Flax Seeds vs. Chia Seeds

Flax Seeds vs. Chia Seeds
4.45 (89.09%) 44 votes

Flax and chia seeds can both be considered superfoods, but which one has the edge?


Flax seeds have also been shown to slow prostate cancer, but which is healthier? Chi-chi-chi-chia, or flax?

Well, there are three reasons why people eat flax: the cardioprotective omega-3s, the cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, and the cancer-fighting lignans. Compared to chia seeds, flax has more omega-3s. But to my surprise, chia has significantly more fiber, which makes chia Obama very happy. Looks like lignans are going to be the decider.

Flax has always been considered so amazing because it has about a hundred times more cancer-fighting lignans than any plant in the world—until, evidently, chia seeds were tested. According to the website of “better than flax” Anutra brand chia seeds, chia has 25 times more lignans than flax.

That’s incredible! No really, that’s in-credible. I called them up, challenged them on it, and it turns out they lied. Flax is healthier. 

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

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Flax seeds have also been shown to slow prostate cancer, but which is healthier? Chi-chi-chi-chia, or flax?

Well, there are three reasons why people eat flax: the cardioprotective omega-3s, the cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, and the cancer-fighting lignans. Compared to chia seeds, flax has more omega-3s. But to my surprise, chia has significantly more fiber, which makes chia Obama very happy. Looks like lignans are going to be the decider.

Flax has always been considered so amazing because it has about a hundred times more cancer-fighting lignans than any plant in the world—until, evidently, chia seeds were tested. According to the website of “better than flax” Anutra brand chia seeds, chia has 25 times more lignans than flax.

That’s incredible! No really, that’s in-credible. I called them up, challenged them on it, and it turns out they lied. Flax is healthier. 

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

167 responses to “Flax Seeds vs. Chia Seeds

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    1. I don’t know about most diseases, but a 2011 review did conclude that “Studies proved that flaxseed has tremendous potential in disease prevention particularly cardiovascular disease (CVD), osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer (breast, colon, and prostate cancer), and constipation and also affects immunity favorably.” So listen to Nouh–two tablespoons a day!

      1. Hi Dr. Greger,

        I’m a pregnant vegan and I’m concerned about not getting enough Omega 3. The ob/gyn told me to stop taking algal oil because it’s not FDA regulated. So I’ve been having 1 tablespoon of chia seeds a day. The dietician told me yesterday to have chia seeds and flaxseeds everyday. I’m so confused! Are you saying she’s wrong about flaxseeds? And is a tablespoon of chia seeds enough Omega while I’m pregnant?

        1. Ronni, this was the dr.’s reply to someone up in the thread italics mine.
          “Michael Greger M.D. NF Team chewy • 10 months ago

          Not only safe, but extremely healthy! I would encourage you to eat them with your vegetables to enhance carotenoid consumption (and encourage you to eat other nuts and seeds). The only population that I would advise against flaxseed consumption is pregnant women.”

        2. Thanks for getting back to me via email. Sorry to read about morning sickness… medicine still hasn’t figured that one out. First congratulations on the vegan nutritional approach to pregnancy… you have already taken a huge step in avoiding exposure of your baby to persistent organic pollutants such as dioxin and endocrine disrupters and metals such as mercury and arsenic. Dr. Greger cites a study which says preliminary data suggests avoiding flax seed in last two trimesters of pregnancy to decrease preterm delivery…. see video http://nutritionfacts.org/video/breast-cancer-survival-and-lignan-intake/. Unfortunately the cited reference isn’t listed in under Sources Cited. It is very important to take Vitamin B12, insure adequate iodine and Folate. There is a book, The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book… I haven’t read but it might be worth a look. I would review the other video’s that Dr. Greger has on pregnancy and work with your Ob/Gyn to work out a program for you. As I mentioned my daughter had two very successful pregnancies but had to “show” her physicians that her protein intake was adequate as they were pushing meat/dairy… maybe they learned from her. Seems like avoiding flax for the last 2/3 of pregnancy is reasonable. Good luck with the pregnancy and congratulations.

      2. Hi!
        Many people have stopped eating crushed flaxseeds due to Hydrogen cyanide,the Swedish NFA says (on their website https://www.livsmedelsverket.se/livsmedel-och-innehall/oonskade-amnen/vaxtgifter/cyanogena-glykosider-och-vatecyanid) :
        The NFA can not give advice about what is a safe dose of ground flaxseed and advises one to refrain from eating ground flaxseed.

        I’m wondering if it really should be on the Daily Dozen,omega 3 is very importnat for vegans & everybody else… So I was thinking of chia seeds instead but your video doesn’t say if they need to be crushed or not for the omega 3 to be absorbed.
        It would be really great if one of the moderators/Gregor could clear this up,thanks!

    2. Thanks Doc for doing the research for us. Advertisement can be misleading. I trust your knowledge and I do appreciate everything u do for people. My grandfather was a GP and if he was alive I know he would thank u as well. I went to Mayo Clinic a few months ago and on my last appointment I seen the Mayo nutritionist. She told me to read your book. Keep up the great work doc.

  1. I learned about chia seeds only a few months ago. I had been buying and throwing away flax seeds for over a year. I just can’t make myself eat flax. I don’t like smoothies. I don’t like texture of flax seeds on things that I put them on. I just have them in my fridge until it is time to throw out. (Until recently when I started giving 2-3 tablespoons a day to my Great Dane who loves it.)

    So, I jumped on the idea of the chia seeds, but was really wondering if they were as healthy as the websites claim. This video answered two thirds of that question and I’m grateful.

    My thought would be: OK, so chia has only 80% of the omega 3s as flax – but if I will eat chia and not flax, then the one that is healthier is the one that I’m willing to eat. yes?

