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How to Use Chia, Flax, and Hemp the *Right* Way

For many of us, 2017 was a doozy, but we here at Brit + Co are ready to hit refresh in 2018! Follow our Hit Refresh series through January for new ideas, hacks, and skills that will help you achieve (and maintain!) those New Year’s resolutions.

We’re huge fans of chia, flax, and hemp seeds, but you need to know how to use them correctly. All three of these super seeds provide fiber, protein, and a plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, though they require unique storage and preparation. Here’s how to use chia, flax, and hemp the right way to maximize taste and nutrition (and avoid wasting money).

How to Store Your Seeds

While you might not have considered the expiration date on your chia seeds or hemp hearts, they can — and will — go bad if not stored properly or used soon enough. If you’ve ever opened a bag of nuts or seeds and caught a whiff of plastic, you know the telltale scent of rancid fats. (Fats and oils that have gone “off” smell a little like off-brand modeling clay. Sounds weird, but you’ll recognize the scent when you encounter it!)

Since flax, chia, and hemp are all somewhat high in fat, refrigerate all but what you’ll eat in a week or two in a sealed plastic bag or jar with a tight-fitting lid to keep them fresh. Check the sell-by date on your package (most will last up to two years). If you’re approaching that date and still have plenty left, freeze your seeds to extend their life by another six months or so.


Chia seeds have the unique ability to absorb up to 27 times their weight in water, which makes them the perfect basis for puddings and thickener for smoothies and jam. That’s also why they’re sometimes used as a vegan egg swap. But lately we’ve seen chia seeds used as garnish on top of smoothie bowls. Sure, that sprinkle of chia looks lovely, but it might not feel so lovely in your belly. Here’s why.

Why You Need to Soak Chia

Think about it: A tablespoon of chia weighs 12 grams, and it can take in up to 27 times that much water, or as much as 324 milliliters (nearly 11 fluid ounces)! If the chia doesn’t soak up water before you eat it, it’ll soak it up in your digestive tract, which could lead to some discomfort. Not to mention, dry chia seeds can get stuck in your teeth.

A good rule of thumb with chia is to use one tablespoon seeds to three tablespoons water for an egg replacement. For a slightly thick drink, stir in one tablespoon of seeds per cup of juice, stirring often. And for chia pudding, whisk in one tablespoon per ¼ to ½ cup of milk.


While flax seeds don’t have water-absorbing super powers like chia does, these little seeds do contain plenty of soluble fiber, which when combined with water gets sticky and thick. Flax seeds have their own little trick: They must be ground for our bodies to access their nutrition.

Why You Need to Grind Flax

When we eat whole flax seeds, we only get a small portion of their fiber content, and the rest of their goodness is locked inside. When you see whole flax seeds on breads and crackers, know that they’re just a garnish. You can buy ground flax seeds or grind them yourself in a blender or clean coffee grinder. Ground flax is fluffy and mildly nutty, and it can be mixed with granola, added to oatmeal, or stirred into smoothies.


Hemp, compared to chia and flax, offers the most protein and omega fats, but it functions differently when you cook with it. Hemp does contain fiber, but it doesn’t thicken or get sticky like chia and flax. There’s no real trick to cooking with or prepping hemp seeds — other than knowing what to buy.

Hemp Seeds vs. Hemp Hearts

Hemp “hearts” are shelled hemp seeds, and these are white with green and black specks. Hemp hearts have had the outer shell removed to make them more palatable, and this is what you usually find at the supermarket. Hemp seeds (above) have not been shelled, and they are dark green in color and slightly bitter.

If you’re making homemade hemp milk, you’ll want to choose hemp hearts. Hemp hearts are also wonderful sprinkled on yogurt or blended into a smoothie. However, you can use whole hemp seeds on salads, as a crunchy topping for avocado toast, or in your morning oatmeal. (You may want to coarsely grind whole hemp seeds to make them easier to digest.)

Want more recipe inspiration? Follow us on Pinterest!

(Photos via ximatsuking, ValeriaJa, Pezibear, ulleo / Pixabay)

Stepfanie Romine
Stepfanie Romine is a journalist turned ACE-certified health coach, yoga teacher, and freelance writer who lives in the mountains of North Carolina. When she’s not writing about health and wellness or developing recipes, Stepfanie loves trail running, hiking, and yoga — and exploring all the food and health trends Asheville has to offer. She has co-authored and contributed to several books about healthy living, and her most recent is “The No Meat Athlete Cookbook.” Find more from Stepfanie on her blog, The Flexible Kitchen, or on Facebook or Instagram.

Ahhh, fall. There are so many things to love about this time of year (give us ALL the sweaters and pumpkin-flavored eats). But, high on the list comes autumn decor candles, throws, textiles — you name it. Of course, buying items and actually adding them to your room are two different things. So we're turning to Instagram for the best styling advice and inspo for the season. Scroll on to see everything you need to get those wheels turning!

@sbkliving: Sometimes, it only takes a chic doormat to transition your front steps for the season. Hello, fall!

@rachelpuccetti: Excuse us while we spend an entire lazy Sunday relaxing in this fall-infused space.

@farmhousetofrills: A monochrome mantel never looked so chic. (That fireplace pumpkin setup is seriously *genius*.)

@faith_hope_home: Greet guests with a fall-themed entrance to set the tone for a day of pumpkin carving or scary movie marathoning.

@simplysoutherncottage: Don't forget about those nooks and crannies! This entryway/mudroom situation is capturing our little harvest-loving hearts.

@6thirtydecor: Speaking of pumpkins, pick up a few extra gourds to pave the way into your cozy autumn abode.

@farmsteadonfirst: That guest bedroom you weren't sure what to do with it? Transform it into a rustic retreat with some fall signage and mustard-yellow and green accents.

@fiddleleafinteriors: We're going to take a second to *swoon* over this adorable kitchen setup. Those farmhouse accents and simple centerpiece setup? We're in love.

@ohmydearblog: Contrary to what you think, florals *aren't* just for spring. Bring them into your abode by selecting buds in moody tones to pay homage to the season.

@simply.mrs.z: Drawn to modern style? Play up the Halloween vibes by picking black, orange and brass accents to rock on places like your bookshelf. (Bonus points for carrying the theme over to your textiles.)

@drivewaytodreams_crystal: We're going to go ahead and give two thumbs up to all of these orange-hued accents. Backdropped with a neutral furnishings and they truly *pop*!

@cripcollectiveig: For those who don't want to go overboard with the "fall stuff" this one will speak to you. Compile a couple of cute throws and a minimalist pumpkin print on your mantle and you're set

@cavcottage: Who said fun pillows were limited to furnishings only? We're ALL about this entry display.

@houseon77th: This daybed setup is a *dream*. But actually, this would be the perfect space to doze off in come the colder days.

@kristenforgione: For a more festive Halloween look, overhaul your living space with a spooky handmade addition like this one. *Googles paper bat DIYs.*