Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Chia and Flax Seeds
By Florencia Tagliavini, Nutritionist
Inflammation is a root cause of many chronic diseases that we see today. If you’re looking to decrease inflammation and achieve optimal health, you may want to include chia or flax seeds in your diet. These anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense seeds are very valuable and easy to find and use.
They are both rich sources of plant-based Omega 3’s (ALA: Alpha-linoleic acid) and have a good ratio of Omega 6 (which is the pro-inflammatory fatty acid) to Omega 3 (which is the anti-inflammatory fatty acid). When we think about inflammation in the body, we are looking to achieve a balance between the two effects. Inflammation is essential for our survival. It is our body’s first line of defense against any foreign invaders. Inflammation helps protect our bodies from infection and injury but it can also cause severe damage and contribute to disease when the inflammatory response is inappropriate or excessive. Today we consume a diet very high in Omega 6 fatty acids partly due to the highly processed products in our diets. Vegetable oils are high in Omega 6 and since they are inexpensive they are widely used in food processing and manufacturing.
We can shift towards an anti-inflammatory diet by lowering the amount of Omega 6 that we consume from processed and packaged foods. Read labels and cut back on foods that contain corn, soybean, peanut, sunflower, safflower oils or appear as vegetable oil. Use olive oil as your primary oil for cooking instead of vegetable oil. If you need to use very high heat or if you are frying something for example, try coconut oil. Respect the daily serving sizes recommended for nuts and seeds and include good sources of Omega 3’s in your diet.
Both Flax and Chia seeds are comparable in their nutritional make up, offering similar amounts of Omega 3’s, protein, and fiber.
Flaxseeds are especially rich in lignans which are antioxidants that have many benefits and are well known for their effect in balancing hormones. In order to get the nutritional benefits of flax seeds you need to break the hard outer shell of the seed. You can do this by grinding them or chewing them very thoroughly.
Chia seeds are a little higher in fiber and calcium than flax seeds. Chia seeds do not need to be ground up to use. You can add them whole to smoothies, baked goods, sprinkle them on top of cereal or yogurt. My favorite way to prepare chia seeds is letting them soak for a few hours in any type of plant-based milk like coconut or almond milk and making chia pudding.
Both flax and chia seeds are great addition to a healthy diet and those especially worried about getting too much omega 6, like Paleo followers. Add these to help balance the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio in your diet! Check out our smoothie and smoothie bowl recipes and add chia or flax seeds to make them even more nutritious!
Here’s another helpful article about the benefits of flax: 9 Fantastic Benefits of Flaxseed.