    It’s still something of a question for me because of the lignan issue. You say that flax has more lignans, but how much more? Do we know how many lignans are in chia seeds?

    Here’s another question: To get the nutrition from flax, you have to grind it up. I’ve been soaking the chia seeds over night. The seeds swell up and for the most part, get the consistency of tapioca (which I love). However, there is still a tiny, tiny hard spot in the center. So, am I absorbing all the nutrition I should be absorbing from chia seeds which are soaked overnight, but not ground up? Or is all the good parts of the chia seeds in that teeny tiny hard spot and my body won’t absorb it?


    1. You might consider flax oil. It doesn’t have the texture. I added it to my daughters soy milk when she was a toddler because she was not putting on weight to the Dr’s liking. She didn’t complain of any taste. ;)

      1. oh and I put my milled flax seeds in ground beef and don’t even notice its there. My family doesn’t either. So I sneak the extra fiber and nutrients into them. My friend’s very very picky eater son(textures and in general) that comes to my house often didn’t even notice.

    2. This comment is super old, but I had the same question about Chia lignan content, so I did some research. I haven’t read the studies cited in the article, but according to this article from Dr. Fuhrman’s website Flax has 85.5 mg/oz lignan content while Chia has 32 mg/oz. That would mean flax has about 2.6x more than Chia. Definitely a large boost. https://www.drfuhrman.com/learn/library/articles/13/fight-breast-cancer-with-flax-and-chia-seeds

      The question then becomes how much lignan consumption is recommended to see the various benefits it can provide.

  2. For anyone who is interested, here is the breakfast that I have been eating every morning for 2 months.

    Put the following in a bowl the night before and stir:
    * 2 tablespoons chia seeds (organic)
    * 1/3 cup thick rolled oats (organic)
    * 2/3 cup water
    * a good dash of vanilla extract (maybe a teespoon)
    * a large amount of date sugar (maybe 1/3 cup?)
    * a large amount of cocoa powder (maybe 1/4 to 1/3 cup?)
    * 2-3 teespoons of a nut butter. I’ve been experimenting with different flavors.
    * sometimes I also add one or more of the following: cinemamon, cloves, pumpkin pie spices, banana slices

    By the morning, it is the consistence of a nice thick oatmeal, but it has a taste and texture that beats plain oatmeal by a million miles!

    And it’s pretty healthy, right???

    1. I am on a similar track that I have been very pleased with. Try placing this in your cereal bowl at night:

      1/4 cup rolled oats
      A generous sprinkling of cinnamon (no sugar needed)
      Remove from freezer/fridge and add1 tablespoon each of
      – chia seeds
      – ground flax seeds
      – wheat germ
      – hemp hearts
      Add enough non-fat milk to make all above ingredients float
      Stir and let stand 5 minutes until milk is absorbed
      Place in fridge until breakfast time
      Warm in microwave for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes on high
      Add blueberries and plain Greek yogurt plus a little milk

      1. Milk? Yogurt? The vast majority of our dairy herds in the USA are infected with Bovine Leukemia Virus which strongly correlates with breast cancer as has been shown by Dr. G in several vids. There are plenty of other problems with dairy products that Dr. G has covered as well. Might want to avoid the dairy and go with a non-fat nut milk instead.

        Dr. Ben

  3. Flax seed question: Roasted Flax Seeds?

    I recently purchased a bag of flax seeds (admittedly: mostly for my dog, but some for me too) from Trader Joes. I guess I didn’t look very closely at the bag. It actually says, “Roasted Flax Seed”. The flax has a strong nutty smell – very strong compared to regular flax which I can’t smell at all.

    The back of the bag says, “Roasting the flax seeds reduces the natural moisture level in the seeds, resulting in 8-10% more fiber, Omega-3s and protein than regular flax.”

    Does this claim make sense to anyone?

    Also, even if the claim is true technically, I wonder if humans would actually benefit from this additional fiber and omega-3s? Wouldn’t some of that good stuff be destroyed in terms of bio-availability somehow through the cooking? I’m thinking about often hearing the advice that it is healthier to buy raw nuts and roast them ourselves. I’m not sure why, but I think it is because the roasting causes the good stuff in the nut to degrade faster??? Wouldn’t the same process apply to flax seed?

    Or maybe the issue with the roasting of flax seeds would only apply depending on the temperature of the roasting? I thought I remembered that Dr. Greger wrote somewhere that it is not temperature that affects the Omega-3s in flax, but exposure to oxygen – at least up to a certain temperature.

    Note that the bag does say, “Refrigerate After Opening”. If I did refrigerate, along with putting the seeds in an air-tight container, would the flax seeds stay fresh for a good long time even if they are roasted?

    Another related question: One of the reasons I give the ground up flax seed to my dog is that a vet said that flax seed has anti-inflammatory properties. I assume the same is true for humans. The question is, would roasting destroy the anti-inflammatory properties of flax seeds?

    Any thoughts?

    1. See if I can answer some of your questions. Ground Flax seed has many nutritional benefits. Dry Roasting seems to enhance the nutrient absorption of nuts see video http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/raw-food-diet-myths/ and since seeds are similar to nuts it might also apply. I’m not aware of any science to support. Roasting may drive out some water but seems to me since we want to avoid processed food it is more advisable to go with unroasted flax seeds. Of course you want to make sure you either grind the seeds or buy it already ground up. The seeds are very tough and the flax seeds will come out without contributing to your health. Flax is very healthy. I find that buying the ground flax meal and then refrigerating/freezing is the best way to keep it from spoiling. It does have antiinflammatory properties being high in Omega 3’s. Whether heat would destroy the antiinflammatory properties would depend on the temperature. I would stick with unroasted in the future until a study comes out supporting roasting flax seeds… keep tuned to Nutritionfacts.org…

