Benefits of flaxseed

Originally Published: November 19, 2004
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What are the benefits of flaxseed? Heck, what is flaxseed? Thanx!

Dear Reader,

Flaxseed is the most highly concentrated plant source of the omega-3 fatty acid α (alpha)-linolenic acid (other sources include canola oil, walnuts, pumpkin seed oil, soy, purslane, and fenugreek). Flaxseed can be either golden or chocolate brown in color, are approximately the same size as sesame seeds, and have a mild flavor. One half tablespoon or 1-½ teaspoons of ground flaxseed, incorporated into daily food intake, will provide approximately one gram of omega-3 fatty acids.

Emerging scientific evidence demonstrating health benefits of omega-3 fats, particularly omega-3s from fish and flaxseed sources, has been a popular topic in recent news. Scientific claims have been made regarding the relationship between eating plans high in omega-3s and decreased incidence of diseases and disease symptoms. Heart disease, depression, asthma, arthritis, and lupus are just a few of the conditions that have been reported as benefiting from omega-3 intake. Though the potential benefits from omega-3s is great, researchers, to date, have established a proven relationship with omega-3 and decreased risk of heart disease, alone.

While the Institute of Medicine has not set a RDA (recommended daily intake) for omega-3s, it has established AI (adequate intake) amounts at 1.6 and 1.1 grams per day for adult men and women, respectively. Omega-3s, as fish oil, may be prescribed at therapeutic levels of 2 - 4 grams per day to lower triglyceride levels.

Flaxseed needs to be ground in order for the omega-3s to be absorbed by the body. A coffee bean grinder can grind the raw seeds, which are then stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to one month. Raw flaxseed can be purchased in bulk, unground or ground. At two to five dollars per pound, flaxseed is an inexpensive source of omega-3s. Flaxseed is also an ingredient in many commercial cereals, breads, crackers, and other baked goods. If you see whole flaxseeds in your bread, you need to switch brands.

Tips for including flax seeds in your meal plan:

  • Since store-bought cereals often contain whole flaxseed, instead of ground, add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to regular breakfast cereal.
  • Add a teaspoon of flaxseed to your mayo or mustard as you spread it onto sandwich bread.
  • Mix a tablespoon of flaxseed into an 8-ounce container of yogurt for a snack.
  • Add a tablespoon of flaxseed to your sauce, rice, pasta, or mixed dish.
  • Mix a teaspoon of flaxseed into your salad dressing or sprinkle it directly onto your salad.
  • Bake it into cookies, muffins, breads, and other baked goods. Fortunately, flaxseed doesn't significantly change the taste or texture of the product.

You will be bursting with omega-3s and good health.