Chia, hemp and flax: what’s the difference?

I originally wrote this article for “The Hearty Soul”. It can be found here: 

Like most people, you’ve probably heard a lot about these seeds along with a multitude of associated words like “fibre,” “Omega 3,” and “antioxidant”. However the question that puzzles most people is: what’s the real difference between them? This confusion leaves most people grabbing whichever seed is on sale or the cheapest (typically flax) and throwing it into their smoothie.

This isn’t a bad thing – in fact, it’s a fantastic way to incorporate healthier choices into your day! (Yes, you can pat yourself on the back now). But wouldn’t it be better to know which seed is better for what purpose? And how to maximize your use of all three? Look no further!

Let’s start off by reviewing the table below that highlights the main nutritional difference between the three.

Figures based on 1 Tablespoon = 15g

Sources: Ingredient labels from The Chia Co., Gold Top Hemp Seeds, Bob’s Red Mill

Per 1         Tbsp. Hemp Chia Flax (Golden)
Fiber 1.5g 6g 4.5g
Protein 5g 3g 3g
Omega 3 1.25g 3g 2.7g
High % Magnesium, Iron Calcium, Iron Lignans
Storage Fridge Countertop Fridge or freezer; must be ground to release nutrients


The winner for fibre is chia.

The winner for protein is hemp.The winner for Omega 3 (good fat) is a close tie between chia and flax.

But a common denominator between all three is that they will all help balance your blood sugar levels, improve digestion, support healthy weight loss and make your snacks & meals more filling. Of course, depending on your needs, one seed over the other may be more beneficial e.g. chia seeds for constipation.

Other benefits:

Taking a combination of hemp and chia would be fantastic to help de-stress, for heart health, building strong bones and muscle, and achieving blood sugar balance just to name a few. In a nutshell, magnesium helps relax muscles and nerves and calcium helpscontract muscles and nerves. Therefore any bodily function requiring these two actions will benefit from eating these seeds.

When it comes to flax seeds, these stand out because of plant lignans. These are compounds that contain a substance known as a phytoestrogen. A phytoestrogen helps regulate the body’s estrogen production, essentially keeping this hormone in balance. Studies have shown that plant lignans promote breast and prostate health, reduce menopausal symptoms and support a healthy body weight.

Here are some of the best ways to use them:

  • Sprinkle or mix into a smoothie, oatmeal, parfait, salad, or soup
  • Use ground flax in homemade muffins, crackers and other baked goods
  • Use ground flax and chia as breadcrumb substitutes
  • Make a chia pudding for breakfast, snack or dessert
  • Mix chia seeds with coconut water to make your own energy gel
  • Mix hemp seeds into your favourite pesto or guacamole recipe
  • Mix 1 Tbsp. ground flax in a glass of hot water for relief from constipation
  • Egg replacer: When mixed with water, chia and flax absorb the liquid and form a gel, or texture similar to tapioca pudding. (This is why they help with constipation, because they’re an excellent source of soluble fiber!)To replace one egg in a recipe, mix 1 Tbsp. of ground chia or flax seed with 3 Tbsp. of warm water. Leave for 10 minutes. Your egg replacement is ready.


About Alina

I'm a Holistic Nutritionist based in Toronto, Canada and my official title is Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP). I received my diploma in Applied Holistic Nutrition from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. I'm a coach and an educator. Follow Alina on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for all of the latest updates.
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