Answers to Common Questions about Flaxseed

From the December 2002 edition of Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times:

Why is flaxseed considered so healthful?

Flaxseed is rich in lignans, a type of fiber associated with a reduced risk of both breast cancer and prostate cancer, and omega 3 essential fatty acid, also known as alpha linoleic acid (ALA), which is essential for health maintenance and disease prevention. In addition, flaxseed is a good source of iron, zinc, calcium, protein, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, and folate.

Where can I buy flaxseed?
You can buy whole flaxseed and packaged ground flaxseed at most health food stores. Increasingly, supermarkets also are selling flaxseed, in their bulk food sections.

Which is better for me, whole or ground flaxseed?
Ground flaxseed provides more nutritional benefits than does whole flaxseed. That’s because the seeds are very hard, making them difficult to crack, even with careful chewing. Grinding breaks the seeds up, making them easier to digest when eaten. If whole flaxseeds remain unbroken, they may pass undigested through the body.

How can I grind the seeds?
Flaxseed is easy to grind, and you likely have the right tool in your kitchen. Grind flaxseed at home using a coffee grinder, VitaMix, food processor, or blender. Like coffee beans, you can grind flaxseed coarsely or finely. Most recipes call for finely ground flaxseed.

What is the difference between brown and golden flaxseed?
Brown and golden flaxseed provide the same nutritional benefits.

How should I store flaxseed and for how long will it keep?
Whole flaxseed comes in Nature’s own finest packaging—its natural hard hull keeps it fresh. You can store clean, dry, good quality, whole flaxseed at room temperature for up to a year. Some people keep a jar of flaxseed handy on their kitchen counter. Ground flaxseed (like all foods that are high in vegetable fat) requires a little more care in handling and storing. It’s best to grind whole flaxseeds as you need them to ensure freshness. After grinding, you should refrigerate or freeze the ground flaxseed in an airtight, opaque container. Handled this way, it will keep for up to 90 days.

Is flaxseed high in calories?

One tablespoon of whole flaxseed (11 grams) contains about 50 calories, 2.5 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fiber, 23 mg of calcium, 33 mcg of folate, and 2.5 grams of essential omega 3 fatty acid. Although flaxseed is over 82 percent fat, over half (57 percent) of the fat in flaxseed is in the form of the omega 3 essential fatty acid.

Are flaxseed oil and flaxseed oil supplements as good as ground flaxseed?
No. I do not recommend the use of flaxseed oil or flaxseed oil supplements. Flaxseed oil is pure fat and virtually devoid of all or most of the nutrients (except for vitamin E) found in ground flaxseed. Also, flaxseed oil is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), and there is evidence that extracted PUFA oils may suppress the immune system, and possibly increase the growth rate of certain cancers and/or tumors. If you want the benefit of flaxseed, eat the ground seeds and avoid the oil.

Are there any downsides to consuming the whole seeds?
Yes. Like all nuts and seeds, flaxseed is very high in calorie density. Therefore, if you are going to use flaxseed, you must do so in moderation and be careful about the portion size. One-and-a-half tablespoons of ground flaxseed will provide an adequate amount of omega 3 fatty acids and has only about 50 calories. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone consume more than 2-3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed in a single day.

What’s the easiest way to use it?
You can add the ground flaxseed to your morning oatmeal or other cereal. I blend ground flaxseed into a fruit smoothie each morning. Some people like to eat the ground flaxseed by itself. They say it has a sweet, nutty flavor.
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Comments (7) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Riley & Tiki's Mom - August 17, 2007 3:30 PM

I've tried flaxseed on cereal and I think it's awful that way. It just tastes "green" to me. I put it on salads or in green smoothies and find it adds texture and the "green" taste works great with greens.

CIndy - February 6, 2008 3:44 PM

I heard that flax seeds and or flax oil should not be consumed by pregnant women. Is this true?

Frances Canty - December 3, 2008 1:12 PM

Can large amount of Flax seed cause elevated calcium in the blood?

AZ - October 31, 2009 3:57 PM

I have a question about Ground Flax seeds?
I just bough Cold-Milled Organic Ground Flax Seeds. Contains Omega 3,6 and 9 Now I would like to buy Fish Oil but I'm confuse?? If Fish oil contains Omega 3 would it be bad to buy fish oil as well or Flax Seeds I just bough? I heard Fish oil is really good for weigh loss when your working out? But I don't know if the Ground Flax Seeds have it already or what??

If anyone can help me with my questions I would appreciated a lot.

Thank you and have a great day!

usha maharaj - February 24, 2010 9:21 PM

Can you cook grounded flax seeds. e.g. in a cookie or muffin or in any food that I can easily hide the grounded flax seeds in. Would i loose its benefits if it is cooked. I would like to give my 8 year old girl because of the benefit of the calcium.

