Diet and Nutrition

Chia Seeds vs. Flaxseeds: What's the Difference?

Chia Seeds vs. Flaxseeds: What's the Difference?

Key Takeaways

  • Chia seeds are known to be an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. 
  • Flaxseeds are a good source of antioxidants and fiber.
  • It has been found that chia seeds are healthier than flaxseeds owing to its higher quantity of fiber, calcium, and phosphorous compared to flaxseeds.

What are chia seeds?

Chia seeds come from a desert plant known as Salvia hispanica. It is a member of the mint family. Chia seeds are often sold under several different trademark names. Not just the seeds, but the sprouts of this plant are also edible. They can be added to salads, sandwiches, and other dishes. The origin of chia seeds is believed to be in Central America because it was used as a part of their diet back then. Native Americans used a different type of seed in their diet known as the "golden chia seed". The golden chia seeds come from another related plant known as Salvia columbariae.

Chia seeds are known to be an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Not just that, they are also amazing sources of fiber, proteins, and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Chia seeds have been said to have about 2 tablespoons or 10 grams per ounce of omega-3 fatty acids. For this reason, several studies that were carried out in the recent past suggest that the inclusion of chia seeds in one’s diet can lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases by decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as normalizing the blood pressure. However, there are not enough studies done on the health benefits of chia seeds. Most of its information are based on studies carried out in animals or with a small number of human participants.

How do you eat chia seeds?

Chia seeds are edible either raw or with a number of other prepared dishes. Chia seeds can be ground or the entire chia seed can be sprinkled over many food preparations such as cereals, yogurt, rice, or vegetables. One popular drink in Mexico known as the "chia fresca" is prepared by soaking the chia seeds in a glass of fresh juice or water. Chia seeds can also be easily absorbed and when it is mixed with water. The seeds develop into a gelatinous mixture, making it easy for anyone to add the seeds into a bowl of cereal or any other dish they want.

What are the health benefits of chia seeds?

Chia seeds have several health benefits as mentioned before. Being a "superfood" rich in many nutrients, chia seeds have numerous benefits that help us in many ways. Some of the most important benefits of chia seeds include:

1) Improves the skin's repair systems

Chia seeds are rich in natural antioxidants, which has been proven by research. It has been revealed that chia seeds had twice the amount of total natural phenolic concentration than previously noted and showed a antioxidant activity of free radicals.

Thus, these research have proven that chia seeds are indeed one of the natural sources that are highly rich in antioxidants. Therefore, the everyday consumption of chia seeds will help improve the skin’s repair system as well as prevent the premature aging of the skin due to the inflammation caused by free radicals and stress.

2) Helps normalize blood pressure and cholesterol levels 

Chia seeds have the ability to reverse inflammation, decrease cholesterol levels, and control high blood pressure, thereby making it an important food to improve heart health. Oxidative stress can also be reduced by regularly consuming chia seeds. It can make people less likely to develop atherosclerosis.

In addition, chia seeds have a high linoleic content, which is a fatty acid that helps enable a better absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. The seeds are also rich in omega-3 fats, which are important for the brain and body. They also protect the heart by controlling high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and inflammation. Hence, consuming chia seeds on a regular basis will play a major protective role against heart diseases, cancer, and other health conditions.

3) Helps treat diabetes mellitus

According to researchers from the Universidad Nacional del Litoral in Argentina, they conducted two tests on healthy rats. The first test was with healthy rats fed using a sucrose-rich diet (SRD) along with chia seeds as their main diet for a period of three weeks. The second test was done with rats that were initially fed using a sucrose-rich diet (SRD) for three months to develop insulin resistance and lipidemia, which are major factors in diabetes development. After feeding the rats with SRD, they fed the diseased rats with chia seeds for another two months. The results were eye-opening. They concluded their research with the following results:

1) First test – Even though the rats were fed with 65 percent of sucrose-rich diet (SRD) for three weeks, the onset of dyslipidemia and insulin resistance were prevented through the consumption of chia seeds.

2) Second test – The rats developed dyslipidemia and insulin resistance after being fed with SRD. However, they totally recovered from their conditions after the two-month consumption of chia seeds. Not only that, researchers also found out that adding chia seeds to the rats’ diet has reduced the amount of their belly fat or visceral fat, which is a component of obesity.

In summary, chia seeds have been found to stop the progression of diabetes as well as reverse the disease. 

4) Helps in building strong muscles and weight loss

Chia seeds are one of the top plant-based sources of protein. That is why these seeds are highly recommended to people who want to burn more fat, develop lean muscles, and control blood sugar levels.

