Super Seeds: The Difference Between Hemp, Chia and Flax Seeds

illustration of a hand sprinkling seeds

A question on many people’s lips, and one that dietician Emily Hardman often gets asked, is:
‘isn’t hemp marijuana?’.
“The answer is ‘no’,” explains Emily. “Hemp comes from the plant species cannabis sativa and contains very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
THC has a strong psychoactive effect; however, because the levels are very low in hemp seeds/oil, they are safe to eat”. In fact, hemp seeds have similar nutritional properties to other seeds and nuts (such as flax seeds, chia seeds and sunflower seeds) and are a great source of protein, healthy fats, fibre and micronutrients. As part of a healthy and balanced diet different types of nuts or seeds can be beneficial for the health of your gut health, your heart and in aiding digestion and strengthening your immune system. 

We take a look at some ‘super seeds’ to give you a better understanding of their healthful benefits (and by that we mean their superpowers). 

Chia seeds

Cultivated from the salvia hispanica plant (which is in the mint family) from Central America, chia seeds are high in fibre and can be used to replace eggs (when mixed with water) in vegan cooking. “Looking at chia seeds per 100g, they contain around 20g of protein, 26g of polyunsaturated fat and 3g of monounsaturated fat (the healthy fats), and 38g of fibre,” says Emily. 

Flax seeds

Derived from the flax plant, you may know them as linseeds – they’re the same thing by a different name. Not only are flax seeds a great addition to salads and in baking but the fibres are used for making the textile linen. Per 100g, flax seeds contain around 18g of protein, 29g of polyunsaturated fat and 8g of monounsaturated fat and 27g of fibre. 

Hemp seeds

Great as a salad topper or smoothie ingredient, hemp seeds contain the highest amount of protein out of the three seeds. “Hemp seeds per 100g contain around 30g of protein, 36g of polyunsaturated fat and 6g of monounsaturated fat and 10g of fibre. “I absolutely love using hemp – both the seeds and oil,” says Emily. “I also love to make salad dressings using hemp oil, tahini and lemon juice – it is delicious.”

For more great ways to incorporate seeds into your cooking, head to our recipes page.