    2. Hi JJ, I’m not well-informed on flax seed, but in many cases cooking foods, especially grains, can actually increase some nutrients’ bioavailabiltiy by breaking down materials that can interfere with the body’s ability to properly absorb important nutrients. As far as I’ve seen, roasted flax seeds are very beneficial. I imagine that you will indeed be getting the nutrients mentioned on the package, and may even be better off with roasted rather than raw. Until we know more information, maybe you can switch betwen raw and roasted. I’ll keep an eye out on this topic for a more informed answer. I hope this helps! Alexandra

  4. Well, Now I think I may be overdoing the Omega 3 thing. I use a big T dry of Chia seed in my morning smoothie and I still use a lot of Fish Oil. I have the same question as JJ. Also the lignan issue. How am I doing with the chia? And to share how I do it, I used to soak them up ahead of time, but became lazy, so I just put a glass of water in the bottom of the blender with a tablespoon of chia and run it on the lowest speed to stir. Let it sit while I get the vegis and fruit ready. Stir again and in goes everything else with some more water. It really only takes abt 5 minutes to start to gel. Just make sure it has enough water.

    1. Hello Lynn,
      I must address your use of fish oil, as I highly recommend stopping its use entirely! Fish oil does not reduce inflammation which is one of the main reasons people take it http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19623203
      Fish oil, similairly to fish, is the number one source of contaminants in the food supply and the distilling process to clean fish oil of heavy metals does not work.
      If you must supplement for omega 3, then take algae oil

      I have said this before in a previous comment, but I am not an advocate of consuming any oil since oil is essentially liquid fat with no nutrition. According to Dr. McDougall, “a condition of ‘essential fatty acid deficiency’ is essentially unknown in free-living populations….true essential fatty acid deficiency would result in: loss of hair, scaly dermatitis, capillary fragility, poor wound healing, increased susceptibility to infection, fatty liver, and growth retardation in infants and children.” Here is the full article http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2007nl/aug/oils.htm Although the algae oil may have the DHA, oil is still oil and not a whole plant food. I respect Dr. Greger’s statement of avoiding fish oil for its many contaminants and using algae oil as a substitute but is it really necessary to ingest any pure DHA in the form of an oil? After weighing it out, to me, it doesn’t seem necessary.

      1. Hi Tox! I was just surfing the new site and noticed you had talked to me a year ago. Thanks! I guess I missed it then, but am pleasantly surprised to see all the info you included. I might say I stopped the fish oil shortly after I posted that. I also read the report that it wasn’t doing any thing good for my heart. I also love what I have learned from Drs. Esselstyne and McDougall, etc. My Doctor is a McDougall-er, so am getting the NO OIL talk from him too. As long as I have some weight to come off I avoid nuts, olives, avacados, and other fatty vegan goodies. Of course I miss them, but must get the job done. Probably won’t go back to them in the long run. Funny how one gets used to a new way of living when willing! Huh?

  5. is it perfectly safe to eat 2 Tablespoons of pre-ground flaxseed daily for the long term?i am a gluten-free vegan who eats no other fats/seeds/nuts/avocados….i eat vegetables,beans,fruit,squash,brown rice/brown rice cakes/air popped organic popcorn.

    1. Not only safe, but extremely healthy! I would encourage you to eat them with your vegetables to enhance carotenoid consumption (and encourage you to eat other nuts and seeds). The only population that I would advise against flaxseed consumption is pregnant women.

  6. why should pregnant women avoid flaxseed?what is dangerous about eating it?i wish that i’d known this 9 years ago when i was pregnant! i ate 2 heaping tablespoons daily the entire pregnancy which was great by the way. 20 pounds on and off within a week of giving birth.

        1. Dr. Greger covered this in one of his videos. He mentions that there is an increased risk of stillbirth seen with flaxseed use when one is pregnant. I believe the video has not yet been released.

  7. A great breakfast:
    dump into a smallish saucepan:
    1/3 cup quinoa,
    1/3 cup steel cut oats,
    2 T. chia seeds,
    2 T. ground flaxseeds,
    1 t. cinnamon,
    1 t. ground cardamom,
    1 t. ground nutmeg
    1 sliced banana
    1 dash salt
    1 1/2 cup hot water
    Let it all soak for at least 15 minutes to overnight. Then simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring often. A splash of vanilla extract at the end is good, also.

      1.  What are your thoughts on the new book called
        “Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood” by Dr. Wayne Coates. ?

        After browsing in this book today, I found out that overall Chia seeds are better for you then flax seeds. He states that lignans are known to start and prevent cancer. So, from what i understood and maybe you can clarify is lignans are good but how much?

        I found this book very informative as i take about a TBSP of chia seeds with my oatmeal w/almond milk and cinnamon. yummie. Just set it in the fridge for about 10-15mins… its sooo good.

      2. Hi Dr. Greger…
        Here’s my Morning Smoothie

        Few Blackberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries
        1 Pitaya or Dragonfruit
        1 Kiwi
        1 Apple
        350ml Green Tea (Cold Steep)
        2 to 3 Cloves of Garlic (Organic)
        Pinch of All Spice, Cayenne, Black Paepper, Turmeric
        1/8 tsp Freshly Ground Cloves

    1. No need to replace it, just leave it out. However, I bet blueberries (or some other fruit, like diced apples) would work great, too!

    2. Thanks for sharing this amazing breakfast! We fell instantly in love with this the first time I made it. I have a food blog and will be posting this on there very soon! A batch is simmering on the stove right now.

  8. regarding your interview with dr fuhrman:are you more in agreement with dr fuhrman’s eat to live and his inclusion of nuts/seeds and not in agreement with dr esselstyn and dr mcdougall?i definitely got that impression in regards to eating nuts/seeds. 2 TAblespoons of ground flaxseed is the only added fat i eat daily with my vegetables,fruit,beans and starchy vegetable/grain.is 2T a fine amount?thank you!

