Part of my Health and Nutrition Coaching job is to inform people about healthy foods. Sometimes my clients ask about seeds like chia and hemp seeds. They often want to know which is better, chia seeds or hemp seeds.
Hemp seeds are better than chia seeds due to their higher percentage of protein, minerals and vitamins. Hemp seeds have fewer carbohydrates and sodium than chia seeds. Hemp seeds provide 91% more protein making them better for low-carb diets and bodybuilding. Hemp seeds are a low glycemic food and are gluten free.
This article will include a side-by-side comparison of their nutrients. In addition, I’ll examine their tastes, textures, cooking methods, prices, glycemic indexes, whether one can substitute for the other and their health benefits.
Chia Seeds and Hemp Seeds: The Differences
Many people have heard of both seeds but don’t really know what they are. Some people ask if they’re the same.
Chia seeds and hemp seeds are different seeds from different plants. Chia seeds are edible seeds from a flowering plant in the mint family called Salvia Hispanica. Hemp seeds are edible seeds of the hemp plant called Cannabis sativa.
- The chia seed plant is native to central and southern Mexico.
- They were originally used in Central and South America as a medicinal food.
- Ancient Aztec warriors relied on them to boost energy and increase stamina.
- They are small, flattened ovals and are mottled with brown, gray, black and white colors.
- The United States used to have a ban on hemp seeds in the early 20th century which has since been lifted.
- They have no mind altering or psychoactive properties.
- They are are often referred to as hemp hearts.
- Hemp seeds have a shell and are typically hulled before they are packaged and sold.
- Hemp seeds are small, oval-shaped and are brown.
The following table compares the nutrients contained in chia seeds and hemp seeds per 1 ounce serving which is approximately 2-3 tablespoons:
|Chia Seeds (1 ounce/28.35 grams)||Hemp Seeds (1 ounce/28.35 grams)|
|Protein||4.68 g||8.96 g|
|Carbohydrates||11.9 g||2.5 g|
|Fiber||9.75 g||1.13 g|
|Fat||8.7 g||13.8 g|
|Sodium||4.54 g||1.41 g|
|Vitamin A||15.3 IU||3.1 IU|
|Vitamin C||0.45 mg||0.14 mg|
|Vitamin E||0.14 mg||0.22 mg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||13.9 mcg||31.1 mcg|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.17 mg||0.36 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.04 mg||0.08 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||2.5 mg||2.6 mg|
|Magnesium||95 mg||198 mg|
|Phosphorous||244 mg||468 mg|
|Potassium||115 mg||340 mg|
|Iron||2.19 mg||2.25 mg|
|Copper||0.26 mg||0.45 mg|
|Calcium||179 mg||20 mg|
|Zinc||1.3 mg||2.8 mg|
|Omega-3||5.06 g||2.47 g|
|Omega-6||1.65 g||8.14 g|
Taking a close look at the nutrients above indicates both seeds are nutrient dense. At first glance it’s difficult to determine which is healthier. Therefore, let’s answer, which is healthier?
Hemp seeds are healthier than chia seeds due to their higher percentage of protein, vitamins and minerals. Hemp seeds have fewer carbohydrates and sodium. Hemp seeds provide more vitamin E, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper and zinc than chia seeds.
Chia seeds are healthy also and contain a good number of nutrients. They provide a higher percentage of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.
You can choose either one knowing you’re consuming a healthy seed. Depending on your particular goal, one seed may be better for you. I examine this in the next section below.
First let’s take a closer look at each nutrient and macro one by one and determine the differences between each seed.
- Hemp seeds contain 14% more calories than chia seeds per 1 ounce.
- Hemp seeds contain 91% more grams of protein than chia seeds per 1 ounce.
- Chia seeds contain 376% more carbohydrates than hemp seeds per 1 ounce.
- Chia seeds contain 763% more fiber than hemp seeds per 1 ounce.
- Chia seeds contain 220% more sodium than hemp seeds per 1 ounce.
- Chia seeds contain 394% more vitamin A than hemp seeds per 1 ounce.
- Chia seeds contain 222% more vitamin C than hemp seeds per 1 ounce.
