When it comes to weight loss, finding natural and healthy ways to shed those extra pounds is essential. Two popular superfoods that have gained significant attention in the health and fitness world are flaxseeds and chia seeds. These tiny powerhouses are often praised for their potential weight loss benefits.
In this article, we will delve into flaxseeds vs chia seeds for weight loss, exploring their nutritional profiles, and how they can fit into your diet plan. While both seeds offer numerous health benefits, understanding their unique characteristics will help you make an informed decision about which seed might be more suitable for your weight loss journey.
What Are Flaxseeds?
Flaxseeds have a rich history and have been cultivated for thousands of years. Also known as linseeds, are tiny, brown or golden seeds derived from the flax plant. They are one of the oldest crops known to mankind, with origins in Europe, Asia, and North America. The Latin name for flaxseeds, Linum usitatissimum, translates to “very useful,” emphasizing the versatile nature of this seed1.
What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds come from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is native to Mexico and Guatemala. They have a rich historical significance and were used as a food source by the Mayans and Aztecs. Chia seeds gained popularity in the United States in the 1980s, thanks to the introduction of chia pets, which were novelty clay figures that sprouted chia plants when watered1.
Nutrition Comparison Of Chia Seeds And Flax Seeds
Both of these seed kinds are small, yet they pack a surprisingly potent nutritional punch for their size. Let’s explore the pros and cons of flaxseeds and chia seeds to help you make an informed decision about which one might be more suitable for your daily diet:
Chia seeds and flaxseeds are considered nutritious whole foods, sharing similar nutritional profiles. They are both excellent sources of protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, zinc, and various other nutrients.
Both seeds provide ample amounts of macronutrients, with particularly high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. However, flax seeds have a slight advantage in terms of protein and omega-3 fatty acid content, while chia seeds excel in terms of fiber content and lower calorie count.
In regard to micronutrients, flax seeds are notably rich in manganese, copper, and potassium. These minerals offer protective benefits against stroke, water retention, and immune function, and aid in iron absorption while reducing inflammation. On the other hand, chia seeds contain relatively higher levels of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, which contribute to bone strength, and they also have slightly higher iron content1.
Benefits Of Chia Seeds And Flaxseeds
Chia and flaxseeds have both been examined for their impact in a variety of health outcomes, owing to their high quantities of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and micronutrients2.
1. Antioxidant Property
Chia seeds contain antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid (also found in coffee), quercetin, myricetin, and kaempferol (found in fruits and vegetables like apples, onions, tomatoes, spinach, and kale). These antioxidants have been associated with reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, which can cause damage to our cells due to the presence of free radicals or reactive oxygen species3.
Similarly, flaxseeds are rich in antioxidants, including hydroxycinnamic acids (such as ferulic acid and p-coumaric acid), lignans, and phytosterols. Hydroxycinnamic acids possess anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, while lignans are classified as phytoestrogens4, which mimic estrogen in the body and may help inhibit the growth of estrogen-related cancers, such as breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers5. However, ongoing research6 is exploring the optimal dosage and types of phytoestrogens.
Additionally, flaxseeds contain phytosterols, plant compounds that resemble cholesterol and may help lower levels of “bad” cholesterol by competing with its absorption in the body.
2. Heart Disease Prevention
Both chia seeds and flaxseeds have been extensively researched for their potential in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. This can be attributed to their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants, which offer various health benefits.
Several risk factors for heart disease include poor blood sugar control, abnormal levels of cholesterol and lipids, and elevated markers of inflammation. Studies have demonstrated that incorporating chia seeds into the diet can lead to increased levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and decreased levels of triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar, ultimately promoting better heart health7.
Likewise, flaxseeds have shown similar advantages. Research8 has indicated that consuming flaxseeds is associated with a reduction in atherosclerosis, which refers to the accumulation of plaque in the arteries that hinders blood flow. Additionally, flaxseed consumption has been linked to lower blood pressure, improved blood sugar regulation, and reduced inflammation.
For instance, a study9 involving individuals with type 2 diabetes found that consuming 10g of flaxseed powder per day for one month resulted in significant reductions of 20%, 22%, and 17.5% in fasting blood sugar, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, respectively.