  9. No study that I am aware of shows harm from eating two tablespoons of ground flax seed a day. You need to look at recommendations of the “experts” based on the best science, the populations involved and what the goals of the patient are. Dr. Esselstyn deals with patients who have heart disease a different population than the “normal” population that showed value in consumption of nuts in the primary prevention of heart disease http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/halving-heart-attack-risk/. He himself eats nuts/seeds. Dr. McDougall also accepts the consumption of nuts/seeds which are whole plant foods. As he and Jeff Novick RD point out if you are trying to decrease your body fat consuming foods that are high in caloric density (2800 cal/# for nuts) isn’t a good choice. Dr. McDougall emphasizes starch intake due to meeting caloric requirements in populations. He does support the consumption of a wide range of vegetables. For all these “experts” you need to evaluate their claims based on the best science. All the information about antioxidants is hopeful but understanding it both within populations and for the individual patient requires assumptions that are effected by many considerations. So you have to beware of sweeping generalizations that aren’t supported by the scientific literature. It is challenging to make sense of it all. Sounds like your diet is consistent with the best current science but keep tuned to NutritionFacts.org as the science is constantly changing.

  10. Ground flaxseed have (or is it has?) 37 calories and 3 grams fat per tablespoon. Not too much for me.
    Nutrition is like religion. The research becomes the bible and just about every idea can be backed up by research, as folks do with bible verses. We follow our nutrition gurus as we do with our religious leaders, with faith.

    1. I think folks hang on to their beliefs about how they should eat almost as hard as they hang on to their religious beliefs. I think the difference is that there is science on which to base how and what you eat as well as which “guru” you should follow. We tend to navigate our complex world through our beliefs which can be based on information, stories, relationships and goals. Since science is constantly changing our beliefs are constantly tested against the newest information until at times we get to the point of shifting our beliefs. For instance I once believed that “Milk does the body good” currently I believe that it does the body harm and often contains poisonous substances. My new belief drives me to eat, shop and cook in a different way. If a “religious” text were to tell me to eat milk I would ignore unless given information to shift my belief. Religion is not being exposed to new science and most religious texts were written at a time when scientific paradigms or beliefs were wrong. So when selecting your belief system about eating I would go with the science keeping current via sites like NutritionFacts.org. In picking guru’s I would be cautious especially if they have vested self interests in what they are “selling”. Of course beyond the health aspect is the issue of what we eats effects the environment and the suffering of animals. You might be interested in the YouTube video by Dr. Melanie Joy, Carnism: The Psychology of Eating Meat, that provides an interesting view on the non health aspects of eating. Be well.

      1. Just a passing thought… the Bible( one religious text)
        does not say to drink milk. God did say he would lead his people into a land flowing with milk and honey, but that could mean the health of humans(breast milk) and abundance of plants(that bees use to make honey). Sorry, but I just hate to see people try to say the Bible is not “scientific”. Our creator is the ultimate scientist!

  11. Should chia seeds be ground like flax seeds, or is it best to soak them first before consuming? Also, why should pregnant women avoid flaxseed?


    1.  A coffee grinder may do the job. Pre ground flax seeds are much easier and nutrients are still stable in pre ground flax seed unless expired.

      1. I found a brand that uses sprouted flax seeds!  Is this worth the extra money?  They claim the sprouting method increases nutrients, increases absorption, and breaks down the enzyme inhibitors.

        I thought that preground flax goes rancid and oxidizes?

        1.  Sprouting is more of a diet fad then any real boost to health.

          “The magnitude of the nutritional improvement is, however,
          influenced by the type of cereal, seed quality, sprouting conditions,
          and it is not large enough to account for in feeding experiments with
          higher animals.”


          “Sprouting of grains causes increased enzyme activity, a loss of
          total dry matter, an increase in total protein, a change in amino acid
          composition, a decrease in starch, increases in sugars, a slight
          increase in crude fat and crude fiber, and slightly higher amounts of
          certain vitamins and minerals. Most of the increases in nutrients are
          not true increases, however. They simply reflect the loss of dry matter,
          mainly in the form of carbohydrates, due to respiration during
          sprouting. As total carbohydrates decreases, the percentage of other
          nutrients increases.”

           Yes pre ground can go rancid and oxidize but this is why you should keep it refrigerated until expiration.

          1. A fad? I’ve never heard that. All my research has shown that it is significantly healthier and more optimal…ugh, nutrition is so confusing!

            Re flax: so it is better to buy a bag of WHOLE seeds and grind them myself prior to usage…or is buying a bag of preground and keeping it in the fridge/freezer ok?

            1. The studies I presented are worth looking into regarding sprouting. Advocates tend to misconstrue the data. Buying a bag of pre ground flax is just fine.

            2. Nutrition tends to be quite straightforward when you focus on current peer-reviewed scientific studies (i.e., preponderance of evidence) and reject non-sourced statements (conjecture and hearsay).

  12. I cant agree with this assment of flax seed. how can a product that is a common carrier used in oil paint be healthier than chia?

    1. Water is a common carrier in water-based paints… so using your same analogy, one might conclude that water is not healthy. Science does not operate by analogy – it operates by evidence and observation. Perhaps decisions based on current scientific studies might prove more fruitful than those based on analogy and conjecture.

