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Flax vs. Chia – Super Seed Showdown

Nathalie Montoya Curabba June 5, 2013 Nutrition Comments Off on Flax vs. Chia – Super Seed Showdown
Flax vs. Chia – Super Seed Showdown

You’ve seen flax and chia seeds being touted as super foods, but which seed packs a bigger nutritive punch?

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Flax

  • Date back to at least 3000BC and are native to the Middle East and India
  • Famous for its Omega 3 fatty acid content, 50-60% of which is alpha linolenic acid (ALA), especially as it’s one of the highest vegetarian sources of these fatty acids.
  • Anti-inflammatory benefits (thanks to Omega 3s)
  • Great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber
  • Crazy antioxidant power which benefits cardiovascular system and offers protection against heart disease.
  • Helps reduce cholesterol levels
  • Regulates heartbeat (Omega 3s again)
  • Incredible source of lignans,* about 800 times more than other plant foods
  • Lignans also help the cardiovascular system by minimizing plaque build up and atherosclerosis
  • Naturally gluten-free

*Lignans are a special bunch of phytonutrients (plant nutrients) and phytoestrogens (chemicals in plants that resemble estrogen).  They are special because they have a boatload of antioxidants and all of these goodies working together make lignans a particularly effective ally for our health, protecting against various cancers, especially breast, prostate and colon cancers.  The key is the synergy so eating fresh ground flax seeds would be most beneficial.

Storage tip:  Flax seeds go rancid quickly once ground.  It’s best to grind what you need for a few days and keep it in an airtight container in the freezer.  It’s worth the work.  Take a look at that list again if you need more convincing.

Best uses:  Ground flax seed works great topped on your granola or yogurt, baked in breads and muffins and even in your smoothies!  Also, flax can be used to replace eggs in recipes.  Three tablespoons of water + 1 tablespoon of flax meal is equivalent to one egg.

Chia

  • Most known or remembered because of the “Chia Pet”
  • Date back to about 2000BC and is native to Central and South America
  • Used by the ancient Mayan, Incan and Aztec civilizations for energy, good nutrition, healing poultices and even as legal tender
  • Loaded with antioxidants (ditto above about benefiting cardiovascular system and preventing heart disease)
  • Has abundant Omega 3 essential fatty acids and like flax seed, about 60% of lipid profile is ALA.  Chia is the other great vegetarian source of Omega 3s.
  • Anti-inflammatory benefits (again, thanks to Omega 3s)
  • Does wonders for cholesterol levels
  • Abundant mineral content such as, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese
  • Trace mineral content includes iron, iodine, copper, zinc which among other things, enhance immunity and regulate metabolism.
  • Rich in Vitamins A, B, E and D
  • High in protein
  • Great source of soluble fiber
  • Blood sugar regulator which is good news for everyone but especially for diabetics
  • Naturally gluten-free

Storage tip:  Unlike flax seed, chia seeds can be eaten whole and because of their through-the-roof antioxidants, they don’t go rancid as easily or quickly so can be stored for longer periods of time.

Best uses:  Chia seeds are used similarly to flax seeds.  They are best in smoothies, over yogurt or granola or oatmeal and in baked goods.  They are also used as an egg replacer in baked goods.  Three tablespoons of ground chia seeds + one tablespoon of water = 1 egg.  Chia seeds can also be sprouted and sprouts can be eaten in salads or sandwiches.  Lastly, known as ‘runner’s food’, chia seeds make a great gel for long distance runners.

As I started writing this article, I was more in favor of flax seeds.  I think it’s mostly habit above all else.  I always have a jar of ground flax seeds in my freezer and tablespoons find themselves in our morning smoothies, granola, even pancakes.

But, in researching and comparing these potent little seeds I have to admit that I have been convinced to make the switch.  Not that I’m giving up flax seeds forever as the health benefits are pretty incredible, too.  I’m just a bit surprised at how much more of a punch chia seeds pack.  I’m looking forward to making them a bigger part of my daily diet and once again rolling like the native Incas, Mayans and Aztecs did.

Chia wins this one.  How will you incorporate this wonder seed into your diet?


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About The Author

Nathalie is a graduate of the Chef's Training Program at The Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. She is dedicated to teaching and learning about the health benefits of organic, whole and unprocessed foods while making them utterly delicious. She currently lives in the UAE where you can find her cooking, blogging and exploring new foods at http://guayagourmet.com/.

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