Confused about what flax seeds are, and what the better substitutes for them are? You’re not alone.
In this article, we explore the wonders of flax seeds and their best substitutes, so you can make informed decisions about your diet.
With the right knowledge in hand, you can pick perfect alternatives for those hard-to-find meals.
What is Flax Seed?
Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is an anciently cherished dietary supplement from the flax plant.
Closely related to several other cultivated plant species such as hemp and chia, it’s a pale brownish-yellow seed with a mild flavor resembling that of sesame seeds.
Flaxseed is rich in omega 3 fatty acids alpha-linoleic acid (ALA).
It also contains many other healthy compounds like lignans that are associated with health benefits such as reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation in general.
Additionally, flaxseed is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates.
While flaxseed can provide various calming effects to our body and brain due to its essential fatty acids and fibers content, it can also be used as a source of good fats due to its antioxidants properties.
It is even believed that ground flaxseed can help regulate the digestive system by helping the enzymes needed for digestion break down food faster.
Found across various cuisines such as Indian dishes to western-style deserts like muffins or scones,flaxseed can readily be used in various dishes or beverage recipes both savory and sweet in nature.
How to Use Flax Seeds?
Flax seeds are an incredibly versatile and nutrient-dense food — they can be used in various ways to add some added nutrition to your favorite dishes.
One of the best ways to use flax seeds is as a replacement for eggs in baking.
To create a vegan egg substitute, combine one tablespoon of ground flax seeds with three tablespoons of water.
Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes and it will become gelatinous and egg-like.
This make a perfect substitute for one egg if you’re trying out vegan baking recipes.
Flaxseeds can also be added to smoothies and yogurt for some extra protein, fiber, omega-3s, and antioxidants.
Try finely grinding up the seed with just a few other ingredients like banana, almond milk, frozen fruits, chia seeds, and nuts.
Flaxseeds can also be added over oatmeal or cereal with some cinnamon or nutmeg sprinkled on top.
If you have leftover boiled vegetables that need flavor boosting they are also great sprinkled on top — Flaxseeds will add a nutty flavor as well as crunchy texture.
Sprinkle over salads or try adding them into veggie burgers or meatloaves before cooking.
And don’t forget about using them in soups for an added boost of nutrition.
5 Best Flax Seeds Substitutes to Consider
Flax seeds can be a beneficial addition to your diet and have been associated with a variety of health benefits.
However, they may not be suitable or available to everyone.
If you are looking for an alternative that can give you similar benefits, here are some of the best flax seed substitutes to consider:
1 – Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are similar in appearance to flax seeds, but instead of a deep brown hue, they are black and speckled with white.
Chia seeds are native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala, where the Aztecs used them as a common dietary staple for many centuries.
Chia is high in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, antioxidants and dietary fiber, making it an excellent substitute for flax in recipes.
When exposed to liquid (even saliva), chia seeds help thicken dishes such as pudding, soups or smoothies.
Unlike flaxseeds which should be ground before consumption so that the body can access their nutrient content, chia can be eaten whole or added to recipes without needing extra prep work.
2 – Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are a versatile, nutritious and delicious ingredient that can be used as a substitute for flax seeds.
Not only are they packed with essential vitamins and minerals, they contain all nine essential amino acids making them one of the best plant-based sources of protein.
Hemp seeds have a light nutty flavor and the perfect crunch which works well in baking goods, salads, smoothies or as toppings for yogurt or oatmeal.
Hemp hearts—the shelled version of hemp seeds —are even easier to incorporate into recipes as there is no need to grind them up first.
Try incorporating hemp Seeds into your diet if you’re looking for an alternative to flax Seeds.
3 – Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are small, edible kernels of the sunflower plant and make a rich alternative to flax seeds.
For an extra boost, you can opt for roasted salted or unsalted varieties.
It is important to note that although they are nutrient-dense, they offer less nutritional value than flaxseeds as they contain lower amounts of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
Sunflower seeds are also a great source of Vitamin E and magnesium.
They can be added to cereals, breads, salads, and other baked goods.
4 – Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds, also called Pepitas, are a delicious snack and one of the best substitutes for flax seeds.
Not only are they a great source of healthy fats and proteins, but like flax seeds, they are also packed with antioxidants and minerals such as zinc and copper.
In addition to the vitamins A, B1, E and K they include in their nutritional content.
They can easily be added to most recipes that require ground flaxseeds or can be eaten as a snack on their own.
Pumpkin seeds have a roasted flavor which makes them an easy addition to many dishes; however, you should keep in mind that using pumpkin seeds as a substitute for flaxseed will result in a change in flavor for your dish.
5 – Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds offer a nutty flavor and are a great substitute for flax seed.
While sesame seeds do not have the same nutritional profile as flax seed, they are considered to be a valuable source of phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, fibers and calcium.
Furthermore, sesame seeds add an appealing taste and texture to foods — they are often used to top off salads or sprinkled on sweet treats like cake.
Since sesame may lower cholesterol levels and improve glucose control — it is no wonder why this seed is quite versatile.
To use this as a substitute for flax seeds – replace flax with sesame in recipes at a 1:1 ratio.
To sum it up, there is no one-size-fits-all substitute for flax seeds.
Depending on the recipe, texture, flavor and nutrient contents you are looking for, there are different alternatives that may work for you.
Chia seeds, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and ground flaxseed meal are all excellent substitutes that can help you enjoy a variety of dishes without using flax seeds.
Make sure to read the labels carefully and choose the best option for your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are Flax Seeds?
Flax seeds are a type of edible seed which is high in fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids.
They can be eaten whole, ground into a powder, or pressed into a seed oil.
What are the 5 Best Substitutes for Flax Seeds?
The five best substitutes for flax seeds are chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.
All of these seeds are rich in fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids, and can be used in many recipes as a replacement for flax seeds.
What is the difference between Flax Seeds and Chia Seeds?
A3: The main difference between flax seeds and chia seeds is that flax seeds are higher in fiber, while chia seeds are higher in protein.
Both types of seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, and both can be used as a substitute for flax seeds in recipes.
Carrie is a food writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the food industry, including Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living.
As the Editor in Chief of IntroChicago.com, Carrie oversees all of the content on the site. She also manages the team of contributing writers and editors, who help to create delicious recipes, helpful tips, and informative articles that you’ll find on the site.
A native of the Chicago area, Carrie is passionate about all things food. She loves trying new restaurants and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen. She’s also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, so she knows a thing or two about food!