Loaded with healthy fats, fiber and essential minerals, flax and chia seeds are must-haves in a healthy diet. With some recipes, it doesn't matter which you use. But in others, adding flax seed vs. chia to your recipes can make a difference.
Nutritional Benefits of Flax and Chia
Chia and flax both help you increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake, which supports brain function and heart health. An ounce of either flaxseed or chia provides the entire daily recommended intake of ALA, the type of omega-3 found in both seeds.
Flax and chia also offer lots of fiber – 32 and 38 percent of the daily value per ounce, respectively. Fiber keeps you regular, promotes heart health by helping to lower cholesterol and helps you feel full after your meal, which can help with weight maintenance.
Chia is also high in essential minerals, especially calcium, iron and magnesium. Flax is an excellent source of bone-building magnesium.
To reap the most nutritional benefits, you'll need to grind flaxseed in your Vitamix machine before you use it. Chia, on the other hand, offers the same benefits whether you use ground or whole seeds.
How to Use the Seeds
Usually you can use either flax or chia in your food preparation. They work equally well as mix-ins for oatmeal, toppings for yogurt or healthy additions to your favorite smoothies.
You can also use either flax or chia as an egg substitute for egg-free baked goods, like muffins or breads. Mix a tablespoon of ground flaxseed – or 1.5 teaspoons of ground chia – with 3 tablespoons of water, and allow it to sit until it forms a gel to make a substitute for one egg.
When You Should Use Chia
Because chia can absorb more fluid than flaxseed, it's a more effective thickener. Use chia to make raw raspberry jam, or mix a tablespoon of whole chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of coconut or almond milk for healthy chia pudding. Take advantage of chia's neutral flavor to make omega-3-packed chia spritzers. Simply stir a teaspoon of whole chia seeds into a serving of your favorite whole fruit juice for a refreshing smoothie-like beverage with more nutritional value than juice alone.
When Flax Works Better
Flaxseed is easier to use as a substitute for flour in baked goods. Simply substitute a quarter-cup of ground flaxseed in place of a quarter-cup of flour, and add an extra quarter-cup of water to compensate for the water absorption.
Using chia in place of flaxseed requires more trial and error, because you can't just substitute a quarter-cup of flax for a quarter-cup of chia. Depending on the recipe, you'll need to replace the flax with between one-half and two-thirds the amount of ground chia. It might take a few tries adjusting the amount of chia to get the texture you want.