Nuts and seeds might not be a staple of many people’s diets, but they pack a powerful nutritional punch. Adding flax and chia to your diet might seem like a strange undertaking, but there are a surprising number of ways to work these seeds into daily meals.
What do Flax and Chia Seeds do?
Flax and chia each benefit your body in a variety of ways. Both seeds are sources of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that can help to raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Chia and flax are also excellent sources of fiber. Most Americans are lacking this dietary component, which can help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and improve digestion.
Is Flax or Chia Better for You?
Adding either of these seeds to your diet is beneficial, but there are a few differences in terms of nutrition. Here are some key facts:
- Contains both soluble and insoluble fibers (about 2 g per tbsp).
- High source of antioxidant chemicals called lignans, which have been linked to lower rates of heart disease.
- Must be ground to gain nutritional benefits.
- Contains mostly soluble fiber (about 3 g per tbsp).
- Excellent source of minerals: 2 tbsp will provide 13% of your daily recommended calcium and 18% of magnesium.
- Good source of vitamins B1 and B3.
- Can be eaten ground or whole.
Adding Flax and Chia Seeds to your Diet?
If you’re new to healthy eating, incorporating seeds in your diet might seem unappetizing. Adding ground flax or chia seeds to liquid elements of meals is usually the best bet for having them fade into the background. Some of the easiest places to add these seeds include:
- Salad dressing (both store bought and homemade)
- Dips and sauces
To reap the nutritional benefits of flax seeds, you’ll have to grind them up. Hardcore healthy eaters usually do this task on their own with a spice/coffee grinder. You can also purchase seeds pre-ground, but their freshness might be an issue, as ground seeds can become rancid.
Chia seeds can be used whole or ground, and quickly absorb water to create a gelatinous texture. While some people dislike this chia texture, others use it to thicken up yogurt parfaits or create breakfast bowls where chia is the star ingredient.
Flax and Chia Eggs
If you’re looking for more creative ways to add flax and chia to your diet, both seeds can be used as an egg substitute in baking. This method is a staple in vegan kitchens, and helps to make baked goods healthier by eliminating the saturated fat found in eggs.
- Combine 1 tbsp of ground seeds with 3 tbsp water.
- Whisk the two together until evenly mixed.
- Chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to thicken, and your “eggs” are ready to bake with.
This flax/chia mixture can replace chicken eggs in many baked goods, and works best in recipes that call for one or two eggs. Substituting the seed mixture for more than two eggs can cause problems with rising and consistency.
Flax and chia eggs can be used interchangeably depending on your personal preference. Flax seeds are usually described as having an earthy or nutty taste, and tend to complement things like bran muffins. Chia seeds are virtually tasteless, making them the best choice for an egg substitute that won’t overpower your baking.
How much is too much?
There are no strict requirements for how much flax or chia you should eat, but a few tablespoons per day is a good target to aim for. A sudden increase in dietary fiber can cause unwanted GI symptoms like gas and bloating, so it’s a smart idea to gradually incorporate these seeds into your daily regimen.
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