Chia seeds or linseeds: Which is better for your health?
In the modern world of superfoods, healthy seeds have become a major contender. Both chia and linseeds are healthy additions to your diet—they’re a good source of fibre, omega 3 fatty acids and phytoestrogens.
These nutrients help to decrease inflammation in your body, manage cholesterol and blood pressure, and lower your risk of cancer.
But when it comes to seeds, is one better than the other?
Chia vs Linseeds
Did you know that we’ve been eating chia seeds for thousands of years? Chia seeds are small, round seeds that originated as far back as Aztec times in Mexico and South America. Nowadays, you can purchase white or black chia seeds with little variation in nutritional value between colours. They’re exceptionally high in fibre (higher than linseeds in fact) and omega 3 fats.
Linseeds (aka flax seeds) also come in two colours; a reddish brown or golden brown. Linseeds are an exceptionally good source of omega 3 fatty acids which are important in managing cholesterol.
They’re also rich in fibre and provide a source of important vitamins and minerals. Linseeds have a distinct property that makes them slightly superior to other seeds—their lignan content! Lignan is a phytoestrogen with anti-cancer properties, important for both prevention and survival. And linseeds are approximately 15 times higher in lignan than other seeds!
A 2013 study published in the journal Hypertension looked at the effect of linseeds on blood pressure. Study participants were randomly assigned to either an intervention or placebo group, where the intervention group was fed 30g of milled linseed daily.
After six months, the placebo group had no significant change, but the linseed group were found to have significantly higher levels of omega 3 fats and lignan in the blood, as well as a significant reduction in blood pressure (approximately 10mm Hg systolic and 7mm Hg diastolic).
Earlier studies looking at chia seeds show that while there’s a significant increase of omega 3 fats in blood levels (58 per cent ALA and 39 per cent EPA) there was no significant improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol or inflammation—from either whole or milled chia seeds.
Nutritional benefits at a glance:
|27.3g fibre per 100g||34.4g fibre per 100g|
|Higher in omega 3||Good source of omega 3|
|Highest seed source of lignan||Contains some lignan|
|Proven to help lower blood pressure||No significant effect on blood pressure|
Why should I grind seeds?
If you’re no stranger to the super-seeds world, then you may have heard of the practice of grinding seeds before use. Health nuts claim that grinding your seeds helps you to better absorb available nutrients—to really get the most out of your seeds.
This definitely appears to be backed by science! Grinding your seeds does, in fact, help you to achieve better health benefits. Two tablespoons of whole chia seeds daily for 10 weeks showed no significant change in omega 3 levels, but the same quantity of ground chia seeds significantly increased omega 3s. The same is true for linseeds—grinding makes them more potent!
The egg replacer
If you’re no lover of eggs, you may consider getting experimental with your seeds. Both chia seeds and linseeds make excellent replacements for both eggs and oil in baking. Perfect for our vegan friends or those with egg allergies/intolerances!
By mixing one part whole chia or ground linseed to three parts water, and letting the mixture sit, you can create a ‘gel’ that can replace eggs for binding. It’s an easy way to increase your dietary fibre and reap the many benefits of seeds.
And the winner is . . .
Linseeds come out on top in this battle between seeds. What they (only slightly) lack in fibre, they make up for in omega 3s and phytonutrients. Gotta love that lignan!
Sue Radd is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and one of Australia’s leading nutritionists and health communicators. Her most recent book Food as Medicine: Eating for Your Best Health received the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Health and Nutrition Book in the world for 2016.
Category: Physical Health