Linseed oil and linseeds
Last updated: 03/06/2020

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Flaxseed, also commonly known as linseed, is a fiber crop and concentrated source of several important nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, magnesium and vitamin E. Have you ever tried flaxseed? Are you familiar with the many benefits it offers? Many people take a flaxseed supplement to support heart health, but this superfood offers so much more than that.

The healthy fats found in flaxseed can help prevent cardiovascular disease, lower blood cholesterol levels and limit the risk of thrombosis (blood clot formation). Additionally, due to its fiber content, flaxseed normalizes blood sugar levels and can relieve constipation.

Key Facts

  • Flax seeds are an affordable, easy and effective way to improve heart, gut and brain health.
  • The nutritional profile of flax seed is very comprehensive. It offers healthy fats, soluble and insoluble fiber, proteins with good biological value, magnesium and vitamin E.
  • Flaxseed can be consumed whole, ground or in a powder form, like flour. Flaxseed oil and flaxseed capsules can also be found.

Our Selection: The Best Flaxseed on the U.S. Market

As with many superfoods these days, flaxseed products are widespread and come in many different forms. You’ll find oils, capsules, and flours, in addition to whole or crushed seeds. Flaxseeds are normally brown or gold in color. To help you pick out the best option for your needs, we’ve selected some of our favorite flaxseed products.

The Best Ground Flaxseed

Spectrum Essentials uses premium quality flax seeds that are carefully picked for their high nutrient content. Those seeds are then finely ground with a cold milling process that helps to preserve the nutrients, which include omega-3 ALA fatty acids, dietary fiber and magnesium.

This ground flaxseed has a delicious, nutty taste that is certain to add a special kick to your favorite baked good, shakes or even pancakes! This 24 ounce pack contains about 48 servings of 2 tablespoons each. It’s certified organic and non-GMO verified, so you know you’re getting only the healthiest, high-quality ingredients with this product.

The Best Whole Flax Seed

The Miller Family Farm has been working the fields in central North Dakota for more than a century, and its most prized item is, of course, the flax seed! They even started Premium Gold Flax Products in 2001, in order to provide us with their top-quality seeds, which are 100% natural, gluten-free, kosher, and free of preservatives.

These bestselling whole flax seeds have a shelf life of 4 years after opening, and don’t require any refrigeration. Just ground what you need, and store the rest. Each two-tablespoon serving of this product will provide 8g of fiber, 6388mg of omega-3 and 360mg of lignans. Choose from several affordable sizes to suit your needs.

The Best Flaxseed Oil Softgels

If you’re looking for flaxseed’s incredible benefits but without that nutty flavor present in the whole seeds or powder, try these flavorless softgels from Nature Made. This product is a best seller on Amazon, and customers love the reasonable price. They also love the benefits for cardiovascular health, cellular function and so much more!

Each serving of 1 softgel provides 1,400 mg of organic flaxseed oil. That will get you 700 mg of Alpha Linolenic Acid (omega-3), 154 mg of Linoleic Acid (omega-6) and 168 mg of Oleic Acid (omega-9, in addition to vitamin E. Do note that this product contains gelatin, so will not be suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

The Best Fresh Flax Oil

Fresh flax oil is a popular item among chefs, vegans and raw food enthusiasts for its unique, nutty flavor, versatility and, of course, its amazing health benefits. Organic flax oil is considered to be the most abundant source of plant-based omega-3 available. This product from Barlean’s Organic Oils will provide 7,230 mg of omega-3 per serving!

Barlean’s flax oil is sourced in the Pacific Northwest and then cold-pressed to preserve the naturally occurring nutrients. It’s pure, unrefined, non-GMO, gluten-free and kosher. You can consume this oil straight from the bottle, or mix it your favorite foods, like salad dressings, oatmeal, smoothies and yogurt.

Buyer’s Guide: Everything You Should Know About Flaxseed

Flaxseed is well known to have a positive impact on heart health, but this incredible seed has many other benefits as well. In this section, we will outline the positive impacts that flax can have on your body and also how to consume it properly.

Happy Woman Having Healthy Breakfast. Healthy food

Adding flaxseed to your breakfast is a great way to incorporate more fiber into your diet.
(Source: Puhha: 45859342/ 123rf.com)

What exactly is flaxseed?

Flaxseed, also known by the scientific name linum usitatissimum, is part of a plant group called Linum, in the family Linaceae. The seeds themselves are small, oval-shaped and flat. Their color can range from a dark brown to light yellow. Some kinds of golden flaxseed have lower amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3) when compared to others that are brown.

Which nutrients does flaxseed contain?

