Flax Facts

October 6, 2020

Flax is a plant that produces both seeds and oil that are useful in disease prevention and the promotion of healing.  Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil both contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which converts to omega-3 fatty acids in the body.  Flax is also full of fiber, making it an effective laxative.

Why are omega-3 fatty acids important?

Omega-3 fatty acids help to keep the brain, nervous system, and membranes functioning normally. These essential fats must be obtained through food sources and provide a number of benefits to our bodies, such as:

  • Lower triglycerides levels
  • Promote heart health and decrease the risk of heart disease
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Decrease cholesterol
  • Lower risks for colon, breast, and prostate cancer
  • Stabilize blood glucose
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lessen buildup of arterial plaque and decrease blood clots

What about the fiber in flax?

Flaxseed contains soluble fiber, like that found in oat bran, and is an effective laxative. Flaxseed is also made up of lignans, which are polyphenols found in plants. Functioning as an antioxidant, lignans may help destroy harmful reactive substances in the body.  Lignans are also important because the body converts them to substances that may inhibit tumor growth.

How much flaxseed is recommended?

  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed or 1 teaspoon of flax oil per day.
  • Supplemental forms of flax and flax oil are not recommended as their safety and effectiveness has not been established.
  • Do not consume more than 50g of flax daily.
  • Remember that due to the high fiber content, flax should be introduced into the diet slowly.  Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, since flax will absorb water.

Who should NOT consume flaxseed?

  • Pregnant or lactating women should not consume large amounts of flax.
  • People suffering from a bowel obstruction of any kind.
  • Those receiving drug treatment for breast cancer.
  • Those allergic to flax. If you experience sudden difficulty breathing after consumption of flax, seek medical attention immediately.

Where can you buy flax and how do you store it?

Flaxseed and flaxseed oil can be found in most grocery and health food stores. Often found in the health food or organic aisle of a supermarket, flaxseed is available as whole seeds, ground seeds, and oil.  In addition, flax meal and flax flour, which both contain ground flaxseed, are available in some locations.  Whole flaxseeds pass through intestines undigested, so if flax is purchased in this form, be sure to grind the seeds before consuming or using them in a recipe in order to receive the full health benefits. Since flaxseed oil does not contain fiber or lignans, using the ground flaxseed will prove more beneficial.

Often packaged in small vacuum-sealed bags, whole flaxseeds will generally last 10-12 months, while ground flax will last only about 4 months. While it is not necessary to refrigerate or freeze flaxseed, some people choose to do so.  Flaxseed oil, on the other hand, should be kept in the refrigerator and should be purchased in opaque bottles. 

Tips for including flaxseed in your diet

  • Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your hot or cold breakfast cereal.
  • Mix ground flaxseed into juice or other beverages.
  • 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 or cottage cheese.
  • Blend ground flaxseed into meatloaf, meatballs, cookie, muffin, and bread batters.
  • Use ground flax as a coating for fish and chicken before oven frying them.
  • You can also use flaxseed in place of eggs in muffins, pancakes and cookies. To substitute flaxseed for one large egg in a recipe, use 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed plus 3 tablespoons water. Keep in mind that it will somewhat alter the texture of the finished product, making it slightly “gummy.”

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