3. Cancer Prevention
Consuming chia seeds or flaxseeds may help reduce the risk of certain cancers due to their high fiber and antioxidant content, particularly the lignans found in flaxseeds.
A systematic review10 of human trials indicated that consuming 25g of ground flaxseed per day (equivalent to about 3 tablespoons) had significant protective effects against breast cancer. This study also suggested that flaxseed consumption could reduce tumor size and the risk of mortality in women with breast cancer.
Another study11 involving over 6,000 women found that regular consumption of flaxseed was associated with a reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 18%.
Although there have been fewer studies12 specifically focusing on the effects of chia consumption and cancer, it is worth noting that a high intake of insoluble fiber, which is present in both chia and flaxseeds, has been linked to a decreased risk of cancers, particularly colon or colorectal cancer.
However, it is important to emphasize that more research is needed to conclusively determine whether consuming chia or flaxseeds can prevent or slow the progression of cancer.
4. Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Both flax and chia seeds are rich in fiber, which has been associated with a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes13.
Fiber plays a protective role against type 2 diabetes by slowing down carbohydrate digestion and sugar absorption into the bloodstream. This results in a gradual increase in blood sugar levels after a meal, preventing sudden spikes13. By stabilizing blood sugar levels, fiber offers some defense against type 2 diabetes. Several studies have demonstrated the potential of regular flax and chia seed consumption in providing this protective effect.
For example, studies conducted in 2011 on individuals with type 2 diabetes revealed that consuming 1–2 tablespoons of flax seed powder per day can reduce fasting blood sugar levels by 8–20%. These effects were observed within just 1–2 months9,14. Similarly, earlier animal studies have shown that chia seeds may help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance, both of which can contribute to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes15,16,17.
Furthermore, human studies conducted in 2010 and 2013 found that consuming bread made with chia seeds resulted in smaller spikes in blood sugar compared to more traditional bread varieties. It is important to note that while these findings suggest a potential benefit, further research is needed to establish a definitive causal relationship between flax and chia seed consumption and the prevention of type 2 diabetes18,19.
5. Improves Digestive Health
Flax and chia seeds can be beneficial for relieving both constipation and diarrhea due to their high fiber content20.
Fiber can be categorized into two types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber has the ability to dissolve in water, forming a gel-like substance in the gastrointestinal tract. This gel-like consistency slows down the movement of food, promoting a sense of fullness21. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, does not dissolve in water and passes through the digestive system largely unchanged. It adds bulk to the stool and can help facilitate the movement of food through the digestive tract22.
Both chia and flax seeds contain insoluble fiber, which acts as a natural laxative and can alleviate constipation by adding bulk and promoting regular bowel movements23. On the contrary, the gel-forming properties of soluble fiber, which is predominantly found in flax seeds, can help bind digestive waste together, potentially reducing diarrhea24.
The insoluble fiber in chia and flax seeds can help relieve constipation, while the soluble fiber in flax seeds can aid in reducing diarrhea. Including these seeds in your diet may contribute to a healthier digestive system.
Flaxseeds vs Chia Seeds For Weight Loss
The high fiber content in both chia seeds and flaxseeds can contribute to weight loss or maintaining a healthier body weight. While chia seeds have a slightly higher fiber content overall, flaxseeds contain more soluble fiber.
Soluble fiber is particularly beneficial for reducing hunger hormones, promoting satiety, and controlling appetite. Approximately 33% of the fiber in flaxseeds is soluble, while chia seeds contain up to 15% soluble fiber. As a result, flaxseeds may have a slight advantage in controlling appetite compared to chia seeds, which could potentially lead to healthier body weights.
A small study25 involving the consumption of bread with varying amounts of chia seeds showed that the bread with the highest concentration of chia seeds led to faster reduction in appetite compared to bread with lower amounts of chia seeds.
Another study26 demonstrated that individuals who incorporated chia seeds into a calorie-restricted diet for six months experienced significantly greater weight loss and reduced waist circumference compared to those following the calorie-restricted diet alone. However, some research27 has found no significant difference in weight loss between overweight and obese individuals consuming chia seeds and those who did not.
