Chia, Flax, Hemp: Your Healthy Guide to Using Seeds in Your Recipes

You may be on the lookout for the latest nutrition trends, but when you’re walking in the grocery store and see nothing but “whole grain and flax seed bread” or “chia nut bars,” you start to wonder what exactly these “healthy” ingredients are supposed to do for you. We chatted with nutritionists to get the lowdown on what seeds to try and what they’ll actually do for you. So before you blindly grab a bag of sesame seed nut muffins, read on:

Chia

Chia seeds have been popping up all over the nutritional news lately as a superfood you need to add to your diet–and for good reason. Deborah Orlick Levy M.S., R.D. and Carrington Farms Health and Nutrition Consultant, says chia seeds “are an excellent source of omega-3s and possess even more fiber than flax seeds, which helps to satisfy hunger longer. They contain high levels of antioxidants and are a good source of calcium and magnesium for bone health.” Originally sourced from Mexico, these tiny black seeds should be soaked in water before consumption and can be added to yogurt, smoothies or added to baked goods, like muffins.
Try: Apple Mug-Muffins with Chia Seeds

Flax

Considering these seeds have been known to be one of the healthiest foods in the world, you may want to get your hands on some. These high-fiber, low-carb seeds are actually a grain, but they’re safe to eat even if you eat gluten-free. Wellness coach and author of Diet Diagnosis, David Nico, Ph.D., says these seeds are “high in lignins and omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and help support cellular health.” Flaxseeds can be added to salads and soups, but Dr. Nico recommends grinding them in a coffee grinder for the freshest flavor and nutritional punch. Buying pre-ground flaxseed? Keep them in the refrigerator, he says.
Try: Peanut Butter Flax Seed Pancakes

Hemp

For a while, hemp seeds were largely disregarded for being related to the drug, cannabis. And while there is a relation, eating hemp seeds has long been proven to not give you any drug-related side effects. They will, however, do nutritional miracles for your body. Deborah Orlick Levy M.S., R.D., says these super seeds are a “rich source of magnesium and phosphorous to support bone health. But what makes these tasty little seeds unique is that they contain 10 grams of protein per serving.” Hemp seeds are known as a “perfect protein,” meaning they provide a full source of protein, including some types that even our own bodies can’t produce.
Try: Steel-Cut Oats with Blackberries and Hemp Seeds

Black Sesame Seeds

We usually only think of these kinds of seeds when topped on our bagel, but Jackie Arnett Elnahar R.D., Esq., says they’re so “extremely mineral rich, the Chinese believed they could help cure nutritional deficiencies. Rich in magnesium, calcium and zinc, it possibly can!” Filled with antioxidants and anti-aging properties, black sesame seeds can give you better hair, skin and bones.

Sacha Inchi Seeds

Now here’s a seed you don’t hear about every day. But Arnett recommends familiarizing your body with them real quick, because the benefits are endless. Native to South America and the Caribbean, these seeds have loads of must-have nutrients like Omega 3, tryptophan (\ a precursor to seratonin, the feel-good hormone), and vitamins E and A. Plus, Arnett points out that these power seeds are known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Umm, so where can we get some ASAP?
Try: Acorn Squash Bisque with Roasted Sacha Inchi Seeds

Quinoa 

Yup, you read it right. This health superfood may be cooked like rice, but Gisela Bouvier, MBA, RDN, LDN lets us in on a little secret: Quinoa is actually a sprouted seed. Packed with protein and fiber, this seed is one you’ll want to be a part of your diet. “The inclusion of all essential amino acids make it a complete protein,” she says, “making this an excellent body fuel source and muscle builder.”
Try: Quinoa and Chickpea Burgers

Stephanie Limiti is a born and raised New Yorker living out her dreams of palm trees and sunshine in Los Angeles. When she's not zenned out in yoga class, she's reading biographies and volunteering at dog rescue shelter. Follow her on Instagram.