Flaxseed contains a handful of nutrients, but the most important include magnesium, soluble fiber, lignan, vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids. Just 100 grams of flaxseed provides the following:

  • 40-41 grams of fat: This includes 23 grams of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), as well as smaller amounts of omega-6 and omega-9.
  • 28 grams of dietary fiber: Flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Each kind has different benefits for the body.
  • 20 grams of protein: This is a good source of essential amino acids that our body needs to obtain via food. The qualities of flaxseed protein are similar to those of soy protein.
  • 1 gram of complex carbohydrates.
  • Vitamins: Vitamin E and B-complex vitamins (B1, B3, B5 and folate).
  • Magnesium, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
  • Other important nutrients: flavonoids and lignans.

What are flaxseed’s benefits?

Raw flax seeds and products derived from flaxseed have superfood properties. That means that in addition to providing us with essential nutrients, flaxseed also contributes to the treatment of some health conditions and/or prevents disease. Here of some of its benefits:

  • It acts as a cardioprotective, meaning that it shields the heart from disease and helps it maintain proper function.
  • Prevents ischemia and strokes.
  • Lowers blood cholesterol levels.
  • It lowers the risk of developing atherosclerosis or helps to slow its growth in those who already experience symptoms. Atherosclerosis is the build-up of fatty plaques (and other substances) inside the arteries. It limits blood supply and can result in total obstruction of the artery.
  • Helps stabilize blood glucose levels and, if included in food preparation, can reduce post-meal blood glucose.
  • Lowers blood pressure numbers in hypertensive/stressed people.
  • Lowers the risk of thrombosis (blood clots that form in the body and can lead to heart attack or stroke).
  • Fights inflammation and soothes joint pain.
  • Helps to ward off cancer, particularly colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer.
  • Limits menopause-related bone demineralization and protects the body from osteoporosis.
  • It increasing the feeling of fullness and satisfies appetite for an extended period.
  • It helps treat constipation and contributes to intestinal well-being.
Flaxseeds and linseed oil.

Flaxseed flours need to be mixed with other foods or liquids for consumption.
(Source: Geografika: 34736706/ 123rf.com).

How do flax seeds support cardiovascular health?

Flax seeds provide a cardioprotective effect because they lower the risk factors associated with heart disease. Additionally, flax seeds contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that protect the heart, arteries and blood vessels. The presence of omega-3, fiber, flavonoids, magnesium and vitamin E in flaxseed also helps support heart health.

The lignan found in flaxseed is an antioxidant that helps protect the body from oxidative damage linked to heart disease. The omega 3 fatty acids help reduce cholesterol levels and prevent plaque from forming within arteries. They also limit inflammation in the body that can contribute to heart disease. The vitamin E in flax, meanwhile, offers antioxidant benefits similar to those of lignan.

flax seeds, blue flowers and oil close-up horizontal

Flax oil lowers the risk of thrombosis (the formation of a blood clot that can result in a heart attack or stroke)
(Source: Koval: 30363781/ 123rf.com).

Soluble fiber also contributes to lower blood cholesterol, since it helps with the elimination of cholesterol from foods and lowers the body’s cholesterol absorption. Magnesium is an essential mineral to improve heart function.

Janet Bond BrillLeading U.S. Nutrition and Fitness Writer and Author of Cholesterol Down: 10 Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in 4 Weeks Without Prescription Drugs

“The lignans in flaxseeds function as both an antioxidant and a plant hormone, extremely powerful [artery] plaque-fighting tools.”

How should flax be consumed in order to lower cholesterol?

Both whole or ground flaxseed as well as the powders, oils and capsules made from flax are useful for lowering cholesterol. The capsules and oils contain pure healthy fats, particularly omega 3 and omega 9, which lower blood cholesterol.

But omega-3 and omega-9 fats are not the only cholesterol lowering nutrients in flax. The soluble fiber present in the flax seed also has an important role. To take advantage of the impact of soluble fiber and omega-3s, flaxseed should be ground and/or hydrated prior to consumption. Otherwise, the outer layer of the flax seed won’t allow digestive enzymes to process the important nutrients within (fats, soluble fiber, proteins) and the flaxseed passes through the body without being fully digested.

Brown Flax Seeds or Linseeds

Raw flaxseed comes whole or ground.
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Should flaxseed be “activated” prior to consumption?

Yes, flax seeds can be activated by grinding and/or soaking them in water for 15-30 minutes prior to consumption. By doing this, digestibility increases and all of the flax nutrients can be utilized by the body. When flaxseed isn’t activated, the flaxseed only serves as an intestinal stimulus that helps you go to the bathroom, while other key benefits are not received.

How can flaxseeds be consumed?

Flax seeds are so versatile that they can be used in sweet or salty recipes for an extra zing. The seeds can also be added to yogurts, smoothies, cakes, soups, salads, quiches and breads. When flaxseed is hydrated with water and forms a gel, it can even function as an egg replacement for vegan meals.

