a need to grind the seeds (unlike flax seeds).
How to use: You can sprinkle chia seeds on cereal, rice, yogurt or vegetables or add to smoothies, add to baked products such as muffins!
The hemp seeds are actually the seeds of the plant cannabis sativa; however they do not have the same active ingredients as the recreational drug. They have the similar nutrition benefits like other nuts and seeds as they are a great source of protein and are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.
Contains non-heme iron and zinc, which are important for body functions.
Hemp wins for the most protein per serving when comparing flax and chia!
Contains 3X more omega-6 than omega 3’s (Note: Omega 3 fatty acids from fatty fish (i.e., EPA & DHA) are associated with the heart health benefits.
They have a great nutty taste!! If you enjoy the taste of hemp seeds try them in yogurt, cereal, salads and smoothies. You can buy the seeds or hemp protein powder which has 15 g of protein per serving/4 tbsp. Approximate recommended protein intake (depending on a number of factors such as if you’re trying to build muscle): 0.8-1.5g/kg body weight, therefore 150 pounds = 68.2 kg; the approximate recommended protein intake would be = 54-102g/day.
Therefore one hemp heart serving = is roughly 20-30% of intake for day!
Here are examples of amounts of protein in other foods:
- 1 cup of milk has 8 grams of protein
- A 3-ounce piece of meat has about 21 grams of protein
- 1 cup of dry beans has about 16 grams of protein
- An 8-ounce container of Greek yogurt has about 15 grams of protein
- 1 30g (2 tbsp) hemp heart serving has 10g protein
Felicia Newell is our Official NEM Nutritionist and has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Nutrition, as well as a Master of Science in Applied Human Nutrition. For the past several years, Felicia has worked at a university research centre with a focus on food security, food access, and policies relating to food; she has taught university level nutrition courses; and she is currently working at a large chain grocery store helping her community make healthier choices. One of Felicia’s passions is helping others fight through the confusing misinformation that is out there in the ever-changing and growing world of food and nutrition. Another one of her passions lies in working toward a future where everyone has access to enough affordable, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food, that is produced, processed and distributed in socially, economically and ecologically sustainable ways. Felicia has published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Public Health titled, ‘Is the Minimum Enough: Affordability of a Nutritious Diet for Minimum Wage Earners in Nova Scotia’.
Read more about her on her Facebook page or follow her on Instagram: @felicianewellnutrition. Click here for more NEM experts.