Studies focusing on flaxseed have also shown positive outcomes. A meta-analysis28 of 45 randomized controlled trials revealed that flaxseed consumption led to significant reductions in body weight and waist circumference, particularly in longer-term interventions lasting over 12 weeks and among overweight or obese individuals.
In conclusion, both flaxseeds and chia seeds offer potential benefits for weight loss due to their high fiber content. Chia seeds have a slightly higher overall fiber content, while flaxseeds contain more soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps control appetite and increase satiety, which may contribute to healthier body weights.
While both seeds offer potential benefits, it is important to note that individual results may vary, and weight loss should be approached holistically with a balanced diet and regular exercise. Incorporating flaxseeds or chia seeds into a well-rounded, healthy eating plan can be a valuable component of a weight loss strategy. However, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice and guidance.
3 Kulczyński, B., Kobus-Cisowska, J., Taczanowski, M., Kmiecik, D., & Gramza-Michałowska, A. (2019). The Chemical Composition and Nutritional Value of Chia Seeds-Current State of Knowledge. Nutrients, 11(6), 1242. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061242
4 Taofiq, O., González-Paramás, A. M., Barreiro, M. F., & Ferreira, I. C. (2017). Hydroxycinnamic Acids and Their Derivatives: Cosmeceutical Significance, Challenges and Future Perspectives, a Review. Molecules, 22(2), 281. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules22020281
5 Bilal, I., Chowdhury, A., Davidson, J., & Whitehead, S. (2014). Phytoestrogens and prevention of breast cancer: The contentious debate. World journal of clinical oncology, 5(4), 705–712. https://doi.org/10.5306/wjco.v5.i4.705
7 Kulczyński, B., Kobus-Cisowska, J., Taczanowski, M., Kmiecik, D., & Gramza-Michałowska, A. (2019). The Chemical Composition and Nutritional Value of Chia Seeds-Current State of Knowledge. Nutrients, 11(6), 1242. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061242
8 Parikh, M., Maddaford, T. G., Austria, J. A., Aliani, M., Netticadan, T., & Pierce, G. N. (2019). Dietary Flaxseed as a Strategy for Improving Human Health. Nutrients, 11(5), 1171. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11051171
9 Mani, U. V., Mani, I., Biswas, M., & Kumar, S. N. (2011). An open-label study on the effect of flax seed powder (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation in the management of diabetes mellitus. Journal of dietary supplements, 8(3), 257–265. https://doi.org/10.3109/19390211.2011.593615
10 Flower, G., Fritz, H., Balneaves, L. G., Verma, S., Skidmore, B., Fernandes, R., Kennedy, D., Cooley, K., Wong, R., Sagar, S., Fergusson, D., & Seely, D. (2014). Flax and Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review. Integrative cancer therapies, 13(3), 181–192. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534735413502076
11 Lowcock, E. C., Cotterchio, M., & Boucher, B. A. (2013). Consumption of flaxseed, a rich source of lignans, is associated with reduced breast cancer risk. Cancer causes & control : CCC, 24(4), 813–816. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10552-013-0155-7
12 Kunzmann, A. T., Coleman, H. G., Huang, W. Y., Kitahara, C. M., Cantwell, M. M., & Berndt, S. I. (2015). Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer and incident and recurrent adenoma in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 102(4), 881–890. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.113282
13 McRae M. P. (2018). Dietary Fiber Intake and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses. Journal of chiropractic medicine, 17(1), 44–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcm.2017.11.002
14 Kapoor, Sherry & Sachdeva, Rajbir & Kochhar, Anita. (2011). Efficacy of Flaxseed Supplementation on Nutrient Intake and Other Lifestyle Pattern in Menopausal Diabetic Females. Studies on Ethno-Medicine. 5. 10.1080/09735070.2011.11886403.