  13. I would say that if you enjoy flax seeds, stick with it. My only concern is that flax seed, when not ground fresh for use is susceptible to oxidation – particularly the omega 3 fatty acids. Chia is easily digested, though with about 20 % less Omega 3 – I wonder if chia might ultimately have more biologically available omega 3 in the end due to it’s more bio-available O-3s. When I make my morning smoothie it includes 3 oz of spinach, 3 oz of assorted kale (seasonally available here in Georgia and a cup of mixed frozen berries blended with some soy milk (deliberately not in a vitamix to retain more fiber) then I mix in 2 tbsp of chia, which absorbs up to 30x it’s weight in water and gives you a major load of fiber. Mix it together, let sit and mix again in fie minutes, let sit and consume fifteen or more minutes later. I call it time released water and nutrition throughout the morning and early afternoon. I’d be interested to see Dr Greger’s point of view on the oxidation factor in O-3 availability, as it is more or less just my own theory and I’d appreciate learned counsel. Also, I can’t get past the taste of linseed oil. hah

  14. Sorry, have scanned through the comments and cannot seem to find the answer to how to ensure to get all of the nutrients out of chia seeds. Are the best to soak, grind or will the nutrients be released by our own digestive juices? I’ve bought organic seeds but want to ensure that I’m not missing out on the nutrition & it is not just passing through if you catch my drift?

    1. It is best to grind the chia seeds to get the benefits. If not that, then you have to chew each and every individual seed to break through the tough cell wall.

  15. Flax seeds have goitrogens , chia seeds don’t , so chia seeds are better considering the prevalence of hypothyroidism ….

  16. Hi Dr. Greger…
    Here’s my Morning Smoothie

    Few Blackberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries
    1 Pitaya or Dragonfruit
    1 Kiwi
    1 Apple
    350ml Green Tea (Cold Steep)
    2 to 3 Cloves of Garlic (Organic)
    Pinch of All Spice, Cayenne, Black Paepper, Turmeric
    1/8 tsp Freshly Ground Cloves

    2 tbsp Flaxseed
    1/2 tbsp sunflower seed
    10 pcs almonds

    all freshly ground

  17. Isn’t a good reason for chia over flax calcium, though? I’ve been eating ground flax every day in my breakfast cereal or in my smoothies for a long time but I recently decided to do chia instead because chia seeds have some 16% to 18% calcium and iron, but ground flax only has 4% of each of those in 2 tablespoons. I find it hard to get enough calcium without making choices to incorporate more, like picking chia over flax. In my attempts to find high-calcium foods I saw in the bulk isle that chia has a lot of calcium and it seemed natural to jump ships.

  18. I was looking for something beside ground flax seed to take. The reason is that when I take ground flax it stops me up big time….and yes I do drink water about 2 to 3qts a day. I am vegan so I really dont know what to do. Was taking 2tbs a day with my salad in the evening. I am a breast cancer survivor and have high triglycerides at 187 but that is better then 2 years ago when it was 258 before I went vegan. Its going down slowly was hoping flax would help. Anyone else have this problem with flax? Thanks

    1. Do you mean it causes you constipation? This would be very odd, as flax is not a low fiber food, but is actually quite high in fiber. Do you mix it with with other foods, such as oatmeal?

      1. I have a hard time going to the bathroom when I use flax not hard stool its soft but hard to come out, and i go very little once a day, strange as it may seem. But when I do not use it I have my normal BM’s twice a day without any problems. I do mix it with other food like my large dinner salads or sprinkled in my homemade vegan soup. Only like oatmeal with sugar and butter and since I do not eat butter or processed foods like sugar I stay away from it. Was wondering maybe I need more water say a qt 30min after a meal..just guessing. Thanks :)

        1. That is very strange, and I wonder if it truly is the flax causing your digestive “back up”.

          PS. I have oatmeal every morning for breakfast, and what I find to be very tasty is when I have bananas, date sugar (ground dates), walnuts, raisins, ground flax and ceylon cinnamon. The large walnut halves taste almost buttery to me. Also, THICK rolled oats makes the whole difference and tastes far better then regular rolled and much better then quick.

    2. Try cutting to 1T, and have it in the morning instead of evening since you’ll be moving all day. Go from there as far as dose.

  19. I love flax, but I also take a teaspoon of chia every day. My triglycerides have been really high, and I have been told that chia may be the culprit. Is there any truth to this?

  20. Can someone please clarify the actual amount of lignans in chia vs flax? This video uncharacteristically leaves one wanting for the actual stats and simply states flax is better. Come on doc! ;)

  21. Not totally relevant for this video but can’t find a more suitable – what about hemp seeds? How do they compare to flax and chia seeds? Hulled or not hulled?

  22. Would it be too much to have two tablespoons of flax and two tablespoons of chia a day?
    If so, would having one tablespoon of chia and one tablespoon of flax be a healthier balance(with the fiber) compared to two tablespoons of flax a day?

    Thank you!

  23. For men, flax oil is a not good. Starting taking it 4 months ago (Udo’s Oil) at 1 tbsp per day. Started noticing more belly fat. Since it’s the only thing I changed, it’s not good for guys. Can’t find much info about chia’s effect.

      1. Seeds are the same as oil. The only good thing about seeds is that the oil inside does not go rancid as fast as the pressed oil. As an update – after a further 5 months of NOT taking any flax, I’ve lost all the fat that I had gained while on the flax oil. I have been taking fish oil and chia instead and that has done the trick for me. Flax is bad news.

        1. While I think you are going in the right direction to consider flax, I think there is great benefit from consuming the whole item, as opposed to an extraction. Flax seeds contain a number of benefits that the oil does not contain. Consider reading the book, “Whole,” by T. Colin Campbell. The oil is not the same as the seed. It is an extract. We know that plant extracts are not as healthy as the whole plant itself. This can be seen in a number of examples with different plants.

          1. there are studies that back up my experience as well. Flax is bad. End of story. There are no benefits to flax that can not be gained by using other alternatives.

            1. The anti-cancer benefits of flax are the deciding factor for me since I had cancer in 2001 followed by surgery and radiation. I have not had a recurrence yet and hope to keep it that way. I still think you would find the book “Whole” interesting in your nutritional searches. Also, your weight gain was caused by oil–not the seed itself–so we really don’t know if the seed would cause a weight gain for you.

