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Super Seeds: Chia & Flaxseed

Friday, July 02, 2021
By:  Kelsey Dunn



Chia seeds and flaxseeds have gained the attention of many in recent years, being hailed as superfoods. Consumers purchase them as whole seeds, ground up, as oil, flour, and even milk, but what about them makes them beneficial to our health?

  • They are both prebiotic foods (help the good bacteria grow!)
  • They help add bulk to stools (help with loose stools, help with constipation)
  • Please drink more water to digest them (or can cause bloating)
  • Help to decrease LDL cholesterol
  • Contain beneficial fats that help with inflammation

Chia, whose real name is salvia hispanica, is an annual herbaceous plant that is native to both Guatemala and Mexico.1 The seeds are grown worldwide, predominantly in Australia and areas of Central and South America.2 This is because their optimal climate is warm, with high rainfall and temperatures ranging from 60-85°F.3 Flaxseed, which is also an annual plant, prefers cooler weather but can be produced in a range of soils and climates, making it is possible for it to grow anywhere in the United States.4 Also known as linseed, flaxseed is grown worldwide with its greatest production being in Canada.5

Chia are tiny, oval and shiny seeds that can range in color from white to gray or brown. They consist of both insoluble and soluble fiber, with 85-93% of its total fiber coming from insoluble.2 Just two tablespoons (1oz) of chia provide 10g of dietary fiber!6 To put that into perspective, the average American only eats a total of 10-15g a day.7 The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women consume 22-28g of fiber and men 28-34g each day.8 Chia seeds also contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, both omega-3s and omega-6s. Both of these fats are essential nutrients, meaning that we are unable synthesize them ourselves and therefore need to obtain them through our diet.9 While Americans usually consume much more omega-6 than needed, chia contains a favorable ratio of the two, with a 0.3:0.35 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.2 In just 1 ounce of chia seeds, there is 4,900mg of alpha-linolenic (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid.10 In addition, chia include all the essential amino acids needed for human nutrition, making them a complete protein.9 Chia seeds contain vitamins and minerals such as zinc, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, vitamin B1, B2, and niacin.2 They are also rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E and polyphenolic compounds, which help to prevent free radical damage that can lead to negative implications such as inflammation.3

Though chia seeds have an impressive amount of healthy fats, flaxseeds are actually the number one source of omega-3s from a plant product, with over 6,000mg of ALA in just 1 ounce.10 Flax are known for their nutty smell, brown color and small, tear-drop shape.11 Like chia, they too are rich in fiber, with 8g for every 2 tablespoons10; a large amount packed into a small seed. About 20-40% of its total fiber is soluble with the remaining 60-80% being insoluble.12 Flaxseeds contain a high level of lignans, an antioxidant that is important in helping with skin appearance and reducing blood pressure. They are also packed with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6, copper, iron, and manganese.10 Ground flaxseed is preferred over whole seeds for digestion and absorption of all their nutritional benefits, such as the lignans and ALA.13 While flaxseeds are considered incomplete proteins since they are lacking the amino acid lysine, they still contain about 4g of protein per 2 tbsp making them a favorable option for a source of plant protein.12

Chia and flaxseeds can be a great addition to the diet of individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, as tolerated. One reason for this is their high content of ALA, or their omega-3 fatty acids. Several research studies have shown that polyunsaturated omega-3s may influence the inflammatory process, by regulating and diminishing it, helping with remission in IBD patients.14 However, it is important for those with IBD to eat chia and flax mindfully, as their high fiber content requires adequate fluid intake and could lead to constipation or diarrhea if consumed in large portions. Therefore, they should be consumed in moderation.15 The seeds are also beneficial for individuals with IBD since both chia and flaxseeds contain soluble fiber, making them prebiotics. On the IBD-AID diet, one of the four dietary components recommended is prebiotics, as they act as food for probiotics, which promotes the growth of “good” gut bacteria.

Both chia and ground flax meal can be consumed on any of the 3 phases of the IBD-AID diet. When symptoms are present following phase 1 or phase 2 of the IBD-AID, pre-soaked and ground chia seeds and flaxseed meal is best. As symptoms improve and individuals move to phases 2 and 3, chia can be included in a form that is best tolerated, flax should always be ground or in meal form for best absorption.

