Seeds, such as chia, flax and hemp, are trendy. You've probably seen them at the grocery store. There are many reasons why they've become so popular. These tiny seeds pack a lot of nutrition in a small package. These nutritious foods are a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, healthy fatty acids and a variety of minerals. They contain Omega-3 fatty acids called alpha linolenic acid, which helps improve brain function and boosts the immune system. Here are 3 popular seeds and how they compare.
Chia seeds, which have a neutral flavor and a bit of a crunch, are native to Mexico and were a staple food of Mayan and Aztec cultures, who thought of them as an energy booster.
One of the health benefits of chia seeds is its power punch of fiber, at 8 grams of fiber in just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds. Most of the fiber is soluble, which helps decrease cholesterol, control blood sugars and regulate digestion. Chia seeds have healthy Omega-3 fatty acids that may decrease cholesterol and promote cardiovascular health. Chia seeds are also a good source of calcium and magnesium.
When soaked in a liquid, chia seeds form a gel. Try using them to thicken overnight oatmeal or homemade jam. Or use soaked chia seeds as an egg replacement for baking.
Flaxseeds, which have a nutty flavor, were cultivated in ancient Egypt and China.
They are one of the best sources of an antioxidant called lignans, which may protect against cancer. Similar to chia seeds, flaxseeds also contains beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids. They're also a good source of phosphorus and magnesium.
Flaxseed can be purchased whole or ground, however, the seeds need to be eaten ground to absorb all their nutrients.
Hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, are soft and have a mild nutty flavor. Hemp hearts have the most protein but are lower in fiber than chia or flaxseeds. Hemp seeds are also a good source of potassium, magnesium and iron.
Using Seeds in Your Diet
Chia, flax and hemp seeds are versatile and can be added to many different foods. Try adding some seeds to smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, salads, rice dishes or baked goods.
Moderation is important. You don’t need to eat a lot of seeds to reap their health benefits. All seeds are high in fat, which makes them high in calories. Most seeds have 100 to 115 calories per 2 tablespoons. A serving size of 1 to 2 tablespoons each day is a great addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Nutrient Comparison of Chia, Flax and Hemp Seeds
Per 2 Tbsp
Mango Raspberry Chia Pudding
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 mango, chopped
- 1/2 cup raspberries
- In a bowl, mix almond milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and chia seeds. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight to thicken.
- In a blender, puree raspberries and mango separately and place in separate bowls.
- When ready to serve, layer the chia pudding, mango puree, and raspberry puree In a jar or glass. Top with additional raspberries and mango.
Sunflower Butter Energy Bites
Makes 20-25 energy bites
- 1 cup old-fashioned or quick oats
- 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup sunflower butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup honey
- Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix in sunflower butter, vanilla extract and honey.
- Use a cookie scoop to roll into balls.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
By Taylor Bartosiewicz