Flaxseed flour can be mixed with other flours to make things like cookies, breads, scones and other baked goods. Flaxseed oil goes great in salad dressing and is even used to make vegan mayonnaise.

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Avoid heating flax oil because the fats can deteriorate.

What is the benefit of the magnesium in flaxseed?

Magnesium is found in teeth and bones, so a deficiency can cause dental issues and bone demineralization while also heightening the risk of osteoporosis. Magnesium is also an crucial mineral for muscle, nerve and heart function.

Can flaxseed help you lose weight?

There is no magical supplement that will help you lose weight on its own. Nonetheless, flaxseed can contribute to weight loss because it helps reduce appetite. Mucilages, a kind of soluble fiber present in flaxseed, absorbs water in the stomach and forms into a gel. This gel actually helps slow digestion, increases the feeling of fullness. This, in turn, decreases appetite.

In a weight loss plan, dieticians recommend taking 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds along with a glass of water, about half an hour before lunch and dinner. Be sure to take flaxseeds with plenty of water. The capsule and oil forms of flax won’t help reduce appetite.

flax seed in spoon on table

Adding fiber to the diet is essential for well-being.
(Source: Florian: 65453831/ 123rf.com)

How do flaxseeds help regulate bowel function?

Flaxseed contains both kinds of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber (mucilages) absorbs water and gels, giving stool more volume and moisture. Insoluble fiber stimulates intestinal peristalsis (a series of wave-like muscle contractions) and lowers intestinal transit time.

Together, soluble and insoluble fiber support intestinal digestion without causing any pain, discomfort or colic. To treat or prevent constipation, flax seeds should be consumed ground or accompanied by plenty of liquid (water, smoothies, milk, etc.).

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Don’t forget that without liquid, flaxseed won’t produce its soft laxative effect.

Who should take flax supplements?

For those who suffer from constipation or anyone with a family history of breast cancer, diabetes or osteoporosis, daily linseed consumption is recommended. The oil and flax capsules are best for those who are seeking the benefits of omega-3, omega-9 and vitamin E supplementation. Flax is recommended for:

  • Heart disease or anyone with a family history of heart conditions
  • Arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • Hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol)
  • Atherosclerosis

Why is flax known to be an anticarcinogenic food?

Flaxseed is rich in lignan and vitamin E, which are both antioxidants that neutralize the oxidative damage that can precede the development of cancer. Additionally, lignan is a phytoestrogen, a plant substance that works inside the body through hormonal mechanisms.

A study of melanoma in mice indicated that flaxseed lowers the number and size of cancer tumors and limits the risk of metastasis (secondary cancer growths). The omega-3 in linseed also helps prevent cancer by fighting inflammation. Flaxseed consumption has been connected to reduced cases of breast, prostate and colon cancer.

Alison MasseyClinical Dietitian and Diabetes Educator at Mercy Medical Center in Maryland

“Flaxseed contains a high percentage of lignans, phytochemicals that have been found to be beneficial to health.”

What is the recommended dose of flaxseed?

For flax flour and linseed, the recommended daily dose is 2 tablespoons (about 15 grams). Young children should not take more than 5 grams each day due to the high fiber content.

Depending on their concentration, flax capsules can be consumed in doses of 1 or 2 units per day.

Are there any contraindications with flax supplementation?

Adverse effects following moderate flaxseed consumption are relatively rare. When consumed in excess, flax may result in digestive discomfort (flatulence, colic or swelling). Additionally, diabetics who use insulin or take insulin sensitizers should be careful not to consume excess flaxseed, in order to avoid hypoglycemia.

Most supplements can have contraindications when the recommended dosage isn’t adhered to, and flaxseed is no exception. Just as they can be very useful for preventing some diseases, they can make others worse. In general, flax supplements are safe for the general population, but are not advised for anyone with the following:

  • Diverticulitis: When the intestines get inflamed and bleeding occurs, fiber-rich foods like flaxseed should be avoided.
  • People on strong medication: The gels that form around flaxseed in the stomach and intestine could limit absorption of the drug. An alternative option is to take flaxseed 2 to 3 hours after taking medication.
  • Children, pregnant and lactating women: There are no studies to guarantee that flax supplements are safe for these groups, so it’s best to avoid flax.
  • People suffering from breast, prostate or other cancers. Flaxseed lignan has a hormonal effect that could interfere with the course of the disease and treatment.

What is the difference between chia oil, flaxseed oil and cod liver oil?

All three of these oils are rich in omega-3 but their healthy fats are not identical. Chia and flax oils are rich in an essential omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Meanwhile, cod liver oil contains other essential omega-3 fatty acids: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).

All three oils have omega-3, but the ALA in flax and chia can’t replace the DHA and EPA of cod liver oil. The three kinds of omega-3 protect cardiovascular and joint health, and contribute to lowering cholesterol.

