Flax Seed vs. Chia Seeds: A Comparison
Americans are slowly becoming more health conscious, but in the quest to maintain a nutritious diet, one category is often overlooked: seeds. Certain types of seeds can be a rich source of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Two such types are flax and chia seeds, both of which offer a host of nutritional benefits and are often found in natural health products.
Flax seed contains 151 calories per ounce while chia seeds contain 138 calories in one ounce. While there is not a lot of difference, those who are on a restricted-calorie diet may want to opt for chia seeds.
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsOne great benefit of both flax and chia seeds is their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which can help in the maintenance of healthy skin and hair, boost the cardiovascular system, lower cholesterol and promote healthy brain function.
The problem with flax seed is that it must be ground in order to procure nutritional benefits. Also, once the seeds are ground, shelf-time is limited.
Chia seeds are higher in omega-3s than flax seed, with 60% of their oil made up of these essential fatty acids. Chia seeds do not need to be ground in order to obtain nutritional benefit, and if stored in a dry area, they will last up to two years.
Because excessive omega-3s can thin the blood and lower blood pressure, people taking blood thinners or blood pressure medication should consult with their physician before adding flax or chia seeds to the diet.
Vitamins and Minerals
Both types of seeds are plentiful in healthy vitamins and minerals. Flax seed is a rich source of vitamin B1, folate, magnesium and manganese. It is also high in choline - a nutrient that is important for healthy brain function.
Because flaxseed contains phytoestrogens, it can be helpful to postmenopausal women or those with a hormone imbalance. However, women who have a healthy level of estrogen may want to limit consumption of flaxseed.
Pregnant women should also take caution when it comes to flaxseed, as one study has shown that consumption of flax seed oil in the 2nd and 3rd terms of pregnancy can quadruple chances for premature labor.
Chia seeds are a rich source of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, niacin, phosphorus and zinc, and they contain a range of B vitamins.
FiberFlax and chia seeds are both a rich source of fiber. While one ounce of flaxseed contains 8 grams of fiber, the same amount of chia seeds holds 11 grams. The ratio of soluble fiber to insoluble fiber in chia seeds can be particularly valuable for diabetics because it helps to slow the body's absorption of glucose. It is important to note that foods high in fiber should be gradually incorporated into the diet to avoid digestive problems.
Due to varied nutritional content, both flax and chia seeds may be a beneficial addition to the diet. With a light, nutty flavor, they can be added to a range of foods from cereals to salads to main dishes. They are also a common ingredient found in all-natural health supplements.