Flaxseeds are tiny brown or gold seeds that come from the flax plant. They have a very mild, nutty flavor and are rich in fiber and a variety of other nutrients. Ground flaxseeds are easiest to digest and may provide more nutrients than whole seeds, which can pass through your digestive system undigested.
Flaxseed oil comes from pressed flax seeds.
Why They are Good for you
Flaxseeds contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy plant-based fats, and antioxidants that help prevent cell damage.
Flaxseeds are a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber which help keep your bowel movements regular and prevent constipation. Flaxseeds are also a good source of:
These vitamins and minerals help support your energy, immune system, nervous system, bones, blood, heartbeat, and many other bodily processes.
Flaxseeds are also rich in omega-3s and omega-6s which are essential fatty acids (substances that your body needs to function). These substances are not made in the body. You must get them from foods like seafood and flaxseeds.
Oils, such as canola and soybean oil, contain the same fatty acids as flax oil. But flax oil contains more. Next to seafood, flax oil is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which is the hardest to get from foods. Eating flaxseeds can help boost your omega-3s, though flax primarily provides ALA, not EPA and DHA.
Half of flaxseed calories come from fat. But this is healthy fat that helps boost your "good cholesterol." The small amount would not prevent weight control.
Consuming flaxseeds has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Researchers are looking at whether consuming more of the essential fatty acids found in flaxseeds will improve blood pressure, blood sugar, heart health, and other areas.
If you plan to consume flaxseeds or flax oil on a regular basis, talk with your doctor. It may affect how certain medicines work.
How They are Prepared
Flaxseeds can be added to or sprinkled on almost any food. Some cereals, such as raisin bran, now come with flaxseeds already mixed in.
Grinding whole seeds will help you get the most nutrients. To add flaxseeds to your diet, add ground flax to:
- Pancakes, French toast, or other baked goods mixes
- Smoothies, yogurt, or cereals
- Soups, salads, or pasta dishes
- Or use in place of bread crumbs
Where to Find Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds may be purchased online or at any health food store. Many major grocery stores also carry flaxseeds in their natural or organic food sections.
Simply buy a bag or container of flaxseeds in whole, crushed, or milled form, depending on the texture you like. You can also buy flaxseed oil.
Avoid raw and unripe flaxseeds.
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Khalesi S, Irwin C, Schubert M. Flaxseed consumption may reduce blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. J Nutr. 2015;145(4):758-765. PMID: 25740909 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25740909.
Vannice G, Rasmussen H. Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics: dietary fatty acids for healthy adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114(1):136-153. PMID: 24342605 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24342605.
Review Date 4/24/2016
Updated by: Emily Wax, RD, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.