As mentioned earlier, chia seeds are rich in antioxidants that help replace some of the lost nutrients when you exercise. Chia seeds also consist of essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc. 

Chia seeds also have the ability to absorb a lot of water. Therefore, consuming chia seeds not only helps improve the absorption of nutrients from the electrolytes; it also helps you stay hydrated.

5) Fights breast and cervical cancer

Chia seeds are rich in alpha-linolenic acid. Alpha-linolenic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid that can slow down the growth of cancer cells found in women's breasts and cervix. It was also found out that they help kill cancer cells without causing any damage to the normal healthy cells in the body.

What are flaxseeds?

Flaxseeds come from the flax plant, which is known to be one of the oldest food and fiber crops in the world. The flax plant was said to be extensively grown in ancient Egypt and China. The plant is also known to help produce linen fabrics. Moreover, the flax plant is also used to produce flaxseed oil, which is sold in both industrial and food-grade forms.

Flaxseeds are also known as "linseeds", which are rich in micronutrients, dietary fibers, manganese, essential fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and vitamin B1. The golden flaxseeds have a nutty taste, whereas the brown flaxseeds have a slightly earthier flavor.

Flaxseeds appear as small, brown, tan, or golden-colored seeds. The seeds have been consumed as a food for more than 6,000 years and are known to be the world’s first grown superfood.

Flaxseeds are a source of healthy fats. Not only that, they are also a good source of antioxidants and fiber. Research has shown that flaxseeds can help lower the risk of diabetes mellitus, cancer, and heart diseases. Flaxseeds have many other health benefits such as improving digestion, lowering high cholesterol levels, reducing sugar cravings, balancing fluctuating hormonal levels, fighting cancer, and losing extra weight.

So how do you consume flaxseeds?

The thing with flaxseeds is that you have to grind the seeds first before consumption. Nothing is going to happen if you swallow the entire seed, but the body cannot naturally break down the seed to bring about all of its benefits. If you have a coffee grinder, that will do the trick. It is better that you grind only the amount of seeds that you are going to eat that day because flaxseeds have a tendency to spoil very quickly once it is already in ground form. Already ground or pre-ground flaxseeds are available as separate bags to be purchased at supermarkets. 

The flax that you need can also be obtained through flaxseed oil, which is also loaded with lots of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil is an excellent choice of seasoning for all your meals. Since flaxseed oil has a lower smoke point of about 225 degrees Fahrenheit, you should not use this as a form of cooking oil. Instead, the oil can be used to season all your meals or add a finish to the roasted veggies you make at home. It can also be whisked into salads or a couple of tablespoons can be added to fresh popcorn to make them more flavorful and mouthwatering.

What are the health benefits of flaxseeds?

Some of the most important health benefits provided by flaxseeds include:

1) Keeps the skin and hair healthy

Who doesn’t want to have healthy skin and hair? Everyone wants it. So here is something that will help you achieve it. You can add 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds to your preferred drinks or you can add 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil every day to get amazing results.

Since flaxseeds are rich in essential fats as well as vitamin B, they have the ability to reduce skin dryness and flakiness, making your skin look younger and healthier. It also improves the symptoms of different skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and rosacea.

2) Flaxseeds lower cholesterol levels

Incorporating flaxseeds to your everyday diet can help you lower down high cholesterol levels. Flaxseeds, as mentioned earlier in this article, are rich in fiber, which has the ability to trap fat and cholesterol in the digestive system to avoid being absorbed by the body. The soluble fiber is also capable of absorbing bile found in the gallbladder, which is synthesized from cholesterol. 

Excess cholesterol found in the blood can be used up when bile is excreted by the digestive system, thereby lowering total cholesterol levels.

3) High in fiber but low in carbohydrates – Just what we need!

This is one of the essential benefits of flaxseeds. The seeds contain great mucilage gum concentration. This mucilage is a gel-forming fiber that is soluble in water and provides excellent intestinal tract benefits. It has the ability to keep the food in the stomach for a longer period of time, thus enhancing the nutrient-absorbing process.

Flaxseeds are also rich in soluble and insoluble fiber that help detoxify the colon, fat loss, and reduction of sugar cravings. Aren't these amazing benefits?

Is one healthier than the other?

Both flaxseeds and chia seeds are rich in a lot of minerals and fibers as explained in this article. However, it has been found that chia seeds are healthier than flaxseeds owing to its higher quantity of fiber, calcium, and phosphorous compared to flaxseeds. However, both types of seeds are still enriched with antioxidants that are different from each other. Therefore, it is better that you have a mix of both chia seeds and flaxseeds incorporated into your diet to achieve amazing results and improve your overall health.