              1. no, both the oil and fiber are unhealthy. Flax is known to cause cancer – not cure it. A close relative died of cancer – only later did we realize that it started after a health kick of using lots of flax. And there are studies to this effect – only later and too late did we come across them

        2. You would have to eat a LOT of flax seeds to equal the same amount of fat in 1 TBLS of flax oil. Or even 1 tsp for that matter. The seeds win out !!!!

  24. I am wondering if bought ground flax seeds reduce the anti oxidant, vitamin and/or mineral quality or content compared to whole flax seeds?
    I know that this is true of ready sliced vegetables, can the same be said for seeds?

    1. From all that i have read it is by far the best to ground your flax seed daily – once a week is a good second best, lots better than buying them already that way. After grinding refrigerate if not eating them soon.

  25. I was wondering whether or not buying ground flax seeds reduce the anti oxidant, vitamin and/or mineral quality or content compared to whole flax seeds?
    I know that this is true of ready sliced vegetables, can the same be said for seeds?

  26. Hello, I just want to verify, I’m ok to continue with the 2 Tbs of Chia and I can just add the 2 Tbs of Flax seeds. It should more than enough of what they both offer correct?

  27. But surely chia seeds aren’t bad !!? Chia are better for fibre, calcium, and phosphorus, as well being a complete protein. So surely they are both good in their own ways for a healthy diet? Does it matter if one has more lignans than the other?

    1. Kaz: The video is not saying chia is bad. Not at all! The video is saying that flax has an “egde” on health because of the lignans. Does it matter? Well, if lignans are responsible for fighting cancer, then flax may be healthier in that respect over chia. It doesn’t mean that chia is not also very healthy. Does that help?

      Personally, I use both flax and chia. I try to incorporate flax into my diet for the range of known health benefits from flax. But chia works better in some recipes than flax in my opinion. So, I use chia when the situation calls for it, knowing that chia is also a very healthy food. Just sharing.

      1. Many thanks Thea – yes that is how I use flax and chia seeds, a mix! To me the video came across as being negative on chia which was a bit confusing.

  28. The Daily Dozen app has Chia Seeds listed under the 1/4 cup serving of nuts per day, but surely 1/4 cup of chia seeds is not being suggested, is it?

  29. Ground flaxseed is usually suggested, on the premise that unground passes through the digestive tract undigested. So does fiber. I eat the whole flaxseed, chewing them up as best I can, thinking that the satiety of eating them and letting them pass through undigested, and the cleansing from larger stools as with fiber, is a good thing. I simply eat more of them, so that I chew enough of them to get the nutritional benefit as well. Surely our ancestors ate a lot of seeds similarly, with much benefit. Comments? Dr. Greger?

  30. Hi, My age is 30, height is 5′ 7” and weight is 55 kgs. So i am underweight. Should i eat chia seeds to get required nutritions….can it cause more weight loss or helps me in gaining weight…

    1. Vishal- a few thoughts for you.. Your weight is at the lower end of normal BMI range. If you have always been slender and come from slender heritage… Then I wouldn’t worry too much about needing to gain weight. Unless it bothers you. If you want to gain weight there are some good recommendations listed below to help you. Chia seeds won’t give you all the necessary nutrients, but a well rounded diet will. In Dr. Greger’s book, How Not To Diet, he has a daily dozen recommendation that is really helpful in guiding and balancing your daily food choices to meet all your nutrition requirements. There is also an app called Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen which is great too!!


  31. does anyone know of any solid information on whether Chia seeds or Flax seeds can produce a false positive on a Drug Test? I am tested randomly at my job of 16 years and dont want to lose it! thanks for any info. so far I find conflicting stories online. thanks!

  32. Ground flax seeds are recommended to not be eaten at all by the National Food Agency of Sweden (not translated but here is the source: http://www.livsmedelsverket.se/livsmedel-och-innehall/oonskade-amnen/vaxtgifter/cyanogena-glykosider-och-vatecyanid/). The reason is because they contain cyanogenic glycosides and hydrogen cyanide. So perhaps the lignans of flax are great and all, but if you ground them and consider their omega-3 and mineral values, you would also have to consider their toxicity, right?

    Since chia seeds are a lot more palatable than flax (though flax mix well with coconut), I’m not so sure about flax winning here. Would be great to have an update on flax and cyan*.

  33. Dr. Greger,
    What about someone who cannot have flax seeds?
    I have tried to consume ground flax seeds daily for several weeks at a time, and each time, it has resulted in severe cystic acne. I already have sensitive skin and a have had acne my entire adult life, but it’s mostly under control with a clean diet and a variety of dietary restrictions (no dairy, grains – especially wheat in any form).
    However, several health foods other people consume all result in several cystic acne for me – flax and coconut oil especially.
    Can you think of another way for me to get more Omega 3s into my diet without these side-effects? I’m guessing the problem is the phytoestrogens in flax, but I don’t know of any other options.
    Thanks for any help, you website is a great resource!

    1. Hi andreaser, I’m Dr Renae Thomas and I am one of the medical moderators :) Other high omega three foods you could try include leafy greens (especially purslane), hemp seeds, chia seeds and walnuts.

  34. My former naturopath used to tell me that the fiber in flaxseeds was an obstacle to the absorption of its Omega 3 and that I’d better eat omega 3 fish capsules, instead…what do you think about the absorption matter?

    1. The issue is really about whole vs ground flaxseed. Whole flaxseeds aren’t broken down in the digestive tract which means that the beneficial omega 3’s inside the seed are trapped. By using ground flaxseed or flaxmeal you solve this problem.

