DailyBurn Face-Off: Chia Seeds vs. Flax Seeds – Which Is Healthier?

DailyBurn Face-Off: Chia vs. Flax Seeds
Photos: Perry Santanachote (top); Pond5 (bottom)

You’ve heard the buzz around both chia seeds and flax seeds. Whether you’re making a chia pudding, adding flax to your yogurt, or doing a little bit of both, the benefits of these tiny seeds are enticing. But with chia seeds selling at more than $10 a bag, and flax adding another $5 to your grocery bill (and both taking up space on your shelves) — which should you choose if you want to opt for only one?

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We asked Sharon Palmer, RDN, author of Plant-Powered for Life to help us determine how these seeds stack up.

Chia vs. Flax: A Matter of Taste?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty healthy differences, Palmer says both chia seeds and flax seeds are solid additions to your diet. “I recommend everyone consume one to two ounces of nuts or seeds every day,” she says. Flax will add a satisfying crunch to your yogurt, oatmeal or cereal. And chia will thicken smoothies, puddings and desserts with its gel-like consistency.

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The downsides? Some are grossed out by the gooey texture of chia, while flax requires extra legwork (you have to grind it, or buy it that way) before consuming. Plus, it’s important to remember that both will add extra calories to your meal — about 60 calories per tablespoon for each.

Breaking Down the Benefits

“I recommend two grams a day of ALA and you can easily exceed this amount with one ounce of chia or flax.”

Taste may be subjective, but when it comes to nutritional benefits, there’s a clear winner in this health battle. “Chia has more calcium and fiber,” Palmer says.

It’s the calcium in chia — 18 percent of your daily recommended value per ounce — that truly impresses. “Plant-based calcium is a bit rare to find in foods,” says Palmer. “If you avoid dairy, it’s nice to be able to find other sources of the mineral.” One 2011 study revealed women ages 19 to 30 only consume about 600 mg of calcium per day (you’re supposed to get 1,000 mg). Flax, on the other hand, is not generally considered a strong source of calcium.

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And let’s not forget about the fiber. Chia offers 10 grams per ounce compared to eight grams per ounce in flax. Adding more fiber to your diet can help you lose nearly five pounds in a year, reports a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. And that’s without making any other changes. Sprinkling chia onto your food can be an easy way to get more (though flax isn’t too shabby, either).

Both seeds are also a great source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid (though flax wins on this measure), says Palmer. “You can’t sneeze at the levels of ALA these foods have. I recommend two grams a day of ALA and you can easily exceed this amount with one ounce of chia or flax,” she says.

The bottom line: Both of these seeds offer unique benefits when it comes to both nutrition and taste. But if you’re looking to add more calcium and fiber to your diet, chia seeds will get you there faster.

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