Dietitian Guide to Chia, Flax, and Hemp Seeds

Dietitian Guide to Chia, Flax, and Hemp Seeds

Looking for an easy way to add a nutrition boost? Chia, flax and hemp seeds are all in healthy fats and super versatile. Read more about these seeds now. 

What are Super Seeds? 

Frequently called super seeds or super foods, chia, flax, and hemp seeds are super tiny yet packed with nutrition – but we’ll talk about that more next. 

First, let’s get to know these seeds a little better. 

Chia seeds: similar looking to poppy seeds, chia seeds are small, round, and black in color. They were a staple food for the Aztecs and Mayans as they were prized as an energy booster, which is actually how they got their name as “chia” is the Mayan word for “strength.”

Flax seeds: another ancient food, flax seeds are thought to be one of the oldest crops. These nutrient-dense seeds and their oil have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Nutty in flavor, these brown or golden seeds can be purchased whole or pre-ground. 

Hemp seeds: also called hemp hearts, these seeds come from the Cannabis sativa plant. Before you start worrying about THC and getting high, hemp seeds contain only trace amounts of THC and is very unlikely to cause any psychoactive side effects or even show up in a drug test. 

In fact, hulled hemp seeds have GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status by the FDA.

Nutritional differences between chia, flax and hemp seeds 

Despite their small size, these super seeds are considered nutrient-dense foods as they pack a serious nutrition punch. 

Chia seeds are also rich in several minerals, with 1 tablespoon providing:

  • Magnesium: 15% of the daily value (DV)
  • Manganese: 15% of the DV
  • Calcium: 9% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 14% of the DV

With the exception of manganese (which is important for brain health), the other minerals are all essential for bone health. Chia seeds also contain decent amounts of zinc, niacin, potassium, and thiamine. 

Flax seeds also contain a handful of important minerals, but in smaller amounts than chia seeds. One tablespoon of flaxseeds provides 2-4% of the DV for folate, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium. 

Finally, hemp seeds are also a good source of essential nutrients with 1 tablespoon providing: 

  • Magnesium: 17% of the DV 
  • Phosphorus: 13% of the DV
  • Zinc: 9% of the DV

They also contain small amounts of vitamin E, potassium, and iron. 

Oh, and these seeds are also rich in antioxidants, which help protect our cells against damage caused by free radicals. 

Thanks to their high fiber content, healthy fats, and antioxidant content, all three seeds have been associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. 

How to buy chia, flax, and hemp seeds

All three super seeds can be found in health food stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Natural Grocers. I’ve also seen flax seeds and chia seeds at larger supermarkets as well. 

Of course, you can also buy these seeds online (I like buying in bulk to save money). 

For flax seeds, you have the option to buy them whole or pre-ground. I personally like buying pre-ground for the convenience factor as eating whole flax seeds is rough on your GI tract and the nutrients are less available for your body. 

However, whole flax seeds have last about twice as long and are sometimes cheaper. If you have a coffee grinder or spice grinder, it’s not a bad way to go. 

For hemp seeds, look for hemp hearts, which are just the soft inner seeds with the inedible outer shell removed. Also be aware of where the seeds are from as different countries have varying levels of hemp regulation. 

Currently, Canada has some of the strictest regulations and is a safe bet when buying hemp seeds. 

How to store these super seeds 

Thanks to their high fat content, these super seeds will last longer when stored in the fridge or freezer, but that doesn’t mean you have to store them that way. The most important thing is to store these seeds in airtight containers. 

  • Chia seeds: last 2 years in the pantry and 4 years or more in the fridge. 
  • Whole flax seeds: 6-12 months in the pantry and 1 year in the fridge. 
  • Ground flax seeds: 1 week in the pantry and 1-2 months in the fridge and 6 months in the freezer. 
  • Hemp hearts: 3-4 months in the pantry, 1-2 years in the fridge, and at least 4 years in the freezer. 

How to use chia, flax and hemp seeds in cooking/baking

Flax and hemp hearts both have a mild, nutty flavor, while chia seeds have more of an earthiness to them. All three can be easily added to smoothies, overnight oats, and salads. 

Here are some ways to incorporate these nutrient-rich seeds into your meals and snacks. 

Chia Seeds

What makes chia seeds unique is that they form a gel-like texture when submerged in a liquid. As a result, they work great for making puddings, jams and vegan egg substitutes. They can also help thicken overnight oats. 

Of course, you can also use dry chia seeds on salads, in granola, and as a yogurt topping for a little crunch. 

Some recipes to get you started: 

Spoonful of strawberry chia seed jam

Flax Seeds

As I mentioned earlier, in order to get the most nutrition out of flax seeds, you want to grind them before eating/using in cooking. You can also buy pre-ground flax seeds, which are often labeled as flaxseed meal. 

Ground flax seeds can be added to baked goods, yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, and smoothies. They’re also a great way to help thicken gluten-free baked goods and, like chia seeds, can be used to make a vegan egg substitute

Some inspiration: 

Healthy flax seed and peanut butter energy bars stacked

Hemp Hearts 

In addition to sprinkling over foods, hemp hearts can be used to make hemp milk and also make for a protein-rich coating for tofu or chicken nuggets.

To really bring out their nutty flavor, you can roast hemp hearts prior to using (they also make for a great nut substitute!). 

Recipes to try: 

Dietitian Guide to Chia, Flax, and Hemp Seeds

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About Kelli McGrane Headshot

I’m Kelli MS, RD, and my mission is to prove that eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. Follow along to learn more about food and cooking, with an emphasis on breakfast and sweet treats!

About Kelli McGrane Headshot

Welcome to The Healthy Toast!

Here you’ll find realistic healthy recipes designed by a registered dietitian with your busy lifestyle in mind.

Whether you’re a busy professional or new mom, the goal of The Healthy Toast is to provide you with the recipes and nutrition info you need to live your healthiest life, even when life gets crazy. As I’m a firm believer in a whole-foods, non-diet approach, I hope my website shows that good nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. 

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