Nutrition Articles

Get the Facts on Flax

The Little Seed With a Big Nutrition

Page 1 of 2
Flaxseed has been a part of human and animal diets for thousands of years. Even in the days of Hippocrates, flaxseed was eaten for its health benefits. Recently, however, flaxseed has gained popularity among health-conscious Americans. Despite the hype surrounding this little seed, a lot of people have never heard of it. It may not exactly be a wonder food, but flaxseed certainly has nutritional benefits.

Nutritional Benefits
Flaxseeds contain the following nutrients:
  • Lignans. Flaxseeds are one of the best plant sources for lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that may protect against certain types of cancer, including breast cancer and prostate cancer. Even the National Cancer Institute has identified its cancer-fighting potential.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds are the best plant source of healthy omega-3's, which are also found in fish. Fifty grams of flaxseed has about the same amount of omega-3's as three pounds of salmon!
  • Fiber. Flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which keep the digestive system in tip-top shape.
  • Protein. Flaxseed is a complete protein source, meaning that it contains every amino acid that your body can't make on its own. It’s uncommon to find plant-based foods that are complete proteins, so flaxseed makes a great addition to vegetarian diets.
One tablespoon of flaxseed contains:
  • 35 to 40 calories
  • 1.6 grams of protein
  • 2.8 grams of carbohydrate
  • 2.8 grams of fat (0.3 grams saturated, 0.6 grams monounsaturated, and 1.8 grams polyunsaturated)
  • 2.5 to 8 grams of fiber
  • 3 milligrams of sodium
Health Benefits
Research shows that flaxseed may have the ability to:
  • Prevent cancer and reduce tumor growth in the breasts, prostate and colon
  • Decrease the risks of developing heart disease, blood clots, strokes, and cardiac arrhythmia by lowering total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure
  • Regulate bowel functions and prevent constipation
  • Relieve breast pain related to a woman’s hormonal cycle
  • Help improve blood glucose control in diabetics
  • Help reduce inflammation associated with arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and asthma
Flaxseed Types
Most grocery stores do sell packaged flaxseed on their shelves, but natural foods stores tend to also offer sell flaxseeds in bulk form too. There are two "types" of flaxseed: brown and golden. Although the color and price differ, the nutritional benefits are the same. The brown flaxseed is less expensive than the golden, but because golden flaxseed is lighter in color, it’s easier to hide in a variety of foods.
Continued ›
Page 1 of 2   Next Page ›
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • Beware of flax if you have had your gallbladder removed. Check with your doctor 1st.

    When I tried the flax seed oil I had a very painful reaction and was told it was cause I didn't have a gallbladder.

    I'm not giving medical advice - just check with your doctor 1st! - 2/27/2016 11:53:40 AM
    I did not know that about flax seeds Excellent benefits. I know now, so I will be picking up some. - 2/10/2016 11:06:32 AM
    I M using the flaxseed ground and its a very good for health . - 9/15/2015 1:07:49 AM
  • My morning porridge:

    2T ground flax seed
    2T oat bran, dry
    4 T wheat bran, dry
    3-4 walnuts, crushed
    14 grams (1/2 oz) dried cherries, dried cranberries, raisins or dried blueberries
    1-1/4 to 1-1/3 cup water

    Mix and heat on the stove until thickened and the water is absorbed. It can be microwaved, yet make sure the bowl is large enough and watch it to avoid boil over. I find it to be sweet enough from the dried fruits. Add some sweetener if desired.

    On brands... I am not brand specific. I did get my ground golden flax seed at Costco but I've eaten Bob's Red Mill or Kroger "Simply" brand too. I typically use the nuts and dried fruits from Costo simply due to lower cost per use and I like the quality. I've used Kroger and Sunsweet raisins, too. Bran - I buy what is the lowest cost as it's more of a commodity item. Kroger Simply is usually well priced as is Hodgson Mills. Bob's Red Mill is nice stuff and they think so too considering that it's often priced higher than other brands, conventional or organic. I'm for "use that brand it if it tastes good."

