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Chia Seeds vs Flax Seeds: Comparison

Chia Seeds

Both chia seeds and flax seeds are right there on top of the list of the best dietary sources of alpha-linolenic acid, though neither one contains quite as much of this health-benefiting omega-3 fatty acid as camelina seeds. But, which one is the ultimate champion when it comes to providing omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds or flax seeds? And, how do chia seeds and flax seeds compare against each other in terms of other attributes such as lignan content, health benefits, side effects, culinary uses and price. Read on to find out.

Omega-3 Content

Both chia seeds and flax seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid. Flax seeds contain slightly more ALA than chia seeds, with one ounce of flax seeds providing approximately 7.4 grams of ALA. An equal serving of chia seeds, by contrast, contains about 5.1 grams of this essential fatty acid. Both chia seeds and flax seeds are among the best dietary sources of alpha-linolenic acid.


Flax seeds are the richest natural source of lignans, with their secoisolariciresinol diglucoside content ranging from 14.6 mg/g to 18.9 mg/g. Secoisolariciresinol diglucoside, or SDG, acts as a precursor to lignans in mammals. By contrast, chia seeds have been found to contain only 0.99 mg/g to 1.29 mg/g of SECO (aglycone of SDG), with significant differences among batches of seeds. Lignans have been extensively researched for their potential health benefits, but it is still unclear what role they play in human health. [1, 2]

Health Benefits

Given the high omega-3 content of chia seeds and flax seeds, it is not surprising that both chia seeds and flax seeds have been associated with a number of potential health benefits. Some of the benefits of alpha-linolenic acid that have been uncovered by studies that used either chia or flax seeds, or both, include protection against cardiovascular disease and a reduced risk of bone fractures. What's more, a randomized clinical trial conducted in Chile found that supplementation with ALA-rich chia seed oil increased the EPA content of red blood cell phospholipids as well as the DHA content of breast milk in pregnant and nursing women, suggesting that chia seeds might have some benefits for pregnant women, too. ALA aside, both flax seeds and chia seeds are packed with nutrients like fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins.

Side Effects

As is the case with practically all foods, chia seeds can cause side effects in some people, especially when eaten in excessive amounts, and the same goes for flax seeds. Gastrointestinal problems such as constipation and bloating are one of the most frequently cited side effects of excessive chia seed consumption, but interestingly, chia seeds may also help relieve constipation in some cases. Anecdotal evidence suggests that also flax seeds can either cause or cure constipation, depending on how and how much you eat them. What's more, as both chia and flax seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their blood-thinning properties, people who take prescription blood thinners or aspirin, or are scheduled for surgery, should talk to their doctor about the safety of adding chia seeds or flax seeds to their diets.

Culinary Uses

Chia seeds and flax seeds are also very similar in terms of culinary uses. In recipes for baked goods and smoothies, they can usually be substituted for one another. What's more, both chia seeds and flax seeds are mucilaginous, meaning that they form a gel when mixed with water. Thanks to this property, both chia seeds and flax seeds can be used as vegan egg substitutes and as gluten-free thickeners in sauces and soups.

Chia vs Flax Oil

Chia oil has a more neutral flavor than flaxseed oil, but it also tends to be more expensive than flaxseed oil. Flavor and price aside, chia and flaxseed oil are quite similar: both are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, just like the seeds they are derived from, and both make a nutritious addition to cold preparations such as salad dressings, dips, smoothies and cold soups. Neither chia oil nor flax oil is recommended for use in cooking.


Chia seeds and oil are typically much more expensive than flax seeds and flaxseed oil. Here are a couple of tips for shopping healthy on a budget that also apply to buying seeds and culinary oils:

  • Compare prices per pound: Smaller packages may seem cheaper, but the cost per pound or kilogram might be higher if you go for a smaller package. If the seller does not display the price per pound or kilogram, figure it out yourself by using a calculator.
  • Buy in bulk: People often underestimate how much money can be saved by purchasing chia seeds or flax seeds in bulk. This is a particularly good strategy if you have friends, family members or co-workers who also enjoy eating chia seeds or flax seeds as you may be able to split the purchase with them.
  • Check prices online: Whether you are looking to buy seeds in bulk or in smaller quantities, be sure to check out some online grocery stores. The great thing about onlike stores, like Amazon, is that they often provide a much wider selection of a given food, which typically means you have wider range of brands – and prices.

1. S. Nemes and V. Orsat (2012). Evaluation of a Microwave-Assisted Extraction Method for Lignan Quantification in Flax seed Cultivars and Selected Oil Seeds. Food Analytical Methods, 5(3), 551-563.
2. Lignans. Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center. Oregon State University, 2017.


Super Seeds Cookbook Created by Chicago-based author and vegan food blogger Kim Lutz, Super Seeds provides a slew of mouthwatering recipes featuring five seeds that pack a serious nutritional punch: chia, flax, hemp, quinoa and amaranth. Whether you're looking for seed-licious vegan or gluten-free recipes for breads, soups, salads, sides, mains or desserts, this is the book to turn to. Taco-Seasoned Quinoa Stuffed Avocados, Hemp Seed Hummus, Blackberry Chia Jam, Amaranth Cornbread and Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad are just a few of the exciting recipes you'll find in this cookbook. To learn more, or to order a copy through Amazon, click here.