Health Benefits of Flaxseed

Flax is one of the oldest crops in the world and has been used by people throughout history for all sorts of purposes. In fact, its Latin name, Linum usitatissimum, means “very useful.” Today, flaxseed is an important addition to many diets, offering health benefits for everything from heart health to blood sugar levels.

Health Benefits

The vitamins, minerals, and fiber in flaxseed can provide important health benefits. Magnesium, for example, is important for more than 300 different reactions in your body. Magnesium is also important for strong bones and helps build your DNA.

Flaxseed also provides a significant amount of choline, which helps your body’s cells communicate with each other.

Flaxseed provides other health benefits, such as:

Heart Health

Flaxseed has been shown to improve heart health in a number of different ways. Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower your risk of heart attacks.

One study showed that eating flaxseed daily for six months significantly reduced blood pressure, whether or not participants were taking blood pressure medication. In another study of people with diabetes, flaxseed was also found to lower “bad” cholesterol and raise “good” cholesterol. Both studies were on small groups of people, however, so more research will need to be done to be sure of the results.

Lower Risk of Cancer

Compounds called lignans have been linked to a lower risk of cancer, especially prostate and breast cancer. Flaxseed is one of the best natural sources of lignans, containing as much as 800 times more than other plants. Flaxseed is still being studied for its potential to prevent different types of cancer.

Digestive Health

Flaxseed is often used as a fiber supplement because of the large amounts of dietary fiber it contains. Flaxseed has both insoluble and soluble forms of dietary fiber, which can improve your digestive system in several ways. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool, helping your intestines process waste more effectively. Soluble fiber turns into a type of gel in your stomach and helps absorb cholesterol before it ever makes it to your bloodstream.

Control Blood Sugar

Supplementing your diet with flaxseed may also help you manage your blood sugar more effectively. The same small study on the cholesterol-lowering effects of flaxseed also found that people with diabetes who add flaxseed to their diet see a decrease of nearly 20% in their fasting glucose. While flaxseed is not a substitute for other forms of blood sugar management, it may help people living with diabetes better control their glucose levels.

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Nutrition

Flaxseed is surprisingly rich in protein, providing a healthy, plant-based form of protein to help muscle regeneration and hair growth.

It's also an excellent source of:

Nutrients per Serving 

A quarter-cup serving of flaxseed contains:

Things to Watch Out For

Like most seeds and nuts, flaxseed is relatively high in calories and should be eaten in moderation. Most studies show that eating just 30 grams of flaxseed per day is enough to see health benefits. Eating one or two servings of flaxseed per day may help you improve your health without consuming too many calories.

How to Use Flaxseed

Flaxseed is a flexible ingredient that can be used in a number of ways. You can buy whole flaxseed, ground flaxseed, or flaxseed oil at most large supermarkets. Ground and whole flaxseed have similar health benefits while flaxseed oil doesn’t offer any dietary fiber.

Ground flaxseed can be mixed into flour to add nutrition to baked goods without changing their texture. Whole flaxseed can be added as well, but it will be noticeable in the final product. Flaxseed oil can be used in a variety of dishes as a replacement for olive oil or butter.

Here are some suggestions for ways to add flaxseed to your diet:

  • Sprinkle flaxseed on top of oatmeal.
  • Blend flaxseed into a fruit smoothie.
  • Bake cookies with flaxseed mixed into the batter.
  • Mix ground flaxseed with whole wheat flour to add fiber to baked goods.
  • Toss roasted vegetables in flaxseed oil.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on September 09, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention: “Changes in 2-hydroxyestrone and 16alpha-hydroxyestrone metabolism with flaxseed consumption: modification by COMT and CYP1B1 genotype.”

Circulation: “Alpha-linolenic acid and risk of nonfatal acute myocardial infarction.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Hypertension: “Potent antihypertensive action of dietary flaxseed in hypertensive patients.”

Journal of Dietary Supplements: “An open-label study on the effect of flaxseed powder (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation in the management of diabetes mellitus.”

Journal of Food Science and Technology: “Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food.”

Journal of Food Science and Technology: “Flaxseed-a potential functional food source.”

Mayo Clinic: “Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.”

National Institutes of Health: “Magnesium.”

Nutrition Reviews: “Choline: An Essential Nutrient for Public Health.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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