Flax, chia and hemp are packed with nutrition and essential fatty acids – find out about each here
Seeds pack a powerful punch and are a great portable nutritious snack or topping to just about any lunch. SupermarketGuru wanted to highlight the essential fatty acid rich seeds; flax, chia and hemp. All of these seeds have a long history of use, flaxseeds even date back to the Stone Age when they were used as food and medicine, and are actually the source of fiber to make linen. Chia seeds were especially important in pre-Columbian times, as they were a main component of the Aztec and Mayan diets and were the basic survival ration of Aztec warriors. Hemp seeds are a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and have been used for thousands of years as a healing and tonifying food in treating a number of ailments. So what’s so special about these seeds nutritionally?
First let’s start with flaxseeds. Flaxseeds are full of fiber, containing both soluble and insoluble fiber, which are essential for normal gastrointestinal function. Flax is rich in the essential fatty acids omega 3 (linolenic) and omega 6 (linoleic). Omega 3 and 6 are essential because they play a fundamental physiological role and cannot be synthesized by the body – thus must be supplied by the diet.
Another great thing about flaxseeds is that they are high in beneficial phytochemicals, specifically lignans, as well as various antioxidants. The lignans from flax are especially great for women as they may promote fertility, reduce peri-menopausal symptoms and possibly help reduce breast cancer risk, as well as helping to prevent type 2 diabetes.
The amazing health benefits of flaxseed can only be found in the ground seeds. Whole seeds (unless chewed really well) pass through the body undigested; as a result the health benefits of the fiber, fatty acids and antioxidants are lost. Flaxseeds are best stored in the refrigerator or freezer to help preserve their valuable nutrients as well as delicate fats.
Next up chia (yup same seed as the chia plant!) Chia is also very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, even more so than flax seeds. Unlike flax, chia does not have to be ground to make its nutrients available to the body. Chia seeds also provide fiber as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum
, niacin, and zinc.
Chia can be used in hot cereals, baking, and you’ll even find it in some beverages. It is much more shelf stable than flax seeds and should be kept in a airtight container in a cool dry place.
Last but not least, hempseeds! Hempseeds (actually nuts!) are rich in protein, up to 35 percent is protein and are considered pretty close to being a “complete” protein. The hempseed is one of the richest, most balanced sources of the essential fatty acids (EFA), omega-3 and omega-6. Hemp also provides other phytonutrients, including phytosterols and carotenes, as well as vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium.
Including all three of these seeds in your diet is sure to vary up the flavors and nutrients you are consuming on a daily basis, as well as provide filing and satisfying essential fatty acids.