  35. Can anyone site a study or give me an estimate on the absorbability of calcium and other minerals found in chia seeds?
    Some websites enjoy scaring people into thinking the minerals in chia seeds are worthless because of the phytic acid – does anyone have any numbers for me? Is soaking and activating them overnight enough to guarantee absorption?


    1. Dan: I’m not sure about the absorption of minerals in chia seeds, but NutritionFacts has a lot of information about phytates / phytic acid. I think this information will help. If not, please repost your question and maybe someone else will have an answer you find more helpful. http://nutritionfacts.org/?fwp_search=phytates&fwp_content_type=video (Note that there is even a video on phytates and osteopenia – which maybe bones on the way to having osteoporosis. I bring this to you attention because you specifically mentioned calcium above, which is usually a bone concern for people.)

        1. Andrew: Here is a quote from WebMD on the definition of osteopenia:

          “Osteopenia refers to bone density that is lower than normal peak density but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. Bone density is a measurement of how dense and strong the bones are. If your bone density is low compared to normal peak density, you are said to have osteopenia. Having osteopenia means there is a greater risk that, as time passes, you may develop bone density that is very low compared to normal, known as osteoporosis.”

          In that light, in shorthand, one might say (or at least I said) osteopenia is potentially: bones on the way to getting osteoporosis. Even if you don’t like the wording I used, hopefully you now get the gist of what I was trying to say.

          Thanks for asking for the clarification.

    2. Hi Dan, I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. Thank you for your question–I think it is an excellent one. First, it is certainly possible that the phytic acid in chia seeds may be responsible for decreased absorption of minerals. However, even excluding the high mineral content of chia seeds, they are still very healthy foods, containing omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. More importantly, I think that especially for individuals eating very whole plant-based diets, that our focus should not typically be aimed at getting specific nutrients. Our focus should instead be on consuming a wide variety of whole plant foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables, but also legumes, grains, nuts, seeds.

  36. Hello friendlyericn. Interesting question! I’m a dietitian and volunteer moderator with NF.org. Although chia and flax are incredibly healthy foods, they aren’t either pre or probiotics. If we break this down, by definition, probiotics are good bacteria that provide health benefits to us (that rules out flax and chia which are seeds); prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that act as “food” for probiotics. It seems reasonable to speculate that chia and flax might be prebiotics but there are specific scientific criteria for a food to be called a prebiotics. Common prebiotics include:
    Fructo-oligosaccarides (FOS) or fructans and
    Galacto-oligosaccardes (GOS)
    Inulin is a type of FOS is found in: artichokes, bananas, garlic, leeks, asparagus, tomatoes, onions, barley, rye, whole grains, chicory and dandelion root. GOS is rich in dried beans, peas, lentils and soy as well as cashews and pistachios.
    Hope this helps!

  37. I’m taking ground flax seed in my oatmeal and chia seeds in my soup for the omega 3 (to combat Dry Eye). Would it be better for me to purchase whole flax seeds and grind them at home? How much of the potency in ground flax seed is lost by sitting in the bins at the store before I bag it up and buy it?

    1. Hi, Mo. I would probably not buy ground flax from bulk bins. If you are going to buy ground flax, buy it in sealed bags, so that it has not been exposed as much to air. You can also buy whole flax seeds and grind them yourself in a coffee grinder or high-speed blender. I buy ground flax seeds in sealed bags, and keep them in the freezer after opening. I hope that helps!

  38. I have a question about flax seeds. I buy flax seeds and grind them myself. I have been told that i have to keep it in the fridge. Is this true? I have also a question about chia seeds. Should i grind them and keep them also in the fridge?

  39. Hi Avgi,

    I am a moderator for Dr. Greger. From my knowledge, refrigerating flaxseeds may extend their freshness. Regarding chia seeds, absorption may improve slightly with ground chia seeds versus whole, but this is not as important as it is for flaxseeds.

    Hope this helps!

  40. You should Look into Ahiflower oil 4x more effective than Flaxseeds or Chia seeds. Clean Machine Nutrition has a good one.

  41. Hey Dr. Greger, or whomever may be responding for him!

    There are some folks out there claiming that flax seeds are pro-estrogenic and anti-testosterone and that men should avoid eating flax. They claim flax can lower testosterone by up to 89%. I have not seen the data to support these claims and was hoping you could shed some light on the issue.


    1. Trevor:

      In the following post, Dr Jon notes the many known positive benefits of flax. At the same time, flax may lower testosterone in humans, but not by much: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/best-foods-to-improve-sexual-function/#comment-256856

      TG points out in the following post that the amounts we are talking about may be human-normal levels and not really “low” levels and that the levels in question show no harm: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/best-foods-to-improve-sexual-function/#comment-257117

      I hope this helps.

  42. I’m taking oral birth control (combination pill) and I’ve heard that flax might interfere with its effectiveness. Is that true and does Chia do the same thing? If so, is there any other source of Omega 3 I should consider that will not make my hormonal birth control less effective?

  43. Hi Alex,

    I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. Thanks so much for your question.

    I am not aware of omega 3-rich foods interfering with the effectiveness of your birth control. However, there is some indication that taking birth control can limit the effectiveness of omega 3 supplements to lower triglyceride levels. But I see no reason to stop consuming foods like flax or chia seeds. Walnuts are another great source of omega 3 fatty acids. As always though, and since I do not know the precise birth control you are referring to be sure to ask your physician about any possible interactions.

    I hope this helps to answer your question!

  44. Per this site, which I love….I added ground flax seeds to my oatmeal a week ago. I have always added, chia, walnut, sliced almonds and cinnamon. After about a week, I developed breast pain on one side, in one area. It was painful. I’m post menopausal so, this surprised me.

    I googled the problem and found out that it could be caused by a fatty acid imbalance.

    I only use about a teaspoon of each ground flax and chia. I add a palm full of walnuts. All I am aware have omega 3’s.