- Hemp seeds provide a higher percentage of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate than chia seeds.
The B vitamins provided include the following:
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B9 (folate)
- Hemp seeds contain 108% more magnesium than chia seeds per 1 ounce.
- Hemp seeds contain 92% more phosphorus than chia seeds per 1 ounce.
- Hemp seeds contain 195% more potassium than chia seeds per 1 ounce.
- Hemp seeds contain 2.7% more iron than chia seeds per 1 ounce.
- Hemp seeds contain 73% more copper than chia seeds per 1 ounce.
- Chia seeds contain 795% more calcium than hemp seeds per 1 ounce.
- Hemp seeds contain 115% more zinc than chia seeds per 1 ounce.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Chia seeds contain 104% more omega-3 fatty acids than hemp seeds per 1 ounce.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- Hemp seeds contain 393% more omega-6 fatty acids than chia seeds per 1 ounce.
Which to Choose Based on Your Goals
Many people have particular goals which food plays a huge role in. Which seed you choose may depend on your particular goal.
Therefore, in this section I examine the most common goals and determine which one is the better choice.
The number of calories in each meal or snack can add up pretty quickly. If you’re looking to lose some extra pounds from the belly, the number of calories will matter to you.
Therefore, let’s examine which is better for weight loss.
- Chia seeds are better for weight loss because they contain 14% fewer calories per one ounce than hemp seeds. Chia seeds contain 138 calories per one ounce serving. Hemp seeds contain 157 calories per one ounce serving.
Chia seeds also contain 763% more fiber which has been associated with weight loss. Fiber makes you feel full faster which may result in eating less food.
Low Carb or Keto Diets
The goal of any low-carb diet is to take in the least amount of carbohydrates as possible. The numbers can be so limited every carbohydrate can make a difference by the end of the day.
Therefore, let’s examine which one has fewer carbohydrates.
- Hemp seeds are better for low-carb diets because they contain 376% fewer carbohydrates per one ounce serving than chia seeds. Hemp seeds contain 2.5 grams of carbohydrates per one ounce serving. Chia seeds contain 11.9 grams of carbohydrates per one ounce.
Protein and carbs both play a role in bodybuilding. Protein helps to build and repair muscle after a good workout. Healthy carbohydrates help to fuel energy and increase performance when weight training or exercising.
If gaining lean muscle mass is your goal, then the amount of protein and carbohydrates will probably matter to you. Therefore, let’s take a look at which is better for bodybuilding.
- Hemp seeds and chia seeds are similar for bodybuilding because hemp seeds contain more protein and chia seeds contain more carbohydrates. Hemp seeds contain 91% more protein than chia seeds per one ounce. Chia seeds contain 376% more carbohydrates per one ounce serving than hemp seeds.
Even though hemp seeds provide a considerable percentage more protein, it’s less than five grams total. This amount doesn’t make a huge difference in your total protein for the day.
- If gaining protein while limiting carbohydrates is more important, you’ll want to choose the hemp seeds.
- If fueling your workouts with carbs is more important, you’ll want to choose the chia seeds.
For people who wish to follow a gluten free diet or have Celiac disease, the goal is clear cut, avoid gluten. Therefore, let’s answer which one is gluten free?
- Chia seeds and hemp seeds are both gluten free and good for gluten free diets.
Both of them, like many other grain products, are often grown with other crops containing gluten like wheat. Therefore, always check the manufacturer’s label to ensure their seeds are not cross-contaminated with gluten.
Avoid seeds without any gluten information on the label or ones which state they can’t guarantee they meet gluten free standards.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale measuring how fast a particular food raises the blood sugar in the blood 3. Blood sugar spikes can lead to health complications with the heart, nerves, kidneys and eyes 4.
Foods on the GI scale are categorized as:
- Low-GI foods: 55 or under
- Medium-GI foods: 56-69
- High-GI foods: 70 or over
How blood sugars levels are affected:
- Foods with a glycemic index 70 or more cause a quicker spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 56 to 69 cause a moderate spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 55 or less cause a slow spike in blood sugar levels.
Let’s examine the glycemic indexes of each seed.
Chia seeds and hemp seeds are considered low glycemic index foods. They both have a GI score below 55.
