Health Benefits of Chia, Flax, and Hemp Seeds

Chia seeds - varieties

Chia, hemp, and flaxseeds seem to be everywhere these days! This trio of tiny seeds offers an abundance of health benefits, not the least of which are the valuable Omega-3 fatty acids. These seeds aren’t just for those following plant-based diets, but anyone who wants to boost their intake of nutrients. Read on for a brief introduction to these small but mighty super foods, their comparative benefits, and some ways to use them in your daily fare.

Chia Seeds
Chia seeds in a spoon and in a jar
Chia seeds are known for their abundance of Omega-3 fatty acids, making them a great alternative from fish oil for vegans. These tiny seeds actually have more of the beneficial fats than salmon. The omega fatty acids can improve your heart health and cholesterol levels, and can be helpful in losing weight. The gel that is formed around the seed with the help of water has no calories and makes you feel more full.

These seeds contain an abundance of antioxidants, as well as complete protein, a rarity in plant sources. They balance your blood sugar and give you steady energy that lasts for hours (a good reason why runners have adopted chia). Chia seeds are also a great source of fiber; they have both soluble and insoluble fibers. You can add these seeds to pretty much anything. Try using them in oatmeal or smoothies. A typical amount is 2 tablespoons a day.

When immersed in liquid, chia seeds form a gel, and make a great egg substitute. To replace one egg, combine 1 tablespoon chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water. Stir together and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes, or until thick and gelatinous.

Chia seeds are amazingly sturdy and rarely get rancid, even if kept at room temperature for months at a time. Still, it doesn’t hurt to keep them in a tightly lidded container or jar in the refrigerator. For lots more information on chia seeds, how to use them, and their benefits, go to Chia FAQ.

A few recipes using chia seeds on VegKitchen:

Flax Seeds
Flaxseed varietiesThese days, flax seeds can be found in a wide variety of foods. Something often overlooked is  that whole flax seeds don’t break down when eaten, they go right through the digestive tract without bestowing any of their many benefits. Make sure you grind the seeds yourself (coffee grinders work well), or use pre-ground flax seeds to get the most value.

Flaxseeds contains lignans, which are chemical compounds that carry antioxidants and enzymes that have many benefits. Flax is also a good source of a type of soluble fiber that helps maintain ideal cholesterol levels. It provides Omega-6 fatty acids and many essential minerals.

Ground flaxseeds can be added to oatmeal, baked goods, smoothies, cereal, and more. Like chia seeds, when immersed in liquid, ground flax seeds form a gel, and make a great egg substitute. To replace one egg, combine 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons water. Stir together and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes, or until thick and gelatinous.

Until recently, it has been necessary to buy whole flaxseeds and grind them in a spice or coffee grinder to get their full benefits. Now, pre-ground flaxseeds are available, making them handy to use without extra preparations. Both flaxseeds and flax oil are highly perishable, so keep them refrigerated. Another way to reap flaxseeds’ fatty acid benefits is by using the oil in salads or dressings (direct exposure to heat damages the nutrients).

Tip: Keep your ground flax in the freezer so it keeps longer and retain nutrients. If you have whole flax, just keep in a sealable bag or mason jar in the refrigerator, as they are highly perishable.

A few recipes using flaxseeds:

Hemp Seeds
Hemp SeedsHemp seeds are a great addition to vegan and vegetarian diets, as they’re packed with easily digestible proteins and contain all 10 essential amino acids, putting them among the rare plant-based foods that provide complete protein. These seeds are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a specific omega-6 fatty acid (GLA) not found in any other food; hemp oil contains even more GLA.

Hemp seeds are high in fiber and are rich in minerals including magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium. Hemp seeds are very rarely allergens, unlike many other nuts and seeds. And unlike flaxseeds, you need not grind them to reap their benefits. While chia and flaxseeds have the edge in terms of soluble fiber, hemp is higher than the other two seeds in protein. Hemp seeds aren’t as rich in Omega 3 fatty acids as chia or flax, but much higher in Omega 6s, which is not necessarily a benefit, as the western diet is already overabundant in the latter.

hemp seeds and hemp oilHemp seeds have a mild, nutty flavor.  As with the other seeds, they’re good in hot or cold cereals, smoothies, and soups, or just sprinkled on salads, casseroles, noodle dishes, or cooked grains. Hemp oil has a strong “grassy” flavor that, though an acquired taste, affords the same benefits and can be used in place of olive oil in cold dishes like salads, but not for cooking. For more, see Hemp Seeds: Nutrition, Benefits, & Recipes.

