Hemp Seeds vs Chia Seeds vs Flax Seeds – Which Seed Is The Best?
The great hemp seed vs. chia seed vs. flax seed debate. It can definitely be confusing to decide between these superfoods, as it seems each is heralded as the “next great thing”. Fortunately, we’re here to break it down a little for you.
Which one should you really eat? Well, for starters, you can’t go wrong with any of them. All three seeds are great sources of fiber, protein, and good fats. They each have their own spin on micronutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals as well. And frankly, they all taste great.
They’re also gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, keto, paleo, and pretty much any other diet you can think of. They even tend to be safe for people with nut-allergies (but please check with a doctor first!).
If all three of these seeds are so great, how can there be any difference? For starters, here’s a quick video comparing their nutritional content side-by-side. To discover more, however, read on and learn who wins the great seed debate.
All about hemp seeds
Hemp seeds come from the Cannabis sativa plant, but a slightly different version than what might immediately come to mind. When cannabis is agriculturally modified to contain barely any THC – less than 0.3%, to be exact – then it is classified as hemp. The whole hemp plant can be used in textiles, building materials, food, and more.
Are hemp seeds the same as hemp hearts?
Yes, and also no. Hemp hearts are part of the hemp seed. When the seeds are hulled (shell removed), what’s left on the inside is the hemp heart. You can eat hemp seeds either way – as a whole or as just the hearts. But the shell contains most of the fiber.
Nutritional benefits of hemp seeds
The top three nutritional benefits of hemp seeds include:
They’re a plant-based protein source
They are neuroprotective
Hemp seeds counter inflammation and contribute to weight loss
Plant-based protein source
Out of the three seeds on our list, hemp seeds have the highest protein content. 100g of hemp hearts features 32 grams of protein, while most brands of hemp protein powder contains around 15-20g per serving.
Unlike most other vegetarian protein sources, hemp seeds come with all nine essential amino acids, making them a complete protein source. This is fantastic news, given that you need all of these amino acids to sleep, metabolize food, repair tissue, and more.
Build-up Your Brain
CBD, a compound found within hemp, has neuroprotective properties. Research has shown that CBD supplementation can protect against oxidative stress that causes neuronal death. Furthermore, the omega-3 acids found in hemp seeds can fight mood disorders and help your brain recover from trauma. Together, these two compounds pack a big punch.
Hemp seeds are anti-inflammatory foods. As such, they can help you combat chronic pain. The CBD, antioxidants, and GLA within hemp seeds all combine to reduce oxidative stress. By lowering inflammation, your joints can recover and heal properly, reducing instances of chronic pain from exercise, arthritis, or neuropathic pain.
The CBD in hemp can help lower appetite, which is great for those looking to lose weight. Additionally, CBD, fiber, and omega-3 days are correlated with improved insulin sensitivity. When your body can utilize insulin to transport your blood sugar back in muscles and organs, it’s not idling around waiting to turn in to fat. Therefore, when combined with exercise and an otherwise healthy lifestyle, eating hemp seeds increases your chances at losing weight.
How much hemp seeds should I eat per day?
Research shows that you need to eat a pretty large amount of hemp seeds daily to have any significant effect. That’s because a lot of the nutrients are digested within the stomach acids and don’t get absorbed. Of course, it depends on what you’re consuming hemp seeds for. For general health, shoot for around 40 g per day. For treating specific conditions, however, consult with your doctor or dietician.
You should buy hemp seeds if…
You’re in search of a vegan protein source
Sustainability is a priority
You’re looking to counteract pain or inflammation
You want more GLA and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet
All about chia seeds
Chia seeds have a rich, culinary history, especially in early Central American societies. These communities were actually the originators of the ever-popular chia seed beverages, and regularly ground them into flour to make tortillas. As these seeds of the Salvia hispanica plant grow wild in the Southwest US and Mexico, they are commonly harvested today for their nutritional value.
Are chia seeds better than hemp seeds?
Neither is better, really. They just offer different nutritional benefits. 100 grams of chia seeds contains 2.3 grams of monounsaturated fats, 24 g of polyunsaturated fats, 34 g of dietary fiber and 17 grams of protein. That’s about half the amount of protein, twice the amount of polyunsaturated fats, and almost 9 times the amount of fiber!
So they have less protein than and more fiber and fats than hemp seed, but just wait until you see flax seed. More on that later. For now, what are the nutritional benefits of chia seeds?
Nutritional benefits of chia seeds
The top three benefits of chia seeds include:
- They’re great for heart health
- They build strong bones
- They provide a healthy source of fat
The immense amount of fiber found in chia seeds is great for your heart. Studies have shown that eating a diet high in fiber can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Bone and Tissue health
Chia seeds are a great source of phosphorus, calcium, and manganese. These minerals combine to fortify bones, teeth, and other structural tissue in your body, as well as promote immune health. If you’re on a dairy-free diet or otherwise restricting mineral consumption, chia seeds are a great solution.