    I've eaten this for breakfast 6 times per week average for the last four months. It's filling. My stomach adores it. I seriously do not get hungry after I eat it but I don't feel stuffed either. I just feel pleasant.

    Anecdotal evidence here. My fasting LDL cholesteraol dropped 25 mg/dL in a year by adding this porridge for breakfast.

    I'm a scientist. Testimonials are anecdotal - show me the double blind-placebo studies! I was just surprised to see my LDL drop this much because my LDL cholesterol was just at 100 mg/dL before I started eating this for breakfast. We each are an Experiment of One. - 1/27/2015 2:48:07 PM
  • Chris3874, the flax seed absorbs water and gels up. If you add it to your oatmeal, add an equivalent amount of water for each amount of flax seed you add. The flax seed is competing for water.

    Ground flax seed is sometimes used as an egg substitute in baking since it creates a soft gel when mixed with water. Can be handy in vegan baked goods, like Isa Moskowitz's recipes on her Post Punk Kitchen web site.

    Chia seeds have similar gelling properties. - 1/27/2015 2:30:32 PM
  • I like mine on oatmeal although it seems to gum it up a bit not sure why. Is it the same thing as linseed?
    - 9/28/2014 9:49:36 PM
  • There is a product called 'omega crunch' that is a shelled flax seed. Your body digests is without requiring it to be ground. It was featured on Canadian Dragon's Den. - 1/9/2014 12:03:26 PM
  • I kept reading about the flaxseed going rancid thing, but never experienced it myself. Wasted money on the expensive brands and their ads for its freshness. If you're taking them for their Omega's 3, you're waaaay better off eating fish, or free range eggs, etc. - 12/13/2013 1:56:31 AM
  • I keep my flaxseed meal in the freezer, but not in an opaque container. So far I haven't experienced any issues. I put it in yogurt and oatmeal.

    Lately I've also been enjoying Enjoy Life Crunch Flax cereal. I'm sure it's not as good as plain ol flaxseed meal, but the crunch it brings to my yogurt is really, really pleasurable! - 11/2/2013 7:29:19 AM
  • I keep a bag of ground flaxseed in my pantry... I better go check if it's supposed to be refrigerated... - 7/27/2013 9:22:54 AM
    About ground flax:
    If it can't be heated, how can it be added to things like meatballs, meatloaf, gravy, pancakes that earlier posts recommend?
    I just bought a big 3 lb bag of golden from SAMs that says its cold rolled and their proprietary method extends its life to 22 months.
    Anybody have experience with their products?
    - 5/22/2013 11:45:48 PM
    I roast the flax seeds thoroughly and then grind into powder. I have experience that this way the powder stays fresh non referigerated. I grind a weeks quota this way - 3/3/2013 7:37:50 AM
  • I often add ground flaxseed to my oatmeal after cooking it. It gives it a slightly nutty flavor and adds some extra fiber as well. I store it in a freezer bag in the freezer. It does not get rancid. There are some brands that are cold-processed that can be stored at room temperature, but make sure you read the label. - 6/24/2012 3:50:41 PM
  • In recipes, it is good to use in "gravy" as a 'thickener'.
    Also, if you are at all familiar with 'file gumbo' it is good to put in fresh ground 'flax seed' with the file powder...adds a great deal of 'extra' nutrition to an already "potent" Southern meal ("N'awlins").

    (as in 'roux') - 6/24/2012 2:27:16 PM
  • Ladies watch eating flaxseeds, I work for a gynocologist and she stated that this can have an estrogen type effect and can alter your periods, make them heavier than normal. So just watch how much you eat daily. Also would not use if pregnant./breast feeding. - 6/24/2012 2:22:00 PM

x Lose 10 Pounds by July 5! Sign up with Email Sign up with Facebook
By clicking one of the above buttons, you're indicating that you have read and agree to SparkPeople's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy and that you're at least 18 years of age.