Things have been looking a little seedy lately, with flax, chia, and hemp seeds showing up in everything from oatmeal to protein bars. While most people know these little power-packed seeds are good for you, just what exactly their differences are seems to be elusive. Chia, flax, and hemp seeds all provide major nutrition, but each has their own unique variations.
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid; essential means it is required for health but since your body doesn’t make it, you have to get it from the food you eat. Omega-3 fatty acids are nature’s anti-inflammatory. While researchers are not sure what exact mechanisms make Omega-3s work in this way, increasing consumption seems to reduce biological markers of inflammation.Giugliano, D., Ceriello, A., and Esposito, K (2006). The Effects of Diet on Inflammation. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 48 (4). Accessed 7/24/13 from http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleid=1137818&issueno=4 Food sources include fatty fish like salmon, however, that isn’t typically a part of a daily diet—especially for vegetarians and vegans. Seeds like flax, hemp, and chia boast Omega-3s in addition to a wealth of other nutrients.
Like most seeds, flaxseeds are highly nutritious, but their high omega-3 content has set them apart from the pack in addition their impressive profile of antioxidants and fiber. Flaxseeds should be eaten ground versus whole, because your body cannot break down the tough seed, thus rendering some of the key nutrients in flax unavailable. To keep flax at its freshest, buy the whole seed and grind at home just before eating. Besides putting ground flaxseed into smoothies, adding 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds to 3 tablespoons of water can create an egg replacement perfect for baking.
Hemp has been a steady up-and-comer and it’s not surprising, considering hemp seeds are one of the most nutritious plant-based foods in the world. Not only do hemp seeds provide an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, it is also one of very few plant-based sources of a complete protein, providing all of the essential amino acids in a highly digestible form. All that on top of Omega-3s! Sprinkle hemp seeds on your salad or soup today.
Chia seeds are basking in celebrity status, even though they have been used for centuries! Chia seeds are packed with Omega-3s, antioxidants, protein, vitamins, and minerals and a whopping 11 grams of fiber per serving. Chia seeds don’t have to be ground, so you can easily reap the benefits. Try making a simple chia pudding next time you have a sweet craving.
Flax, hemp and chia seeds are plant-based sources of Omega-3s—with other benefits as well. Keep all 3 of these super seeds sprinkled into your diet for added benefits for your body, and variety for your meals.