Hemp hearts have been getting a lot of attention lately as the newest superfood to hit the market. But how are hemp hearts different from more established superfoods, like chia seeds or flax seeds? And which one should you add to your diet?
The three seeds—hemp, chia, and flax—have many similarities. (Hemp hearts is the name for shelled hemp seeds, which is the form in which they’re commonly sold.) For instance, they contain roughly the same calories per serving, and they all contain heart healthy Omega fatty acids.
You could certainly argue that all three foods make great additions to any diet. But if you’re looking for a specific kind of nutritional help, it’s useful to dive into the details. As you’ll see, each food has its unique points and particular strengths.
One way to think of flax seeds is as a budget superfood. Like any budget product, you can expect flax seeds to offer cost savings at the expense of convenience and quality. Both chia seeds and hemp hearts will cost you a bit more than flax seeds, but they also offer superior nutrition.
Flax seeds need to be ground before eating in order to extract all of the food’s nutrients. Fortunately, pre-ground flax seeds are easy to find, but you need to remember what to look for so you don’t purchase the wrong product.
In terms of taste, flax seeds don’t offer much flavor. That makes it easy to add flax seeds to dishes—where their mildness won’t intrude on other flavors—but it also makes eating them plain out of the bag or canister pretty unexciting.
Nutritionally, flax seeds big plus is lignans. In addition to being an antioxidant, lignans mimic some of the effects of hormones, specifically estrogen. A few studies have suggested that lignans may be able to lower the risk of hormone-associated cancers, such as ovarian cancer.
If you’re looking to add soluble fiber to your diet, chia seeds come in tops. Both flax seeds and hemp seeds contain fiber, but not as much as chia seeds. If you’re older, chances are your doctor may have told you to try to include more soluble fiber to your diet. Chia seeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Chia seeds are more convenient than flax seeds because they can deliver their nutrients whether eaten whole or ground. The seeds can be sprinkled dry over salad or used in baking, where they’ll add crunch but not much taste. Their flavor is often described as bland.
When added to liquids, chia seeds plump up and become very soft and gelatinous. In this wet form, they can be used to make all kinds of things, such as a pudding, porridge, or smoothie. Be aware, though, that wet chia seeds have a lot of bulk and have the potential to make you feel overly full.
High protein content makes hemp hearts the best choice for anyone wanting to add plant-based protein to their diet. Because hemp hearts are a complete protein, they are a natural choice for those following a vegetarian diet.
When looking at hemp hearts vs. chia seeds vs. flax seeds, you may notice that chia seeds and flax seeds both contain more Omega-3 than hemp hearts. But when looking at Omega-3 nutrients, more doesn’t mean better. What’s really important is the ratio of Omega-3s to Omega 6s.
A too high ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s can actually promote the development of disease. Hemp hearts have the perfect ratio of Omega-3s to Omega 6s. In addition, they contain all 20 essential amino acids, including GLA. As a nutrient source, hemp hearts are more well-rounded and balanced than flax or chia seeds.
Another advantage of hemp hearts is their nutty taste, which is similar to walnuts. If you’re looking for a healthy snack to boost your energy, protein-rich hemp hearts will go down the easiest. They’re also flexible and easy to use in cooking, baking, or as a topping on everything from yoghurt to fish.
As you can see, hemp hearts, chia seeds, and flax seeds each have their strong points. Consider which nutrition needs you’re trying to meet, and then choose the one that fits most closely with your eating habits and lifestyle. Or, give them all a try, and let taste be your guide!