Flax seeds and chia seeds are ‘trending’ in the health game right now. They’re added to almost every Instagram-worthy smoothie bowl, but does adding these superfoods really enhance your diet? Let’s find out!
Flax seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with decreased inflammation, reduced symptoms of depression, and help with arthritis. Many people take Omega-3 fish oil supplements, which can provide the same benefits at an added cost. Fish oil pills often contain dioxins, PCB’s, mercury, and other chemical pollutants.
-Dioxins are very toxic environmental pollutants that can cause reproductive and developmental problems.
-PCB stands for Polychlorinated Biphenyls (the name alone sounds scary, am I right?) which are man-made organic chemicals. The production of these chemicals was banned in the U.S. in 1979 but they still show up in our environment and food supply due to improper dumping, poorly maintained hazardous waste sites and incinerating waste inappropriately.
-Mercury is considered to be one of the top 10 chemicals of major health concern by the World health Organization. Organic mercury is released by the Earth through human activities such as mining for gold and other metals. It is then turned into methylmercury by bacteria in the environment, which bio-accumulates in the fish and shellfish population. This happens when fish eat other fish, accumulating all of the mercury through the food chain, resulting in fish that have a higher methylmercury concentration than their environmental surroundings.
Flaxseeds also contain lignans which are phytochemicals essential to having healthy gut bacteria. This is why flax can aid in digestion and stomach issues. Flaxseeds can also have positive effects for people with diabetes. Studies show that having flax in your stomach can blunt the blood sugar spike after a meal.
Consumption of flax seeds has also been linked to improvements in blood pressure. Flaxseeds can be added to smoothies, cereals, oatmeal, salads, and baked goods. You can find a recipe for gluten free blueberry flax muffins here.
Where else can we get omega-3’s without all the nasty chemicals? Chia seeds, like flax seeds, are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to note that the bioavailability of the omega-3’s in chia seeds is the highest when they are ground up.
Studies have shown that they do not provide significant health benefits unless they are ground up and able to release the fats into the body.5 The good news is that you can usually find ground chia seeds at your local health food store, or even online. You can also use a spice grinder to grind our own chia seeds just prior to consumption, which may provide more nutritional benefit than purchasing already ground seeds. When making a smoothie, blend just the chia seeds first, then add all of your other ingredients.
To use chia seeds as an egg or oil replacer in cooking or baking, soak 1 part chia seeds in 9 parts water. The chia seeds will absorb the water, creating a gel like substance comparable to an egg white. This is great for people who are vegan, don’t consume oil, or have an egg allergy! You can find a super easy recipe for chocolate chia pudding here!
Try some of these tips and tricks and let us know how they work for you! If you try one of these recipes, snap a picture and tag us on Facebook or Instagram @vitality_nutrition!
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. NutritionFacts.org. [accessed 2017 Jul 24]. https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/omega-3-fatty-acids/
2. Learn about Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). EPA. 2017 Feb 13 [accessed 2017 Jul 25]. https://www.epa.gov/pcbs/learn-about-polychlorinated-biphenyls-pcbs
3. Mercury and health. World Health Organization. [accessed 2017 Jul 24]. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs361/en/
4. Written By Michael Greger M.D. FACLM on October 8th, 2013. Flax Seeds for Diabetes. NutritionFacts.org. [accessed 2017 Jul 25]. https://nutritionfacts.org/2013/10/08/flaxseeds-for-diabetes/
5. Nieman DC, Gillitt N, Jin F, Henson DA, Kennerly K, Shanely RA, Ore B, Su M, Schwartz S. Chia seed supplementation and disease risk factors in overweight women: a metabolomics investigation. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Jul;18(7):700-8.