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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

  • Reply
    Samalee
    May 13, 2014 at 10:03 am

    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!

    • Reply
      Nava
      May 13, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Sure — go for it! Glad you enjoyed this, Samalee.

  • Reply
    Dottie
    August 10, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Is it ok to mix the Chia and flax seeds together?

  • Reply
    Aura
    September 2, 2014 at 6:51 pm

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

    • Reply
      Nava
      September 3, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Thanks, Aura!

  • Reply
    Jackie Hollister
    November 1, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    Dee
    November 12, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Sashi K
    November 25, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    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
    Sashi

  • Reply
    Ron
    December 18, 2014 at 11:28 am

    These seeds do not provide the DHA-EPA that fish oil does. How can you get DHA without fish or fish oil?

  • Reply
    Hisham Sayed
    December 23, 2014 at 10:26 am

    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.
    Thanks

  • Reply
    david
    January 8, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    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)

    david

  • Reply
    Patrick
    January 13, 2015 at 3:53 am

    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.

  • Reply
    Paolo
    January 14, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    They have Ala, which is converted in Dha and epa.

  • Reply
    Brendan
    January 22, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    God Bless You
    February 8, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    God Bless You!

  • Reply
    Diana
    March 7, 2015 at 10:59 am

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

  • Reply
    Unja walsh
    April 20, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Angela halfpenny
    April 21, 2015 at 5:29 am

    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

  • Reply
    Monica Y.
    May 26, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    great info! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    nancy
    May 30, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Can you use a combination of all 3 to your diet?

  • Reply
    Kim
    June 6, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Hey Nava, thanks for such an informative article! I just wrote an article on my hemp based diet and I’d be honored if you read it! I’d also like to excerpt/link to some of the information in this post! http://www.quickeasyfit.com/cleanse-your-body-with-this-natural-hemp-based-diet/

  • Reply
    Mr Mark G Millman
    June 19, 2015 at 10:06 am

    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”

  • Reply
    Madeleine Donaldson
    June 26, 2015 at 3:30 am

    Please tell us how to purchase the best quality of all the above

    • Reply
      Nava
      June 26, 2015 at 10:34 am

      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.

  • Reply
    Kourtney
    June 27, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Beatriz
    July 15, 2015 at 11:22 am

    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.

  • Reply
    Beatriz
    July 15, 2015 at 11:24 am

    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.

    • Reply
      Nava
      July 15, 2015 at 11:27 am

      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!

  • Reply
    Roni
    August 3, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    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.
    Thanks!

  • Reply
    Lorri
    August 23, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    RajaGopalReddy
    August 30, 2015 at 6:44 am

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

  • Reply
    Lori
    October 3, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    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 amazon.com 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.

  • Reply
    Sydney
    October 5, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    Catherine
    November 14, 2015 at 2:06 pm

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

  • Reply
    Douglas
    November 29, 2015 at 3:23 am

    May I know how did you get hemp protein powder into Singapore? Please advise. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Sprouts
    June 6, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Phonecia
    July 16, 2016 at 7:13 am

    Super share!

  • Reply
    sjwj729
    July 19, 2016 at 12:35 am

    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.

  • Reply
    Shae
    August 13, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Sjwj I do the same smoothie with strawberries, banana and chia and flax mix. Delicious

  • Reply
    Lita
    October 1, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Kristie
    October 7, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Kaitlynk
    November 8, 2016 at 10:20 am

    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.

  • Reply
    seema
    November 29, 2016 at 6:18 am

    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??

    • Reply
      Nava
      November 29, 2016 at 11:20 am

      Hi Seema — this page on Nutiva’s web site will give you all the info you need.The amount of THC is really minuscule, so it shouldn’t be a concern: http://nutiva.com/company/faq/hemp-faq/ Hope that helps!

  • Reply
    darlene pinales
    December 21, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    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!!

  • Reply
    Dot
    April 23, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    Can I substitute Chia, Flaxseed and Hemp Oils in my morning smoothies?

  • Reply
    Dot
    April 23, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    Can I use the oils instead of the seeds?

    • Reply
      Nava
      April 23, 2018 at 3:41 pm

      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.

  • Reply
    B
    May 21, 2018 at 9:34 am

    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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