So, what are some ways you can incorporate them into your daily diet? At breakfast, try making chia-seed pudding or topping your morning oats with chia and flax. Sprinkle chia seeds or ground flaxseed meal in your Greek yogurt, smoothies, or even soups. Add them to baked goods, salads, sauces, and homemade dressings. 

Did you know that you can also use chia or flax as a substitute for eggs in a recipe? Mixing 1 tablespoon of either seed with 3 tablespoons of water whisked together and refrigerated for 15 minutes provides you with an easy alternative to 1 egg.15 The recipe that is featured below uses flaxseed meal and chia seeds to make a fun cracker, which can be paired with your favorite dip such as hummus, guacamole, or tahini.

If you have not started consuming these tiny, but mighty nutritious seeds, what are you waiting for? They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, omega-3s, vitamins, and minerals and go great topped on your favorite foods such as oats, salad, yogurt or included in baked goods. For someone with IBD, chia and flax’s content of healthy fats and prebiotics can be beneficial in reducing inflammation and promoting good gut bacteria. Just be sure to modify the texture as needed and to only consume if tolerated, based on your current symptoms.

Homemade Flaxseed and Chia Crackers

Homemade flaxseed and chia crackersIngredients:

  • ½ cup ground flaxseed meal
  • ½ cup almond flour or almond meal
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2-3 tsp of choice of herbs/spices

*For this recipe, I used 1 tsp dried dill, 1 tsp dried basil, and 1 tsp garlic powder


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl
  3. Slowly add the water, mashing it into the dry ingredients as you go, to form a dough-like product
  4. Scoop the mixture onto the baking sheet and begin flattening out the dough with the back of a spoon. Place a second piece of parchment paper on the dough and use a rolling pin to smooth the dough until it is even and thin. Discard the top parchment paper when finished
  5. Using a knife, score the crackers in desired size and shape. This will allow them to break apart cleanly after baking
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, checking periodically to ensure they are not burning
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool before breaking apart. Store for up to two weeks in an airtight container

*Recipe adapted from:


  1. Hultin G. Health Benefits of Seeds.Today's Dietitian. 2021;23(1):44-48. 
  2. Kulczyński B, Kobus-Cisowska J, Taczanowski M, Kmiecik D, Gramza-Michałowska A. The Chemical Composition and Nutritional Value of Chia Seeds—Current State of Knowledge.Nutrients. 2019;11(6):1242. doi:10.3390/nu11061242 
  3. Marcinek K, Krejpcio Z. Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica): health promoting properties and therapeutic applications – a review.Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2017;68(2):123-129. 
  4. Buchanan R. Herb to Know: Flax. Mother Earth Living. Published 1995.
  5. Parikh M, Netticadan T, Pierce GN. Flaxseed: its bioactive components and their cardiovascular benefits.American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology. 2017;314(2):H146-H159.doi:10.1152/ajpheart.00400.2017 
  6. What Are Chia Seeds. Eat Right. Published January 25, 2021.
  7. McManus KD. Should I be eating more fiber? Harvard Health Publishing. Published February 21, 2019.
  8. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  9. Grancieri M, Martino HS, Gonzalez de Mejia E. Chia Seed (Salvia hispanica L.) as a Source of Proteins and Bioactive Peptides with Health Benefits: A Review.Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 2019;18:480-499. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12423 
  10. Chia Seeds vs. Flaxseeds. Bob's Red Mill. Published February 19, 2017.
  11. Parikh M, Maddaford TG, Austria JA, Aliani M, Netticadan T, Pierce GN. Dietary Flaxseed as a Strategy for Improving Human Health.Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1171. doi:10.3390/nu11051171 
  12. Bjarnadottir A. Flax Seeds 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Healthline. Published March 28, 2019.
  13. Shafie, S. R., Wanyonyi, S., Panchal, S. K., & Brown, L. (2019). Linseed Components Are More Effective Than Whole Linseed in Reversing Diet-Induced Metabolic Syndrome in Rats. Nutrients11(7), 1677. 
  14. Marton LT, Goulart Rde, Carvalho AC, Barbalho SM. Omega Fatty Acids and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: An Overview.International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2019;20(19):4851. doi:10.3390/ijms20194851 
  15. Know the flax (and the chia): A little seed may be what your diet needs. American Heart Association. Published July 19, 2019.
  16. Seed of the month: Flaxseeds. Harvard Health Publishing. Published March 2020.