Everywhere you look these days someone is touting the spectacular health benefits of chia, flax and hemp seeds. But which one is the best? The answer: chia, flax and hemp!
I like to call these three seeds “The Power 3” because even though they’re tiny, they’re filled with wonderful healthy omega-3 oils and packed with protein, fibre, disease-fighting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And they’re versatile and deliciously easy to incorporate into your diet.
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid – essential meaning that our body needs this nutrient but doesn’t produce it, so we need to get it from the food we eat. Omega-3 is beneficial for brain and heart health, for reducing inflammation and joint pain, and for many other health benefits. Adding seeds like chia, flax and hemp to your meals will help boost the amount of health-promoting omega-3 in your diet.
Besides being rich in omega-3, each one of these seeds has its own wonderful personality, taste and strength. Flaxseeds, which are a bit larger than sesame seeds, are hard with a slight grassy taste. Chia seeds are similar in size and shape to poppy seeds and have a rather neutral flavour and when mixed with water form into a slippery gel with a slight crunch. Hemp seeds have more of a nutty taste and texture and are usually sold hulled.
Chia seeds are one of the best sources of soluble fibre. Fibre is very important to keep the digestive and elimination systems healthy and functioning properly. Fibre aids and speeds up the excretion of waste and toxins from the body and helps to slow down digestion to keep blood sugar levels more stable.
Chia seeds can absorb seven times their weight in water so it is best to soak them before eating, or they can absorb water from the body, leading to dryness and constipation. When soaked they provide wonderful, healing lubrication for the body. Chia seeds don’t have to be ground, so it is easy to incorporate them into your diet.
Try this wonderful Chia Pudding from our cooking class!
Well-known for their high omega-3 content and high fibre content, flax seeds also contain powerful antioxidants known as lignans that are linked to reduced cancer risk. Flaxseeds are also the least expensive of the three.
Best eaten ground, flaxseeds can sometimes escape digestion if eaten whole. You can grind your own in a small coffee grinder or purchase them pre-ground in vacuum packed containers. Once opened and ground, always store in an air-tight container in your refrigerator or freezer to protect the fragile omega-3 oils.
Considered one of the most nutritious plant-based foods in the world, hemp seeds are one of the few plant-based sources of a complete protein. Not only are they very easy to digest, they also contain numerous antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Make your own nutritious hemp milk by blending ½ cup shelled hemp seeds with 2 cups of water in a blender. Add ½ teaspoon of vanilla and/or ½ teaspoon almond extract. For a touch of sweetness, add 2-3 dates soaked in some warm water or 1 teaspoon of honey or maple syrup. Blend well. Hemp milk will keep for 3 days in an air-tight container in the fridge.
5 easy ways to use the Power 3
Try to include at least one type of seed into your diet each day:
- Stir two tablespoons of any seed into yogurt, cold or hot cereals
- Sprinkle onto your salad, soup, casserole, veggies or rice dish
- Mix into quick breads, cookies or muffin recipes
- Blend into your favourite smoothies
- Eat raw chia and hemp seeds whole as a snack
Tips about nuts and seeds
Keep all nuts, seeds and their butters in the refrigerator or freezer for freshness and to protect the wonderful, healthy fats. Buy your nuts and seeds from a reputable store with good turnover so you know they are fresh.
Egg replacement: Mix 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds OR 1 tablespoon chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Use as an egg replacement for baking.Tamara MacKenzie, RHN Nutritionist InspireHealth, Lower Mainland – Vancouver
photo courtesy of bersonphoto.com