Chia Seeds vs. Flaxseeds: The Superseed Throwdown

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Don't underestimate the nutritional value of seeds, especially flaxseeds and chia seeds. They're nutritional powerhouses that nourish new plants, and allow them to continue their species. This make these tiny, concentrated nutrition packages an excellent addition to a vegetarian diet.



Flaxseeds are more well–known than chia, and have been studied longer. So which one is better? The only way to find out was to do a side–by–side comparison of their nutrition, protein, and fiber content, along with their calories, taste, and cooking versatility.

Chia vs. flaxseeds: Protein Content

One ounce of chia seeds contains 4.4 grams of vegetarian protein — this is almost as high as meat, and higher than eggs.1 The same amount of flaxseeds have even more — 5.1 grams per ounce.

While flaxseeds have more protein, there are some differences in the quality. Chia seeds are considered a complete protein because they contain all the essential amino acids, while flaxseeds do not. (Essential amino acids can't be made from the body, so you have to get them from your diet.)

Chia vs. Flaxseeds: Omega-3 ALA Fatty Acid

Health Tip

Omega-3 EPA and DHA are important for cardiovascular health; brain health and development; and good eyes and eyesight.

Chia seeds and flaxseeds are both rich in Omega-3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one ounce of flaxseeds has about 4.7 grams of ALA, and one ounce of chia seeds has about 5 grams.

The amount of Omega-3 ALA is important for two reasons. ALA gets converted to Omega-3 EPA and DHA, which you can't get from plant sources. And, only a small percentage gets converted.

Chia vs. Flaxseeds: Antioxidants

Chia seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants. In fact, it's their high antioxidant content that keeps the seeds fresh for a long time, and prevents them from turning rancid. 2 Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, on the other hand, lose their nutrients and go rancid relatively quickly when they're not stored correctly, preferably in a dark, cool place, like the refrigerator or freezer.

Chia vs. Flaxseeds: Dietary Fiber

Chia seeds are higher in fiber with 10.6 grams vs. 7.6 grams in flaxseeds. Why is dietary fiber so important? Fiber is needed for bowel regularity, colon detoxification, and to eliminate toxins from your body.

More fiber can also mean more weight loss. Studies show that getting more fiber into your meal makes you feel more satisfied, and full longer.3

Chia vs. Flaxseeds: Nutrient Profile

Below is a detailed, nutritional comparison of chia seeds and flaxseeds. As you can see, the winner in the vitamin category is flaxseeds, with high amounts of folate and choline. In the mineral category it's a mixed bag, with chia seeds winning in calcium and phosphorus, and flaxseeds in magnesium and potassium.

Nutrient Comparison (per one ounce)

Flaxseeds Chia Seeds
Calories 150 137
Fiber 7.6 g 10.6 g

Vitamins

Vitamin C 0.2 mg n/a
Vitamin E 0.1 mg n/a
Vitamin K 1.2 mcg n/a
Thiamin 0.5 mg n/a
Niacin 0.9 mg n/a
Vitamin B6 0.1 mg n/a
Folate 24.4 mcg n/a
Choline 22.0 mg n/a
Pantothenic Acid 0.3 mg n/a
Betaine 0.9 mg n/a

Minerals

Calcium 71.4 mg 177 mg
Iron 1.6 mg n/a
Magnesium 110 mg n/a
Phosphorus 180 mg 265 mg
Potassium 228 mg 44.8 mg
Sodium 8.4 mg 5.3 mg
Zinc 1.2 mg 1.0 mg
Copper 0.3 mg 0.1 mg
Manganese 0.7 mg 0.6 mg
Selenium 7.1 mcg n/a

The information above is from Self NutritionData

Folate is not just for pregnant women. It's considered an anti–aging nutrient as it's one of the top ten to slow DNA and mitochondrial damage.4

More Chia Advantages:

  • Flaxseeds have a thick husk that cannot be digested, so they must be ground for your body to get at those nutrients. Chia can be eaten whole or ground.

  • Chia has a neutral flavor. The ground seeds can be sprinkled onto salads and cereal, incorporated into flour for baking, and added to any beverage, without changing the original flavors. Flaxseeds have a more pronounced flavor, which limits it's uses.

  • Flaxseeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, which release toxic, hydrogen cyanide when hydrated.5 A study conducted by the University of Toronto found that up to 50 g is safe.6 Chia, on the other hand, has no known toxins.

  • When left in water for 30 minutes, chia become a gel that can be used in place of oil and butter in cooking and baking.

  • Chia seeds are known for their energy giving properties. In fact, it's a favorite with runners.

Conclusion

If you had to choose between the two, chia looks like the best choice. But, because flaxseeds have different nutritional benefits, it's not a bad idea to add both for a healthy vegetarian diet.

References

1 Raymond A. Schep, Eat Right for Life: How Healthy foods can keep you living longer, stronger

2 Chia for Health - Dr. Weil http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA365093/Chia-for-Health.html

3 Howarth NC, Saltzman E, Roberts SB, Dietary fiber and weight regulation, Howarth NC, Nutr Rev. 2001 May;59(5):129-39.

4 Angi-Aging Physicians Directory & Resource Guide 2002, American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine

5 Chadha R, et al, Food Research Division, Bureau of Chemical Safety, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

6 Cunnane SC, Ganguli S, Menard C, Liede AC, Hamadeh MJ, Chen ZY, Wolever TM, Jenkins DJ, "High alpha-linolenic acid flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum): some nutritional properties in humans," Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Canada Br J Nutr. 1993 Mar;69(2):443-53.

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