Taste and Texture
Sometimes all the goals listed above don’t matter and the taste and texture does. After all, if someone doesn’t like how a food tastes, they will probably leave it on the shelf.
Therefore, let’s examine how the taste and texture of each one compares.
Chia seeds and hemp seeds both have a mild, nutty flavor. Chia seeds taste similar to a poppy seed or an alfalfa sprout. Hemp seeds taste like a cross between a pine nut and a sunflower seed. Hemp hearts are soft and chewy while chia seeds are crunchy when raw and gel-like when soaked in liquid.
I wanted to get the opinion of real people like you by conducting some original research. Therefore, I reached out to some members of food groups, my clients and readers. I asked, what tastes better, chia seeds or hemp seeds?
- 46% said they preferred the taste of chia seeds.
- 42% said they preferred the taste of hemp seeds.
- 12% said they had no preference, or it depended on their mood.
In the battle of taste, chia seeds taste better and was the winner in the poll.
Sometimes people will want to substitute one food for the other in a recipe. Reasons for doing this may include availability, taste, price or just for variety. This makes people wonder if they can substitute one for the other.
Chia seeds and hemp seeds can substitute for each other due to their similar tastes although the texture may differ depending on the recipe. When substituting in dry recipes use a 1:1 ratio although more chia seeds will be used per same measure due to their smaller size. In liquid, chia seeds will expand into a gel-like substance and thicken the dish therefore less chia seeds may be used.
When substituting hemp seeds for chia seeds be sure to used hulled hemp seeds. Unhulled have a shell which will change the size and texture of the seeds.
Other hemp seed substitutes include the following:
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Pine nuts
Chia seeds substitutes include the following:
- Flax seeds
- Hulled hemp seeds/hearts
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
How about if you wanted to mix both together in the same recipe?
Hemp seeds and chia seeds can be mixed together in the same recipe. Combining both seeds together improves the nutrient density and variety of the dish. One provides more fiber while the other contains more protein. Eating them together provides your body with a good number of both nutrients instead of lacking in one.
How to Incorporate Them Into Your Diet
- Use chia seeds as an egg replacement. When soaked in water, they form a gelatinous texture sometimes used to replace eggs in vegan recipes. Use a 1 to 6 ratio of seeds to water to make a chia gel. Use approximately one tablespoon of gel to replace one egg in baked goods.
- Add them to your smoothies. Adding them to smoothies is an excellent way to include the superfood in your diet. Add the amount you’d like into any flavor of the smoothie and enjoy.
- Make raw chia as toppings. Putting them on oatmeal or an açai bowl is a delicious way to eat them. Mixing them in with honey or granola topping can make a healthy, tasty treat.
Additional chia seed uses:
- Sprinkle on porridge
- Sprinkle on oatmeal
- Sprinkle on salads
- Salad dressings
- Add to granola or protein bars
- Include hemp seeds in your recipes. They can be put in almost every recipe. Adding the nutrient-dense seed into your meals can add the dietary boost you’re looking for in your routine.
- Use them as toppings. Similar to chia seeds, they can also be a topping 5.
- Blend hemp seed to make a vegan milk replacement. Hemp milk is an option for vegan milk. It contains all essential amino acids and is a complete protein. To make your own, all you’ll need are hulled seeds, water, dates, vanilla extract and a blender.
Additional hemp seeds uses:
- Sprinkle on oatmeal
- Sprinkle on salads
- Sprinkle on porridge
- Granola or protein bars
- Trail mix
Supermarket shopping was expensive to begin with, but lately the price at checkout keeps increasing. I’m sure the prices of food matters to most people, so let’s examine the prices of each one.
Hemp seeds cost 57% more than chia seeds per ounce. Hemp seeds average cost per ounce is $1.15 and the average price for chia seeds per ounce is $0.73.
To conduct my own research, I checked two different supermarkets located in my area. Both supermarkets are on different levels of pricing. Walmart is the most economical and Shoprite being more expensive.
Here are my findings:
- Organic hemp seeds (Food to Live) – 1 pound $17.99 ($1.12 per ounce)
- Organic chia seeds (Food to Live) – 1 pound $15.99 ($1.00 per ounce)
- Hemp seed hearts (Bob’s Red Mill) – 8 oz $9.49 ($1.19 per ounce)
- Chia seeds (Bob’s Red Mill) – 12 oz $5.49 ($0.46 per ounce)
How To Store
Chia and hemp seeds can be stored in the cabinet, refrigerator or freezer. They should be kept in an airtight container away from moisture. If at any time your seeds have a rancid smell, toss them out immediately.
In addition, it’s recommended they are stored in a dark place. Too much exposure to sunlight is known to cause many dry goods to go rancid. If storing them in the cabinet, always follow expiration dates labeled on the package.
Even though hemp seeds can be stored in the cabinet, it’s better if they are refrigerated or frozen for longer term storage. This is because of the high oil content which is better preserved in cooler temperatures.
Each one offers similar health benefits but some are better than others based on their nutrient content. In this section I’ll examine each of the seeds benefits based on which nutrients they provide a higher percentage of.
Hemp Seeds Health Benefits
Hemp seeds provide more protein. Protein may help benefit the following:
- Reduce appetite
- Build and repair muscle
- Boost metabolism
- Weight loss
Hemp seeds provide more B vitamins. The B vitamins provided help support the following 6:
- Nerve function.
- Red blood cells.
- Brain function.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Energy levels.
Hemp seeds provide over 100% the amount of magnesium. The magnesium provided helps the body control the following:
- High blood pressure
- Nerve function
- Muscle function
- Blood sugar
Many people supplement with magnesium in the evening because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.
Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels stable and balanced. Recent scientific research examined previous studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure 7.
Hemp seeds provide more iron. Why is this important?
Iron is a necessary part of any healthy diet 8 and may help with the following:
- Help the immune system.
- Is essential the creation of red blood cells.
- Help some hormones remain balanced.
- Vital for growth and development.
Hemp seeds provide more potassium. According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 9. Potassium helps reduce the sodium in the body.
Potassium helps the body reduce excess fluid therefore reducing blood pressure 10.
Some medical experts recommend the potassium to sodium ratio of 4:1. Consuming not enough potassium or too much sodium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 11.
The phosphorus provided has been shown in scientific studies to help with the following:
- Muscle recovery and contraction.
- Promote bone and teeth health.
- Help the body store and manage energy.
- Promote healthy nerve conduction.
- Help the kidneys remove waste.
Chia Seeds Health Benefits
Chia seeds provide a higher percentage of fiber. Fiber is helpful for many reasons 12.
Fiber is known for the following:
- Manage the blood glucose levels which helps decrease the risk of diabetes.
- Helps avoid constipation and have a more regular stool.
- Help overall digestive health.
- Aids greatly in weight management because it allows you to feel full faster and eat less.
Chia seeds provide more calcium. Calcium helps the following:
- Helps nerve function.
- Help the muscles to function properly.
- Build and maintain strong bones.
In addition, calcium is important for the heart and blood pressure. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure by helping in the controlling of the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 13.
Vitamin A and Beta Carotene
Chia seeds provide more vitamin A and contains more beta carotene.
The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce cellular damage by controlling the negative effects of free radicals 14.
An increased number of vitamin A has been shown to fight and prevent cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States 15.
Vitamin A also helps:
- Eye health
- Cognitive function
- Cancer protection
- Skin protection
Chia seeds provide more vitamin C. Vitamin C is required by the body for normal growth and development.
Vitamin C helps with the growth and repair of the following:
- Blood vessels
Vitamin C promotes the development of scar tissue as well. In addition, Vitamin C helps the body to correctly absorb iron.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant helping to prevent the damage caused to the body by free radicals. Free radicals are big influencers in the body’s aging processes and may be a cause of cancers, heart disease and arthritis.
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- USDA: Seeds, chia seeds, dried
- USDA: Seeds, hemp seed, hulled
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- University of Georgia: Getting the Skinny on Chia & Flax Seeds
- Harvard T.H. Chan: B Vitamins
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis
- National Institutes of Health: Iron
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- National Center for Biotechnology Information: A Review of Hemp as Food and Nutritional Supplement