Adding more nuts and seeds to your diet is excellent for anyone looking to increase the number of plant-based foods that they eat. In addition to protein, seeds contain good fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients that contribute to health. Two seeds that have grown in popularity because of their nutrition and versatility are chia seeds and hemp seeds, but it may be confusing for some to differentiate the differences between the two.

Read on to learn what you should know about hemp seeds vs chia seeds and how to incorporate them both into your plant-based routine.

What are Chia Seeds?

Chia seeds are small and dark edible seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant, which belongs to the mint family. In the past, people may have recognized these seeds from television commercials, but they do so much more — these tiny seeds contain a lot of nutrition.

Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, composed of mostly soluble fiber, and contain more fiber per serving than many other nuts and seeds. When it comes to the fat content of chia seeds, they are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Primarily chia seeds contain α-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid.

Chia seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, copper, manganese, and phosphorus, and a good source of zinc, niacin, calcium iron, and thiamine. Chia seeds also have antioxidants that can support the natural production of our body’s antioxidants.

Chia Seed Nutrition Per Serving (1 ounce)

Calories: 138

Protein: 4.7 g

Total Fat: 8.7 g

Carbs: 11.9 g

Fiber: 9.8 g

Calcium: 179 mg

Iron: 2.2 mg

Magnesium: 95 mg

Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

Thanks to the combination of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and the rest of its nutrient profile, research has found that chia seeds can be beneficial in supporting health.

Heart Health

Animal studies find that chia seed consumption can be beneficial for supporting heart health, in particular, helping blood lipid levels improve. In multiple studies, researchers found that chia seeds help improve total cholesterol, HDL, and triglyceride levels.

Chia seed consumption may also help reduce systolic blood pressure. One study published in 2021 found that adults with type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure had reduced systolic pressure when eating 40 g of chia seeds daily compared to the control group.

Weight Loss and Body Composition

In a clinical study, daily consumption of chia seeds amongst overweight and obese adults with type-2 diabetes combined with a calorie-restricted diet caused greater weight loss and reductions in waist circumference compared to those who were on the calorie-restricted diet and eating oat bran.

Other Health Benefits

Other research suggests that chia seeds may have an important role in supporting several other health conditions – the nutrients in chia seeds may support blood glucose control, liver health, brain health, digestive tract function, and even kidney stone prevention.

What are Hemp Seeds?

Hemp seeds come from industrial hemp, also known as Cannabis sativa. Seeds derived from industrial hemp do not produce any psychoactive effects because, under the rulings of the USDA Farm Bill, it cannot legally contain more than 0.3% THC, the main psychoactive component of the Cannabis sativa plant. The FDA also notes that hulled hemp seeds are generally recognized as safe and contain only trace amounts of cannabidiol (CBD).

Hemp seeds are larger than chia seeds, softer in texture, and light brown in appearance, making them distinguishable from other seeds.

Hemp seeds have a very different nutrient profile when compared to chia seeds. They contain about 9.5 g of plant-based protein per serving and a notable amount of polyunsaturated fats, more than chia seeds. The main polyunsaturated fats in hemp seeds are linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and α-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid).

Hemp seeds are an excellent source of manganese (99% Daily Value), copper, phosphorus, magnesium, thiamine, and zinc, and a good source of niacin and iron. They also have phenolic antioxidant compounds that may be beneficial for health.

Hemp Seed Nutrition Per Serving (1 ounce)

Calories: 166

Protein: 9.5g

Total Fat: 14.6 g

Carbs: 2.6 g

Fiber: 1.2 g

Calcium: 21 mg

Iron: 2.4 mg

Magnesium: 210 mg

Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds

Protective for Heart Health

One 2020 animal study found that 1-month supplementation of hemp seeds in rats fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet helped decrease total cholesterol, LDL, and cholesterol, improved their inflammatory status, and prevented vascular changes related to the development of atherosclerosis. Other animal studies have found that hempseed helped normalize platelet aggregation and reduce systolic blood pressure.

Supports Skin Health

In a small study where participants with atopic dermatitis consumed either 30 mL of hempseed oil or olive oil during a 20-week period, participants who had hemp seed oil had decreased symptoms of skin dryness and itchiness, and reduced topical medication use compared to those who had olive oil.

Other Health Benefits

There is still much to learn concerning the health benefits of hemp seeds, but they show potential in supporting brain health and postmenopausal changes, both related to hemp seeds’ antioxidant potential.

Chia Seeds vs Hemp Seeds – Which to Choose?

Both chia seeds and hemp seeds can have a role in a healthy diet. If you want a seed that is higher in protein and may be more filling, hemp seeds are the best option. Hemp seeds are also noticeably higher in minerals such as manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and zinc, which may be beneficial if you are not getting enough of these nutrients from the rest of the foods in your diet.

However, if getting more fiber into your diet is a major focus, then you may want to incorporate chia seeds into your normal routine. A one-ounce serving of chia seeds contains nearly 10 g of fiber, in addition to some protein and various vitamins and minerals.

How to Use Chia Seeds and Hemp Seeds in Your Diet

As noted earlier, chia and hemp seeds are seeds that can be used in a number of diverse ways throughout your day, for both sweet and savory dishes.

Both hemp and chia seeds can be added as an ingredient to foods like smoothies, yogurt, and cereal to increase the nutrient density of your meal. Hemp seeds and chia seeds be used for salads, baked goods, or even stir-fried dishes due to their light, nutty taste. 

Chia seed pudding with fresh fruit is a great option for people looking for a light and healthy dessert. Soaking chia seeds and adding them to beverages like water or tea is another popular method of incorporating chia into your day, and soaked chia can even be used as an egg substitute!

 

Takeaways

Chia seeds and hemp seeds have unique nutrient profiles that make them both worthy of being included in the diet. As research shows, they can be beneficial for several metabolic conditions and protective to support overall health. When choosing between hemp vs chia seeds, consider your unique nutrient needs, personal food tastes, and health goals.

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