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Chia seeds versus hemp seeds. Is one better than the other? Discover the differences in nutrition and best uses.
Chia pet commercials were one of the defining advertisements of my childhood. It’s still hard to connect the dots between those animal figures with the grassy hair and the bag of tiny black and white seeds I use to make vegan eggs today. As for hemp seeds, while these are
Things have changed in the food landscape regarding utilizing seeds in our everyday diet pattern. Chia seeds and hemp seeds have become quite popular staple foods in my house and many others.
But what’s the difference between chia seeds vs hemp seeds? Let’s examine the nutritional benefits and best uses for each of these.
They may be small, but chia and hemp seeds pack a punch when it comes to their nutritional makeup. Here’s how they compare.
A 30-gram serving of chia seeds provides the following nutrition:
- Calories: 138
- Protein: 5 grams
- Total Fat: 9 grams
- Total Carbs: 12 grams
- Fiber: 10 grams
Comparatively, a 30-gram serving of hemp seeds provides the following nutrition:
- Calories: 166
- Protein: 10 grams
- Total Fat: 15 grams
- Total Carbs: 2.6 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
When comparing the micronutrient composition of chia seeds and hemp seeds, both offer valuable nutrients, yet they showcase distinct profiles. Chia seeds are known for their exceptional omega-3 fatty acid content, specifically alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), crucial for heart health and inflammation reduction. (Research suggests that you may improve the bioavailability of omega-3s in chia seeds by grinding them versus eating them in whole form.) Additionally, chia seeds boast notable levels of fiber, providing support for digestive health and blood sugar regulation.
On the other hand, hemp seeds stand out as a better protein source, offering twice as much protein per serving than chia seeds. They also offer a balanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, supporting immune function and promoting skin health.
Chia seeds are particularly rich in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese. These minerals play vital roles in bone health, energy metabolism, and enzyme function within the body. Additionally, chia seeds are a good source of vitamin B complex, including thiamine (B1) and niacin (B3), which are important for energy production and nervous system function.
Conversely, hemp seeds boast impressive levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect cells from oxidative damage, along with minerals such as potassium, zinc, and iron. Potassium supports heart health and muscle function, while zinc aids in immune system function and wound healing, and iron is essential for oxygen transport in the blood.
Whether you choose chia, hemp, or both, you can’t really go wrong in terms of their health benefits. Here are some of the things they have to offer as an addition to your diet.
Both are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a precursor to DHA and EPA. Omega-3s may help reduce the risk of heart disease by supporting healthy cholesterol levels and inflammation.
The high fiber content in chia seeds promotes regular bowel movements, aids in digestion, and may help prevent constipation. Hemp seeds also provide fiber, but not as much per serving as chia seeds. Fiber is also important for supporting a healthy gut microbiome, the community of bacteria living in your gut that influences overall wellness.
The combination of fiber, protein, and healthy fats in chia and hemp seeds can promote feelings of fullness and satiety, which may aid in weight loss and weight management. Incorporating more plant foods like seeds can help prevent overeating later.
Hemp and chia provide minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These are essential for maintaining strong and healthy bones and reducing the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in chia and hemp seeds are important for brain function, cognitive health, and mood regulation. Regularly incorporating omega-3-rich foods may help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases and improve overall mental well-being.
Muscle Building and Repair
Hemp and chia seeds are a great way to get protein. Protein is essential for muscle growth, repair, and maintenance, making these seeds ideal for athletes and individuals engaged in physical activity.
The combination of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and minerals in chia and hemp seeds may help promote healthy skin and reduce inflammation.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Chia and hemp seeds can help support normal blood sugar levels due to their high fiber and protein content, potentially reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Immune Health, Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Benefits
Chia seeds contain antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, which may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress. Hemp seeds provide a balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, as well as zinc and vitamin E, which are beneficial for overall heart health, inflammation reduction, and immune system support.
How to Use Them
Chia seeds and hemp seeds are super versatile. They can be added to your diet in many ways, only requiring a small amount to provide an array of benefits.
Chia seeds have a unique ability to take on water and form a gelatinous substance. This is why they make such great vegan binding agents that can replace eggs in various baked goods and pudding or homemade jam recipes.
All you have to do is combine 1 Tbsp of chia seeds with 2 Tbsp of water, gently mix, and allow it to sit for a few minutes to gel, to replace 1 conventional egg. Additionally, chia seeds make excellent additions to mixed green salads, smoothies, and homemade breads, providing a crunchy texture.
Hemp seeds have a more nutty, earthy, or grassy flavor to them. While they won’t work very well to make vegan eggs, hemp seeds can be added to smoothies and salads and mixed into batter for things like waffles, pancakes, and muffins. You can even use them to roll avocado slices before baking in the oven.
Chia and hemp seeds can be found in pretty much any grocery store these days. I’ve found them in bulk at wholesale stores as well. To enhance their shelf life, I like to put them in mason jars and store them in my refrigerator, but you can also freeze them. Note that whole chia seeds will keep longer than ground.
When it comes down to which is better, chia or hemp, we’d say the answer is that it’s personal preference as both provide benefits.
We think chia and hemp — and other seeds — will continue to gain traction as a 2024 food trend. We’ll likely see them added to more packaged food products to boost nutrition and fiber, perhaps along with an increased presence of seed-derived milk products.