Flaxseeds vs Chia Seeds

Flaxseeds vs Chia seeds, it may not be as simple as you think.

Flax seeds started becoming popular for nutritionally conscious people a few years ago. There are many flours, cereals, breads and other products available that contain flax meal. Chia seeds were very popular in the ancient diets of Aztecs and Mayans but they have only recently begun to see popularity as a nutritional supplement. Both seeds may be beneficial in assisting with managing weight loss, heart health, and other health conditions. But is one better than the other?

While chia seeds and flax seeds are rich in omega-3s, they only contain short-chain ALA omega-3s. This must be converted to EPA/DHA, the usable form of omega 3’s. As the body’s conversion rate is less than 1%, neither is the best source for EPA and DHA – which are the body-ready Omega-3 forms. (The best source of EPA and DHA is fish oil).

Flax seeds also contain lignans, a phytonutrient which is converted into phyto-oestrogens in the digestive tract and may be protective for breast, colon, and prostate cancers. For those who are looking for preventative measures for these cancers, flax seed is a better choice.

Both seeds contain high levels of soluble fibre which both gives a sense of fullness (helpful for weight loss) and are cholesterol lowering, however chia seeds have a higher fibre content than linseeds. Flax seeds, however, are cheaper.

Sprinkling both of these seeds onto your food can increase protein intake. Chia and flax have about the same amount of protein. However, chia is one of just a few plant sources that is a complete protein, meaning that it contains the entire range of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. It may therefore be better for vegetarians.

One of the big disadvantages of flax seeds is that they tend to spoil quickly. Flax seeds should be kept in the fridge or freezer, and used in a short period of time or they become rancid. In addition, flax oxidizes very quickly so it starts to loose nutritional value as soon as it is ground-- and you must grind flax seeds before eating them or your body will not be able to digest them and they go straight through the digestive tract. Chia seeds, on the other hand, can be digested either ground or whole. Because of their high antioxidant content, you do not have to keep chia seeds in the fridge.

You can sprinkle both seeds on a variety of foods, including salads, yogurt and cottage cheese. They can also be blended into smoothies, or sprinkled on porridge, added to a curry or tossed into almost any meal.

So overall, which is better? Chia seeds are easier as they don’t need to be ground, flax seeds are cheaper and contain more lignans, and both contain valuable fibre, protein and good fats. It may then depend on your personal taste and relevant health issues. Or you could just include both in your diet.