A few recipes using hemp seeds:

Here’s a handy chart comparing the major nutrients in chia, hemp, and flax seeds, reprinted from Quick and Dirty Tips:


Seed comparison chart

  • Here’s lots more on plant-based nutrition.
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49 comments on “Health Benefits of Chia, Flax, and Hemp Seeds

  1. Samalee

    Wow! What a nutrient packed post! Love it! With your permission, I’d like to use a couple of excerpts (giving you full credit)! I’ve been mostly plant-based since Dec 2012 and learn more all the time!

  2. Aura

    Great info… I really like the chart comparison. I am into green smoothies these day and mix chia and hemp 🙂

  3. Jackie Hollister

    I make a smoothie for breakfast with all three seeds. How much of each type of seed should I be using? I have been doing a tablespoon of each, but have heard that I might need more than that for the health benefits. Thanks!

  4. Dee

    Hi Everyone: I also am on the Green Smoothie kick. After grinding in a Nutri-bullet, I mix chia, hemp, and flax seeds in my smoothie. The ground seeds make the smoothie more filling.

  5. Sashi K

    Hi am in Singapore and am trying to find where i can buy Hemp seeds.
    Appreciate if anyone can advise me on this please.
    Thanks alot

  6. Hisham Sayed

    What are the benefits of crushing the hemp seeds then boiling it in water for 3 hours. Leaving it to cool off over night, then straining it and drinking 1 teaspoonful of the water twice per day.

  7. david

    Amazon sell hemp seeds online, and offer free delivery. But they’re very expensive. I’ve seen them online for $5lb in 10lb bags, but I’ve forgotten where. Besides, I’m sure it’s expensive to ship from Canada to Singapore when China probably has them. (yay China)


  8. Patrick

    Hi Ron, seaweed and algae are vegan sources of DHA. Adding sea vegetables to your diet would be a good idea and spirulina is a good source as well.

  9. Brendan

    Sashi, unfortunately the Singapore government does not allow hemp seeds in to the country. You may be able to order them on the internet still, but you might run in to some issues with customs.
    I hope Singapore adjust these laws soon to meet the growing demand for this superfood. I personally think they will.

  10. Diana

    Which seed is most effective to lower cholesterol? Also what amount of the seeds should I consume to reduce high LDL cholesterol?

  11. Unja walsh

    I like to make smoothie with chia, flax and hemp seeds for Breakfast but I add Cranberry juice to make smoothies (Not water)
    Is that ok to mix with cranberry juice? Adding cranberry still keeps all the nutritional benefit? Please advise.

  12. Angela halfpenny

    I have just bought hemp seeds but after reading your wrightup on them I am a bit worried to use them as you say they are high in iron. I recently had blood tests which said my iron levels were very high and this could mean liver cancer thankfully after scans I was told I hadn’t got cancer but this worries me as it is very dangerous and having to much iron in your blood

  13. Mr Mark G Millman

    I use all three (I call the Trinity) in my smoothies> As far as the Iron question from Angela halfpenny, check into Foodgrade DE. I have used it before using all these seeds and it helped tremendously. I now add DE to my smoothies along with the “Trinity”

  14. Nava

    Madeleine, all of these kinds of seeds are available at natural foods stores as well as well-stocked supermarkets. You can also order online at many outlets.

  15. Kourtney

    I purchase a huge bage of Carrington Farms Organic Flax/Hemp seed blend from Costco. I put it in everything. Dinner dishes, brown rice, yogurt… You wouldn’t even notice it was in there.

  16. Beatriz

    Will it be safe to give this combination of chia, Flaxseed & hemp seed to my 4 year old .
    She is very constipated. I wonder if it will help her.

  17. Beatriz

    I just need the dosage to give to my 4 year old that is constipated always. If it will be good for her health to take this combinations of seeds.

  18. Nava

    Beatriz, since this is for a child, you should really consult a registered dietician. Chia especially can very intense on the stomach for some people. You might want to start with a teaspoon a day of hemp or flax, to be on the safe side. But do get some official advice!

  19. Roni

    Can you keep chia & hemp seeds in the same container! I was going to include flax, but after reading your article, I’m going to get ground flax & keep it separate.

  20. Lorri

    Beatriz, your child may have an allergy to casein, a protein in cows milk. Through trial and error I figured this was a problem for me. My niece also suffers from this same issue. Any time I drink milk, eat ice cream, cottage cheese, cheeses or yogurt etc, I became very constipated. I have switched to goats milk products when possible or try to get plant based proteins. You may want to explore this possibility. There was an Italian study done back in the 50’s I believe, you can Google it – you may find it interesting/helpful.

  21. RajaGopalReddy

    Very useful information but how to take them is not mentioned. Whether to take equal proportions.