TR - April 24, 2010 3:17 PM

Why eat omega-3 fatty acids from flax seed?
Dietary deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids can cause long term damage to human health. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recognized the importance of omega-3 to public health and their importance to coronary health.
Here is a problem:
The omega-3 in American diet has decreased gradually over time with the increased consumption of processed foods. On the other hand dietary levels of Omega-6 fatty acids have increased due to consumption of oils that are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. This dietary imbalance of omega fatty acids has created unfavorable ratio of omega 3:omega 6 in our body.
It is not just the amount of omega-3 consumed but the amount of omega-3 in relation to the amount of omega-6 oils consumed that is important to keep the ratio to a favorable level of 1:4 (omega 3:omega 6).
Flaxseed provides one of the only non-animal sources of omega-3 that contains significantly more omega-3 than omega-6. About 57% of total oil in flaxseed is in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an Omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for human health. To improve omega-3 levels and ratio between omega 3 and Omega 6, it is important to consume foods that contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 than omega-6. There are very few foods that do that – Flaxseed is one of them.
The ALA is converted by the body into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3s that are found in fish oils. The EPA and DHA are also essential omega-3 fatty acids for human health. The conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is not a very efficient process in body but remember a diet rich in flax seed, will provide all three omega-3 fatty acids that are essential to healthy human health.
How flax seeds help your health?
Flax seed promote cardiovascular health: Omega-3 fatty acids present in flax seed will lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Flax seed promote colon health: Fiber in the flax seed works excellent for people suffering from constipation.
Flax seed can boost immunity: Eating flax seeds will improve your resistance to diseases and promotes good health.
Flax seed provides oil for brain development:
Flax seed have anti-inflammatory benefits: Omega-3 fats in flax seed can help reduce the inflammation that is a significant factor in conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, and osteoporosis.
Flax seed help fight breast cancer: Flaxseed plays a role in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer and that the lignans may in part be responsible for its effect. The nature of the effect depends on the stage of the cancer process at which flax seed are introduced in the diet.
Flax seed works as a natural weight loss product: Flax seed are rich in oil, a high energy nutrient. Eating flaxseed give you “satisfied” feeling. The feeling that you get when you have completed a meal. Nutritionists term this as satiety – the feeling of fullness. Foods with minimal nutritive value leave you still craving food. Eating flax seed will reduce your overall daily food intake and assist you with weight management.
How flax seed is promoted for use?
Herbalists promote the use of flaxseed for constipation, abdominal problems, breathing problems, sore throat, eczema, menstrual problems, arthritis, to lower cholesterol levels, boost the immune system, and prevent cancer.
Sources of flax seed:
Flax seed can be purchased at most supermarkets, bulk-food stores, and natural health food stores or directly through many manufacturers.
Common sources of flax seed are:
Whole flax seed
Ground flax seed/milled flax seed
FlaxPro Ready to eat whole flax seed
Flax seed meal capsules
Other forms of flax seed: cereals, breads, crackers, energy bars, muffin, waffle mix and snacks (chips, trail mixes and muesli).
Omega-3 enriched eggs (hens are fed the flax seed meal)
Safe Use of Flax seeds
Flaxseed is generally believed to be safe. However, there are some potential risks to consider. As with many substances, there have been reports of life-threatening allergic reactions to flaxseed. Because of its potential effects on estrogen, pregnant or breast-feeding women should probably avoid flaxseed. Flaxseed may not be safe for women with a history of estrogen-sensitive cancer, such as breast cancer or uterine cancer. Do not apply flaxseed to open wounds or broken skin.
People with known allergy to flaxseed or any other members of the Linaceae plant family or Linum genus should avoid flaxseed products. Based on animal studies, overdose of flaxseed may cause shortness of breath, rapid breathing, weakness, or difficulty walking, and may cause seizures or paralysis. Large amounts of flaxseed by mouth may cause the intestines to stop moving (ileus). People with narrowing of the esophagus or intestine, ileus, or bowel obstruction should avoid flaxseed. Talk with your doctor before consuming large amounts of flaxseed. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

NutraPro International - July 23, 2010 6:46 PM


Thanks to omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds can erase spots and iron out fine lines in the skin, according to Eat This, Not That!

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found participants who consumed half a teaspoon of omega-3 fatty acids in 6 weeks experienced significantly less irritation and redness, along with better-hydrated skin.

Adding flaxseed to your diet is an easy way to get omega-3's – sprinkle them on salads, add to smoothies or mix in with yogurt. However, if you aren’t a flax fan, salmon can also provide a healthy dose of omega-3.

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