Most nutrition experts recommend ground over whole flaxseed because the ground form is easier to digest. Whole flaxseed may pass through your intestine undigested, which means you won't get all the benefits.
Flaxseed's health benefits come from the fact that it's high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as phytochemicals called lignans. One tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseed contains 2 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids (includes the omega 3s), 2 grams of dietary fiber and 37 calories.
Flaxseed is commonly used to improve digestive health or relieve constipation. Flaxseed may also help lower total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
You can buy flaxseed in bulk — whole or ground — at many grocery stores and health food stores. Refrigerating whole seeds may extend their freshness. Whole seeds can be ground in a coffee grinder and then stored in an airtight container for several months.
Because some unripe and raw flaxseed can have certain toxins, keep serving sizes to less than 50 grams (5 tablespoons of whole flaxseed) per day. Alternatively, the seeds can be toasted or used in foods that are cooked or baked, which destroys the toxins.
Tips for including flaxseed in your diet:
- Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your hot or cold breakfast cereal.
- Add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to mayonnaise or mustard when making a sandwich.
- Mix a tablespoon of ground flaxseed into an 8-ounce container of yogurt.
- Bake ground flaxseed into cookies, muffins, breads and other baked goods.
Like other sources of fiber, flaxseed should be taken with plenty of water or other fluids. Flaxseed shouldn't be taken at the same time as oral medications or other dietary supplements. As always, talk with your doctor before trying any dietary supplements.
Dec. 13, 2015
See more Expert Answers
- Flaxseed. Natural Medicines. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/. Accessed Nov. 19, 2015.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov. Accessed Nov. 19, 2015.
- Flaxseed and flaxseed oil. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/flaxseed/ataglance.htm. Accessed Nov. 19, 2015.
- Flaxseed reduces some risk factors of cardiovascular disease. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/062308.htm. Accessed Nov. 19, 2015.
- Saxena S, et al. Evaluation of flaxseed formulation as a potential therapeutic agent in mitigation of dyslipidemia. Biomedical Journal. 2014;37:386.
- Edel AL, et al. Dietary flaxseed independently lowers circulating cholesterol and lowers it beyond the effects of cholesterol-lowering medication alone in patients with peripheral artery disease. The Journal of Nutrition. 2015;145:749.
- Zeratsky KA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 30, 2015.