  22. Lori

    I use all 3 seeds in my daily smoothies. Since I use a nutribullet RX they all are ground up very well. You don’t notice them. I’ve been doing this for some time now and the difference I feel is amazing. I have severe arthritis and other autoimmune disorders. This mixture has changed my life. Less pain, more energy and just all around feel better. I came across this article just doing some research. Very informative. Flax seed however you shouldn’t use as you do the other 2 sets, there are effects after long term use that are not good. I’ve been using flax seed for yrs but not daily. Just in the last month’s daily and not as big as amount as hemp & chia. I was very swelled up. The use of the see sets has taken that away and continues to keep the swelling at a minimal. I’d recommend these 3 to anyone with autoimmune disorders and anyone who just wants to be healthy. I’m glad to saee its becoming more popular latley. I buy all my sets on I think the cost is reasonable. Drs also have recommended these to my 2yr old nephew to be put in his foods or drinks because his eye continues to swell for no reason they can find but a inflammatory issue that no medicines seem to help but the seeds do. So they are great for children also. Many benefits. I myself will continental my trio of seeds usage. I haven’t felt this good in yrs even just juicing. The seeds are amazing for health benefits in my case. I hope they help others. Thanks for the article it’s very informative even though I knew all of uit. I just like to research to know if anything new pops up that I might not have known.

  23. Sydney

    I use 3 Tbsp. Each daily of THE TRINITY… Chia-Hemp and Flax seeds! I make a 3 Tbsp. chia drink w/ crystal light Berry Pomegranate to drink…then add 3 Tbsp. Of ground and frozen Flax to my fruit smoothie per day … Also add a total of 3 Tbsp. Of Hemp to my morning oatmeal- salad- and veggies at dinner/supper. Please note I grind and freeze my Flax seeds to keep them fresh!

  24. Catherine

    I found this information very helpful. Would like everyone input on,mixing flax bran and wheat germ thank you

  25. Sprouts

    Just discovered Badia Trilogy which is a blend of all three seeds in a 10 oz. jar for about $5. Makes it so simple to add couple tbsp. into my morning green drink. Found it at my local Latin market (Badia Spices are from Miami), but also available online.

  26. sjwj729

    I make a smoothie every morning for breakfast. In goes 4 frozen strawberries (always ripe when frozen, always available) 4 or 5 pieces of frozen banana {I cut very ripe bananas into 1″ pieces, lay them on a tray to freeze,then put into ziptop bag once frozen} 2 handsfull of spinach– Baby or large, water, 2 tbsp of chia seeds and 2 tbsp hemp. Run them through the Nutribullet for a minute, and my breakfast is ready.

  27. Lita

    I have a Flax Chia Blend Bag and I use it daily in my drinks, It is great it is good for weight loss and energy and has alot of healthy health factors. It helps me poop regularly and curbs my hunger and stops my joints from pain and my skin is becoming clearer… Love it, love it, love it.

  28. Kristie

    I enjoy these seeds. Haven’t tried the hemp seeds, but I did make some quinoa earlier and added some chia and flax seeds. I also added some minced garlic, Italian, oregano, olive oil, peanut butter, two eggs, and brown sugar. I’m not vegan, but I do eat less meat these days for health reason. The dish was quite delicious. The eggs were optional, and I don’t think they would of effected the taste so I think I might leave them out next time. Besides the eggs it was vegan, and very good. I appreciate the fiber and energy the seeds give me, and I think the quinoa is an excellent alternative to eating rice all the time. And the chia and flaxseed is an excellent addition.

  29. Kaitlynk

    Wow! All three of these have a lot of nutrients and great benefits – no wonder they’re everywhere! I’ll have to start adding all three into my diet.

  30. seema

    Hi Nava…had a small doubt on hemp seeds..despite it having THC,can it be eaten??I know there are many health benefits but it also mentions having THC in traces…any comment on that??

  31. darlene pinales

    I love the trilogy I’ve been using it for about a year. And I feel real good and I’ve lost 24 pounds, have energy. It’s the greatest thing I’ve been used in a long time!!

  32. Nava

    Dot, while the oils do have some benefits, it’s not the same as using the seeds. Oils always go through a refining process, and you also don’t get the benefits of the seeds’ fiber. And in addition, per your other question, I’m not sure how palatable an oily smoothie would be.

  33. B

    Should I be adding all three of these to my morning yogurt? I usually mix 1tbsp of each of the seeds, with 1 tsp of cinnamon (shake together in a container), then sprinkle over top of my Greek yogurt.
    Should I reduce my yogurt to 0% instead of 2% then?

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