Finally, anything rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats contributes to mediating risk of insulin sensitivity and improving brain function. Science has shown that these regular consumption of these fats can stave off Alzheimer’s and reduce the risk of diabetes.
How much chia seeds should you eat daily?
A common recommended dose is 20g twice per day. However, you should always consult with a medical professional before beginning a dietary intervention to tackle disease.
Do chia seeds need to be soaked?
Chia seeds don’t need to be soaked, per se. They can be eaten whole and are fully digestible. By soaking chia seeds, however, you get this nice gel that can be beneficial in drinks. Chia has an insane ability to absorb water, and soaking them slows down digestion. Therefore, consuming soaked chia makes you feel fuller for longer, and can be helpful in weight loss.
You should buy chia seeds if…
- You’re vegan or dairy-free, due to the high calcium content
- You”re not operating on a budget
- You care about vitamins and minerals in your diet, like iron and fiber
- You like the consistency of chia in puddings or drinks
All About Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are the seeds from the fiber-based crop known as flax (duh) or linseed. It was traditionally used in making textiles and clothing, before people started harvesting its seeds for nutritional value. Fun fact: the whole plant is still used to make linen.
However, we’re here to talk about the seeds. These tiny superfoods pack a punch, featuring tons of fiber, magnesium, phosphorous, and good fats. For reference, 100 grams of flaxseed contains 12.6 grams of monounsaturated fats and 48.3 grams of polyunsaturated fats, of which 38g are omega-3 fats.
The top three nutritional benefits of flaxseed include:
- Amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids
- They help prevent type II diabetes
- They have cancer-fighting properties
Flaxseed and omega-3s
Let’s start with the big one – the omega-3 content in these bad boys. As mentioned above, the seed itself is mostly fat, 80% of which are omega-3s.
Omega-3 fatty acids have a whole host of health benefits. These acids have been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve brain health, fight anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, counteract metabolic syndrome, aid bone and joint health, and more.
Furthermore, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 acids in flaxseed is critical. With a 4:1 ratio, these seeds fit the bill of a healthy dietary staple. Science shows that the typical Western diet features a striking ratio of around 1:15, which has been associated with increased risk of arthritis, asthma, breast cancer, diabetes, and other chronic disease. Eating flaxseeds regularly helps normalize that ratio within your diet to alleviate chronic issues.
Flaxseed and diabetes
The high fiber content combined with the fat content in flaxseed makes it a great opponent to diabetes. By reducing the glycemic index, fiber controls insulin response and therefore limits the development of insulin resistance. As type II diabetes starts with insulin resistance, eating flaxseed as a source of fiber can keep you out of harm’s way.
Flaxseed and cancer
Of all the cancer-fighting medicine, dietary interventions come up consistently as part of prevention. Flax seeds are great sources of lignans, phytoestrogens that combat variants of hormonal cancers. Research has shown diets low in lignans correlate with increased breast cancer risk, and observational studies suggest flax seed consumption can protect against prostate cancer. While more studies are warranted, adding flax in early and often can’t hurt.
You should buy flax seed if…
- You’re in search of the best, plant-based source of omega-3 fats. These seeds win that battle hands-down
- You want to manage blood sugar
- You need more fiber in your diet
- You’re looking for a cost-effective option
Conclusion – So who wins? Hemp seeds vs chia seeds vs flax seeds
While all of these seeds are nutritional powerhouses, there are a few categories with clear winners. Below you’ll find a list of which seed to eat for which dietary purpose.
For Omega-3’s – Choose flax seeds. They easily have the highest omega 3 content per serving.
For protein – Go for hemp seeds. The other two seeds don’t offer much protein at all, and hemp is a surprisingly complete protein.
For vitamins and minerals – Select chia seeds. These little seeds have so much calcium, phosphorous, and manganese that you’ll easily hit your daily value.
For pain management – Choose hemp seeds. The CBD content within these seeds combine with omega-3s to reduce inflammation and pain sensation.
For best price – Flax seeds tend to be the cheapest. Of course, we can’t speak for every single store, but oftentimes chia and hemp seeds run a little more expensive.
For other health benefits – Choose all three. The truth is, unless you have some sort of allergy to one of these seeds, there’s no reason you can’t eat them all. They’re great options for all sorts of nutritional benefits, and eating a varied diet helps cover all of your bases.
Next time you’re at the store or shopping online, be sure to toss a few seeds in to your cart, and treat your body to the nutrition it craves.