Chia seeds, known for their role in hair-growing potted plants, rival flaxseeds for nutritional super status. Both offer high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, while offering protein, fiber and antioxidants. Understanding the dietary benefits of both seeds can help you determine how to utilize them to the best nutritional advantage.
Chia Seed Features
Chia is a seed from the salvia plant native to Mexico, once used as a power food for Aztec warriors. One oz. of chia seeds contains 137 calories, 9 grams of fat and 4 grams of protein. They are also a source of calcium, with 18 percent of the recommended dietary allowance based on a 2,000-calorie diet. One ounce of chia also offers 27 percent of the RDA for phosphorus and 30 percent for manganese. Phosphorus contributes to tissue health by contributing to cell membranes, proteins and DNA, while manganese acts as an antioxidant. Use chia seeds in baked goods, sprinkle them over cereal or salads or mix into smoothies.
Flaxseeds are known for their high omega-3 fat content, a heart-healthy fatty acid. Flaxseeds contain 150 calories per 1-ounce. serving. They also contain 12 grams of fat, 8 grams of cargohydrates and 5 grams of protein – comparable to chia seeds. Flax, however, is lower in calcium, with just 7 percent of the RDA, and phosphorus, with 18 percent of the RDA. Flax, however, contains 9 percent of the RDA for iron, while chia offers none, and 31 percent of the RDA for thiamin, 27 percent for magnesium, 35 percent for manganese and 17 percent for copper. The manganese and phosphorus promote bone health, while copper and thiamin support your metabolism. Ground flaxseeds may also be added to baked goods, cereals or smoothies.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that you must obtain from your diet. They are essential to brain function and may help reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Chia seeds and flaxseeds contain roughly comparable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and serve as excellent sources of these healthy fats.
Additional Health Effects
Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol. Chia seeds form a gel when immersed in water, which makes them valuable to diabetics. The gel surrounds carbohydrates during digestion, explains Penni Shelton in “Raw Food Cleanse,” slowing their release into the blood stream and helping to moderate blood sugar levels. The alpha-linolenic acid in flaxseeds may help heart attack sufferers. Flaxseeds may also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Flaxseeds must be ground to release their nutrients, but chia seeds do not. The gel-forming quality of chia makes them valuable for dieters. The gel makes you feel full longer, helping you to stick to low-calorie meal plan. Chia seeds also help with hydration, as they soak up water when they form a gel – making them helpful for endurance athletes.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Seeds, Flaxseed
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Seeds, Chia Seeds, Dried
- "Diabetes Care;" Supplementation of Conventional Therapy With the Novel Grain Salba (Salvia hispanica L.) Improves Major and Emerging Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Type 2 Diabetes;Vladimir Vuksan, PHD, et al; November 2007
- Pub Med.gov: Effect of Dietary Alpha-Linolenic Fatty Acid Derived from Chia when Fed as Ground Seed, Whole Seed and Oil on Lipid Content and Fatty Acid Composition of Rat Plasma.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids