Both hemp seeds and flax seeds have been used for thousands of years as crops across the world. In the case of hemp, many other uses such as textiles and medicines emerged early on in the crop’s life. These seeds helped start human civilization. They allowed our ancestors to achieve a certain level of nutrition, and both crops are generally easy to grow, which is why our ancestors probably choose them. Like hemp seeds, flaxseeds or linseeds as they are called in some countries are very well known for their medicinal properties and other health benefits. Both seeds contain high doses of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and fibre, and this is why many chefs around the world choose to keep them as a staple in their kitchen.
These seeds may have similar nutritional content. Still, there are some significant differences in the two seeds and generally speaking why we see one as the better option for health and nutrition daily.
Firstly, you can eat hemp seeds raw, once they have been dehulled (taken out of their shell) or cold-pressed- that is when the seeds have been pressed together to form an oil. This is what we recommend as there are thousands of individual hemp seeds in a bottle of hemp seed oil. Whole flax seeds can not be digested that easily with human stomachs, and you would need to grind them up or eat the cold-pressed version, to achieve the best results.
The flavour profile of flaxseed is slightly sweeter and has an earthy aftertaste. Hemp seeds are nutty and can taste grassy in the mouth. Still, both are very mellow in terms of flavour and palatability.
Who has more Omegas?
You may already know that hemp seeds have the perfect balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3, usually a 3:1 ratio. Flax seeds have more Omega-3 per serve than hemp seeds but have far less Omega-6 present in that same serving size. These are classed as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), and the human body is unable to produce them but are essential for optimal human health and will help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Omega-3 will help reduce inflammation, while many omega-6 fatty acids contribute to inflammation; this is part of the reason why many people in western countries are suffering from high rates of diseases related to inflammation. This is due to the ratio of Omega-6 fatty acids they consume which is around 14-20 times more than Omega-3.
The winner here is hemp seed oil as it also contains two polyunsaturated fats called gamma-linolenic acid and stearidonic acid that are not present in flax seeds. GLA can fight inflammation, balance hormones, reduce nerve pain and improve rheumatoid arthritis.
Protein & Fiber where you at?
The great news here is that both seeds feature all nine essential amino acids which mean they are considered a complete protein, remember your body can't make these, so you need to get them from somewhere. That being said, hemp seeds contain twice as much protein as flaxseed does and comparatively speaking its around 3 grams per tablespoon for hemp seeds and 1.9 grams per tablespoon for flaxseeds.
On the fibre scale, this is where flaxseeds weigh up well; hemp seeds contain 1 gram of fibre per tablespoon, flaxseeds contain 2.8 per tablespoon, almost three times as much. In terms of calories and fat content for each seed, both are very similar and nearly identical, which means there is no reason to choose either based on calories or fat content alone.
Generally speaking, you can only consume flax once it's cold-pressed, but hemp seeds can be both eaten in the raw seed form or once its cold-pressed. However, both oils have a low smoking point, and we do not recommend any cooking with either, heating the oils will lose some of the proper nutrients. The best way to consume either is to keep it cold and use it raw, salad dressings, dips and other cold dishes are best suited to this type of oil. Or you can eat it straight from the spoon, both of the oils are usually very tasty.
Both hemp and flaxseed are a fantastic source of nutrition. If possible, we recommend to add both seeds into your diet regiment. If fibre is your primary goal, then increase your flaxseed oil intake, as a daily supplement hemp seed is more beneficial in terms of nutritional content, plus the extra protein and minerals you receive make it a very healthy option. If you are using fish oil or any other types of oil, check out our previous blog on that topic here. In short, throw any fish oil and related supplements in the bin, they have very questionable ethical and dietary concerns, stick to plant-based oils, and you will feel extremely healthier for it.
If you have not tried hemp seed oil yet, please check out our cold-pressed raw and organic oil here. Each bottle has over 20,000 seeds inside; you couldn't physically eat that many even if you wanted to! We also carry an immune-booster supplement for pets that uses a combination of both the flax and hemp seeds to get the best nutritional profile. Check it out here.