Which is Healthier & More Sustainable – Chia, Flax or Hemp?
Seen by some as a passing fad, to others superfoods hold the key to boosting our looks, health, and energy. There’s no dispute Chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds all have a big following, with consumers happy to part with their hard-earned cash to purchase these popular superfoods. Chia, flax and hemp seeds all offer unique health benefits – so let’s take a look and see which takes the crown for being the healthiest and most sustainable.
Why We Love Hemp Hearts
Hemp hearts are made from industrial hemp (and, in case you didn’t realise) industrial hemp is a derivative of the cannabis plant. However, hemp hearts contain minimal amounts of THC (as little as 0.3%) – which is the active component of marijuana – so you won’t get as high as a kite by consuming them!
Hemp hearts are similar in composition to other nuts and seeds. You can enjoy hemp hearts mixed into your smoothie for an instant protein boost. Hemp also works well added to food such as yoghurt, stir-fries, sandwiches, salad, and even ice-cream! Let’s check out the health benefits:
- High-quality protein (around 7g of protein per 2 tbsp).
- Healthy dose of amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Omega -6 fatty acids (Gamma Linolenic Acid, or GLA), which is thought to help alleviate inflammatory conditions.
- An array of phytochemicals, such as zinc and magnesium.
Alongside the nutritional benefits, hemp is considered to be sustainable as it:
- Can be cultivated in different types of climate and soil.
- Grows very quickly – less need for pesticides, fungicides, and water.
Versatility is also on the list of key strengths as hemp can be used:
- In the manufacture of products e.g. carpet, shoes and cosmetics.
- Instead of cotton for clothing manufacture
- Instead of trees for paper manufacture
- As a useful bio-fuel.
- As a potential alternative to plastic (an ongoing initiative).
Why We Love Chia Seeds
Once upon a time, natives of Guatemala and Mexico swore by chia seeds as a valuable medicinal remedy, as well as a flavoursome and healthy ingredient for food and drink. Ground down to produce tasty tortillas, and added to Aztec brews such as chianatoles, chia seeds still prove popular today.
Health conscious individuals mix appetising drinks such as a concoction of fruit juice, lemon, sugar and chia seeds, and they also add the seeds smoothies and home-made energy balls. Let’s find out the nutritional benefits:
- Packed full essential fatty acids – lots of omega-3 (1.9g per tbsp of chia).
- Excellent source of trace minerals, vitamins, plant protein and phytochemicals.
- 2 tbsp chia seeds provide 3.3mg of iron and 142mg of calcium.
- Great source of fibre (around 8g per 2 tbsp of chia), increasing fibre intake has been linked to lowering blood pressure, improving glycemic control and good cardiovascular health.
- Particularly good if you follow a dairy-free diet (due to high levels of calcium).
- Chia seeds aren’t grown all over, so if you want to add them to your shopping list you should check where they will be coming from (food miles will be high if your chia seeds are being imported from far away).
- Cultivated in Australia, Mexico, and countries within South and Central America, chia seeds are usually grown without the aid of pesticides.
Why We Love Flax seeds
Flax seeds have been widely used for a significant number of years. There’s proof to suggest flax seeds were used in the Republic of Georgia (around 30,000 years ago), in the production of textiles. It appears flax seeds were also used in ancient Greece, for its amazing health benefits.
Flaxseeds can be added to smoothies, and also boost the nutritional content of foods such as muesli and salad. Let’s explore the dietary benefits:
- Jam-packed with omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
- Around 2.4g of omega 3 in 1 tbsp of ground flax – helps to decrease triglyceride level, reduce blood pressure and risk of blood clots.
- Contains anticarcinogen lignans, potentially reducing the risk of cancer.
- High in fibre – improves glycemic control, alleviating diabetes.
- Rich in phytonutrients and boron.
- Allows you to better absorb essential nutrients.
- Grinding your own flax seeds keeps all nutrients intact.
- Don’t go for genetically modified flax – often marketed under the name “Linola Oil.” It has a longer shelf life, but contains less omega-3 fatty acids.
- Store your flaxseed in the fridge to prolong freshness.
- Check where your flaxseed is coming from, be mindful of your food miles.
So, Which Is the Best Seed? Chia, Hemp or Flax?
Choices, choices, which seed is for you? Let’s have a quick re-cap to help you compare and decide:
Contain the most protein.
Contain the least omega-3 fatty acids.
Top marks on the sustainability front.
Contain the most omega-3 fatty acids.
Cost effective, but have a short shelf-life.
Contain lignans, may reduce the risk of cancer.
Contains second highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Great source of calcium.
Why Choose Just One?
Al three seeds, chia, flax and hemp offer their own set of impressive health benefits, and you can add them to a variety of foods to boost your nutritional content. So, instead of choosing just one why not opt for all three?