Hemp Seeds vs Chia Seeds
Two nutrient-dense seeds that were relatively unknown years ago, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are officially in the mainstream. You’ll see them in granolas, snack bars, and even at your local drug store. So what are they, which one is better (if at all), and how do they differ?
Before we get into the details, the long and short of it is this: chia and hemp seeds are both excellent sources of health-promoting nutrients that you’d be well served to include in your diet. Moreover, it’s exceedingly easy to do so, especially when you buy them at a high quality but rock bottom prices.
Let’s look at a brief overview of each seed, and then we’ll get into the details of nutritional benefits, health benefits, and more.
History of Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds, also called hemp hearts, are derived from industrial hemp, which is a strain of the cannabis plant. But no, this seed won’t have any sort of psychoactive effect on you (they contain about .3% THC). The history of hemp is fascinating, as the plant was one of the first to be spun into fiber for clothes some 50,000 years ago and has been used for a variety of commercial material. In America, hemp was loved by our founding fathers – George Washington even grew hemp on his estate!
After decades of controversy and stigma, the seeds of the hemp plant are now prized for their remarkable health benefits.
History of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds also have a rich and interesting history. They come from a desert plant that’s a member of the mint family, Salvia hispanica. It is believed to have originated from Central America, where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. In the bestselling book “Born to Run,” author Christopher McDougall also describes the reliance on chia seeds as a long-loved endurance food for the indigenous Tarahumara tribe in Mexico.
In the 1980s, of course, these seeds gained popularity as the terracotta figurines “Chia Pets.” But recently, these amazing seeds have become renowned for their impressive nutritional benefits, health profile, and versatility.
Nutritional Benefits of Chia and Hemp Seeds
Both seeds have remarkable and unique nutritional benefits, with some similarities but certainly some key differences between the two.
Hemp Seed Nutritional Benefits
Hemp seeds are relatively high in protein, clocking in at about 20%-25%. But they’re also quite well-balanced, with 20%-30% carbohydrate, 25%-25% fat (including a great Omega 3-6 ratio), and 10%-15% insoluble fiber. Hemp seeds are also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and manganese, and most notably, they contain incredibly high levels of antioxidants. In fact, did you know that walnuts also offer huge amounts of antioxidants. Almost twice the amount of any other nut.
One unique feature of hemp seeds is that they contain stearidonic acid (SDA), which acts as an intermediary in the pathway to convert ALA into EPA and DHA, which are the coveted “Omega-3 fatty acids” that nutritionists drool over. SDA may be responsible for increased amounts of EPA and DHA being produced from the consumption of hemp seeds, but more research needs to be done to confirm this hypothesis.
Chia Seed Nutritional Benefits
Chia seeds have quite a different distribution of macronutrients, as they are 53% fat, 35% carbohydrate, and only 12% protein. Nonetheless, chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids, just like pistachios and soy. Our body can’t produce it itself, so we need to get it from different sources.
Chia seeds are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber, and in fact, they contain even more of these fibers than hemp seeds. On the micronutrient side of things, chia seeds are also loaded with antioxidants and contain the essential minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium. Combine it with a daily snack containing nuts and you’re packed with vitamins and minerals. Adding almonds to your diet will give you almost 200mg of calcium as well as vitamin E and magnesium.
Interestingly, unlike other seeds like flax, chia seeds can be digested and absorbed in their whole form and don’t need to be ground or cracked.
Health Benefits of Hemp and Chia Seeds
Both seeds boast a variety of powerful health benefits.
Hemp Seeds Health Benefits
Hemp Seeds May Promote Heart Health. Hemp seeds contain high amounts of arginine, an amino acid that produces nitric oxide in your body. This gas molecule, responsible for its discoverers to be awarded the Nobel Prize in 1998, relaxes and dilates the blood vessels in your body, leading to lowered blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease. This amino acid is also linked to a reduction in chronic inflammation as evidenced by studies connecting it to lowered levels of C-reactive protein.
Hemp Seeds Are An Amazing Plant-Based Protein Source. Complete protein sources are hard to come by in the plant kingdom, but hemp seeds and nuts are one of them. Swapping some animal protein with plant protein can help lower cholesterol and even reduce cancer risk, according to some studies.
Hemp Seeds May Aid in Reducing PMS Symptoms. Hemp seeds also contain high amounts of Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which produces prostaglandin E1 in the body. This lipid compound functions as a hormone and helps reduce the effects of prolactin. Studies have shown that increased consumption of GLA resulted in a reduction of PMS symptoms.
Chia Seeds Health Benefits
Chia Seeds May Help You Lose Weight. The high amounts of soluble fiber in chia seeds expand in your gut when consumed, which helps to increase fullness and slow the absorption of food. The protein in chia seeds may also help to reduce appetite and food intake. While studies have shown that simply the addition of chia seeds into a diet may not aid in weight loss, but there is ample evidence that chia seeds are a valuable addition to a lower-calorie diet because of the benefits mentioned above. In a nutshell, chia seeds can help you be successful with eating fewer calories.
Chia Seeds May Help Strengthen Bones. High in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and protein, chia seeds contain many nutrients that are essential for maintaining optimal bone health.
Chia Seeds May Help Reduce Blood Sugar Levels. High fasting blood sugar levels are typically associated with type 2 diabetes, but large blood sugar swings for otherwise healthy individuals can be problematic. Studies have shown that consumption of chia seeds may help improve insulin sensitivity and help stabilize blood sugar after meals.
Storing Hemp Seeds and Chia Seeds
While hemp seeds are quite resilient and will store up to a year at room temperature in a cool, dry place, you’ll preserve the nutritional content more if you keep them refrigerated or frozen. Chia Seeds are even more resilient, and as long as they don’t get moist or direct sunlight, they’ll last for an extremely long time.
As you can see, both seeds are easy to preserve pantry staples.
Cooking with Hemp Seeds and Chia Seeds
Hemp seeds are quite versatile and easy to use, as they can be sprinkled on a variety of dishes, from cereal and oatmeal to salads and even toast. They can easily be blended into smoothies and soups as well.
Chia Seeds can be used to make puddings simply by soaking them in liquid, and they are often used in bread and other baked goods. They’re perfect additions to smoothies as well, and they can even make great sugar-stabilizing additions to juices like a “chia fresca.”
So which seed should you go with? Judging by the information above, it’s obvious that both seeds offer unique and complimentary benefits. We recommend adding both into your healthy nutritional regimen! And if you’re looking for rock-bottom prices on high-quality sources of chia seeds and hemp seeds, you can find them here.