Linseed oil and linseeds

Flax oil helps prevent cardiovascular disease.
(Source: Opule: 55245855/ 123rf.com)

Cod liver oil helps prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s. It can also promote good eye health. However, cod liver oil is not suitable for vegans and it could be contaminated by heavy metals if it’s not produced under strict quality standards.

Flaxseed oil Chia oil Cod liver oil
Does it offer cardiovascular protection? Yes Yes Yes
Does it help lower blood cholesterol? Yes Yes Yes
Does it relieve joint pain? Yes Yes Yes
Does it improve brain function (memory and learning)? No No Yes
Does it support visual health? No No Yes
Does it contain phytoestrogens? Yes No No
Toxicity risk Very low Very low Very high (heavy metals and other toxins). It’s crucial to review the manufacturing processes.
Suitable for vegans Yes Yes No
Taste Mild, neutral Mild, pleasant, nutty Intense, smelly

What kinds of flax supplements are available and which one should I take?

As you’ve seen thus far, there are a wide variety of flax products and each one offers different benefits. Even if a supplement is top-quality, it might not be the right one for you. The options include:

  • Whole flaxseed
  • Crushed flaxseed
  • Linseed
  • Linseed meal
  • Linseed oil
  • Flax oil capsules

Whole Flaxseed

Whole flaxseed contains protein (20%), fiber (28%) and omega-3, 6 and 9 fats (40%). If whole seeds are not crushed or hydrated prior to consumption, they will only serve as a general laxative and won’t release the most important nutrients, which include mucilages, lignans, vitamin E, proteins, magnesium and healthy fats.

Ground Flaxseed

Ground flaxseed offers protein (20%), fat (40%) and fiber (26%). When seeds are crushed, a small amount of the fiber is lost. Still, ground flaxseed is very digestible, especially when soaked in water before consumption.

Flax, hand-painted watercolor set, vector clipping paths included

Ground flax seeds are great in shakes and other drinks.
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Flaxseed Flour

When flaxseed is pressed and flax oil is extracted, the dry mass that remains can be ground to become flaxseed flour. Because of this process, the flour has a higher concentration of protein (38%) and fiber (35%) than the raw seed, and is lower in fat (23%). We suggest that you mix flaxseed flour with other kinds of flour.

Flaxseed Oil

Linseed/flaxseed oil contains nearly pure omega 3, 6 and 9. It is critical that the oil is obtained by cold pressing in order to preserve the fats. High temperatures can change the quality of the fatty acids.

Linseed/Flaxseed Oil Capsules

Flaxseed capsules contain flaxseed oil encased in a plant component called hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, which is suitable for vegans. Like flaxseed oil, capsules don’t provide fiber or protein, just raw omega 3, 6 and 9 fats, as well as vitamin E.

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The concentration of omega varies according to the brand of supplement.

Shopping Criteria

Even though the medicinal and nutritional properties of flaxseed are clear, you should be careful when purchasing a flaxseed product. You always want to get a safe, high-quality product that’s a good value for your money. Basic purchasing criteria include:

Flavor

Raw flaxseed has a bland, nutty flavor. Flaxseed flour also maintains some of this flavor, so take this into account if you’re going to use it to make things like breads, cakes and pancakes. Flaxseed oil is more intense than something like sunflower oil, but if it tastes especially bitter it might be expired. Flaxseed capsules usually have a neutral taste.

Form of Consumption

As we’ve mentioned, flaxseed flour should be mixed with other foods or liquids in order to be consumed. The seed form should be ground, so that you can take advantage of the nutrients inside. The oil can be used as an ingredient for various recipes or as a raw salad dressing. It can also be consumed by itself if preferred. The capsules are easy to take, just be sure to have a glass of water as well.

Storage

All flaxseed-based products should be kept in a cool, dark, dry location without too much ventilation. Oxygen, light and high temperatures can deteriorate the fatty acids in flaxseed. Expired products usually have a very unpleasant smell and taste. The capsules come in a bottle and should stay there until consumed.

Certifications

Consumers who prefer organic products should always look on the label for a seal guaranteeing the absence of agrochemicals and artificial additives. Vegans should verify in the list of ingredients that none are of animal origin. Celiacs should check that the product is gluten-free.

Summary

Flaxseed and its supplements provide crucial health benefits, especially for anyone who suffers from high cholesterol, constipation or cardiovascular issues. Regular flaxseed consumption can also be beneficial for diabetic, stressed and overweight individuals.

Flaxseeds are extremely versatile and can be used in a variety of great recipes. Their taste is pleasant and they come at a reasonable price. They are therefore a superb way to improve the nutritional health of children and adults, without requiring significant changes to eating habits or your budget.

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(Source of Featured Image: Opule: 55245855/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Ava has specialized in medical journalism and not only writes about the human body, but also knows her way around food supplements. She also studied sports science in college.