    So, I stopped using the flax and chia but kept the walnuts. It took 5 days of not eating both of them for the pain to go away.

    Before I added the ground flax, I had been eating chia (and walnuts) every day for over a year. That’s how I deduced that it could very well be the fault of the additional flax.

    So, I wonder if having them at different times during the day would help? Maybe it was an omega 3 overload at breakfast after a 12 hour fast?

    For now, I’m just adding the walnuts and either flax or chia but not both at the same time and I’ll see what happens.

    Any thoughts?


    1. I don’t know about your particular issue. But I do know that almonds are VERY high in omega-6. So eating almonds will probably prevent you from getting the benefits that omega-3-rich foods will give you.

  45. My Swedish friends and family members are extremely concerned about me eating ground flax seeds – The Livsmedelsverket (kind of like the Swedish FDA) has said that flax contains cyanide – especially when ground up – and they recommend to avoid it. I would love to hear other’s thoughts about this. Should I be worried?

  46. Here is a response one of our other moderators authored which I think you will find reassuring: “The following answer from Tuffs University is helpful in evaluating this question:
    Lynne M. Ausman, DSc, RD, director of the Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition Program at Tufts’ HNRCA Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, says you have nothing to worry about. Many foods, including not only flax but cashews, almonds, some beans and other plant products, naturally contain very small amounts of cyanide compounds. You’re more likely to ingest these trace amounts of cyanide when such foods are consumed raw, as heat breaks down the compounds. Even when flaxseed is eaten raw, the body has a natural capacity to break down a certain amount of these cyanide compounds. A 1994 study found that, in healthy individuals, daily consumption of as much as 60 grams of raw flaxseed—more than eight tablespoons—was safe” http://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/7_8/ask-experts/ask-tufts-experts_1157-1.html
    Since Dr. Greger recommends only 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed in his Daily Dozen recommendations, it seems to me that it is all good – a large safety margin and a huge amount of potential benefit from the flax. For the gritty details, check out: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4754328/
    I hope that is helpful.

  47. I recently had surgery and the surgeon told me to stop all flax (seeds, oil, powder) one week prior, he said because it causes thinning blood….are there studies showing that this is true?
    What does Dr. Gregor have to say about this?

  48. Hi, is it a MUST to ground chia seeds before consuming, or it is OK to eat them whole as well? I need an expert answer, please. I have an argument on this with other vegan friends…

      1. Thanks. Yes, I know flax seeds are better.
        But what happens if someones eats the chia seeds without grounding them first?
        Are they coming out as they are coming in… without being digested at all…? And no nutrients get absorbed what so ever?
        Or – do they get somewhat digested and some of it gets absorbed after all?
        I was told the first option is the correct one, so I want to be sure before I spread the word to those who are promoting it… :-)

        1. Hi Karen!

          Through my research I have found that unlike flax, both whole and ground chia seeds have equal nutrition. I found a few studies, such as this one, that find no difference between whole vs ground chia seeds. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to consume ground chia seeds, but if whole is easier or more convenient, then that will work just as well!

          1. Hi curiotara,
            I replied too fast…
            Looking at the study you attached – is it looking only at Incorporation of the seeds into food products and how they may effect attenuate postprandial glycemia.

            I do not care about their “Incorporation into food products” or of their “effect of attenuate postprandial glycemia”.
            I care about them being stuck in the Intestines, if not grounded…
            If one puts them in liquid to and consume as a kind of a “pudding”:
            Are they coming out of the body as they are coming into it, as my friend suggests?
            Are they being digested at all this way…?
            Are the nutrients then get absorbed at all this way…?

            I’d be very happy to hear what Dr. Greger says about it, as I find no value in specific “reductionist” studies checking effects of chia seeds, and do not talk about how they are being digested…


            1. Karin- You needn’t worry about receiving no nutrients from whole chia seeds. Some studies have indicated you get more nutrient absorption if you grind the seeds, but but they certainly don’t emerge intact from the GI system (which you’ll know when you put them in your mouth and they are absorbed with liquid). I checked PubMed to give you a more exact answer, searching for bioavailabilty of chia seed nutrients. Only one relevant study came up but the researchers only worked with ground flax seed, indicating positive nutrients were absorbed, but they did not use whole seeds. Bioaccessibility of Phenolic Compounds and Antioxidant Capacity of Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) Seeds.

              Another study might be more relevant, even though it involved another kind of seed. IF you’re just concerned the hull around the see is dissolving so nutrients are available, this study might be reassuring:

              Effect of whole and ground Salba seeds (Salvia Hispanica L.) on postprandial glycemia in healthy volunteers: a randomized controlled, dose-response trial.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23778782

              It sounds like you’re well aware chia seeds can provide nutients and we know the chia seed hulls are broken down by the GI system. Perhaps mechanicaly grinding can enhance bioavailabilty, but you are still obtaining most of those nutrients with whole seeds, so it’s your choice if you really like them whole, enjoy!

  49. So I’ve been happily eating my ground flax seed for several months and only now noticed on the bag “refrigerate after opening”. How important is it keep ground flax refrigerated? Tastes fine ;-)

  50. Flax should be refrigerated to ensure it retains the polyunsaturated fatty acids. :)

  51. I am confused. I looked up the omega-3 content of one ounce of each in ground form and found chia: 5 g Omega-3 and Flax: 3.9 g Omega-3 . The ratio of the two is 1.28, so chia is 28% higher than flax not the other way around as presented in the video. Something is off.

    1. Hi, Zed! I would double check your source to be sure the two did not get mixed up. I just looked up the omega-3 fatty acid content of 1 ounce of chia seeds and flax seeds using http://nutritiondata.self.com/ and found 4.92 grams for chia and 6.39 for flax. According to this information, flax has about 29% more omega-3 fatty acids, which is close to the amount suggested in the video above.

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