15 Oliva, M. E., Ferreira, M. R., Chicco, A., & Lombardo, Y. B. (2013). Dietary Salba (Salvia hispanica L) seed rich in α-linolenic acid improves adipose tissue dysfunction and the altered skeletal muscle glucose and lipid metabolism in dyslipidemic insulin-resistant rats. Prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and essential fatty acids, 89(5), 279–289. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.plefa.2013.09.010
16 Poudyal, H., Panchal, S. K., Waanders, J., Ward, L., & Brown, L. (2012). Lipid redistribution by α-linolenic acid-rich chia seed inhibits stearoyl-CoA desaturase-1 and induces cardiac and hepatic protection in diet-induced obese rats. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 23(2), 153–162. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2010.11.011
17 Marineli, R.daS., Moura, C. S., Moraes, É. A., Lenquiste, S. A., Lollo, P. C., Morato, P. N., Amaya-Farfan, J., & Maróstica, M. R., Jr (2015). Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) enhances HSP, PGC-1α expressions and improves glucose tolerance in diet-induced obese rats. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 31(5), 740–748. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2014.11.009
18 Vuksan, V., Jenkins, A. L., Dias, A. G., Lee, A. S., Jovanovski, E., Rogovik, A. L., & Hanna, A. (2010). Reduction in postprandial glucose excursion and prolongation of satiety: possible explanation of the long-term effects of whole grain Salba (Salvia Hispanica L.). European journal of clinical nutrition, 64(4), 436–438. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2009.159
19 Ho, H., Lee, A. S., Jovanovski, E., Jenkins, A. L., Desouza, R., & Vuksan, V. (2013). Effect of whole and ground Salba seeds (Salvia Hispanica L.) on postprandial glycemia in healthy volunteers: a randomized controlled, dose-response trial. European journal of clinical nutrition, 67(7), 786–788. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2013.103
20 McRorie J. W., Jr (2015). Evidence-Based Approach to Fiber Supplements and Clinically Meaningful Health Benefits, Part 2: What to Look for and How to Recommend an Effective Fiber Therapy. Nutrition today, 50(2), 90–97. https://doi.org/10.1097/NT.0000000000000089
21 Weickert, M. O., & Pfeiffer, A. F. (2008). Metabolic effects of dietary fiber consumption and prevention of diabetes. The Journal of nutrition, 138(3), 439–442. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/138.3.439
22 Anderson, J. W., Baird, P., Davis, R. H., Jr, Ferreri, S., Knudtson, M., Koraym, A., Waters, V., & Williams, C. L. (2009). Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition reviews, 67(4), 188–205. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x
23 Cunnane, S. C., Hamadeh, M. J., Liede, A. C., Thompson, L. U., Wolever, T. M., & Jenkins, D. J. (1995). Nutritional attributes of traditional flaxseed in healthy young adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 61(1), 62–68. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/61.1.62
24 Xu, J., Zhou, X., Chen, C., Deng, Q., Huang, Q., Yang, J., Yang, N., & Huang, F. (2012). Laxative effects of partially defatted flaxseed meal on normal and experimental constipated mice. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 12, 14. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-12-14
25 Vuksan, V., Jenkins, A. L., Dias, A. G., Lee, A. S., Jovanovski, E., Rogovik, A. L., & Hanna, A. (2010). Reduction in postprandial glucose excursion and prolongation of satiety: possible explanation of the long-term effects of whole grain Salba (Salvia Hispanica L.). European journal of clinical nutrition, 64(4), 436–438. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2009.159
26 Vuksan, V., Jenkins, A. L., Brissette, C., Choleva, L., Jovanovski, E., Gibbs, A. L., Bazinet, R. P., Au-Yeung, F., Zurbau, A., Ho, H. V., Duvnjak, L., Sievenpiper, J. L., Josse, R. G., & Hanna, A. (2017). Salba-chia (Salvia hispanica L.) in the treatment of overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes: A double-blind randomized controlled trial. Nutrition, metabolism, and cardiovascular diseases : NMCD, 27(2), 138–146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.numecd.2016.11.124
27 Nieman, D. C., Cayea, E. J., Austin, M. D., Henson, D. A., McAnulty, S. R., & Jin, F. (2009). Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.), 29(6), 414–418. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2009.05.011
28 Mohammadi-Sartang, M., Mazloom, Z., Raeisi-Dehkordi, H., Barati-Boldaji, R., Bellissimo, N., & Totosy de Zepetnek, J. O. (2017). The effect of flaxseed supplementation on body weight and body composition: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 45 randomized placebo-controlled trials. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 18(9), 1096–1107. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12550