How Many Flax Seeds Should I Eat? — Flax seeds are very popular nutritional addition to diets and food recipes. Many people use them for their high fiber content, oil-like appearance and for the many health benefits – flax seeds have been used to increase breast size, reduce joint pain and treat cancer among other things.
What Is Flaxseed and Where Did It Come From?
Flaxseed comes from the flax plant (also known as Linum usitatissimum), which grows to be about 2 feet tall. It likely was first grown in Egypt but has been cultivated all around the world.
The flax plant can be woven into linen — its fibers are two to three times as strong as cotton! When the plant first came to North America, it was primarily grown to produce clothing. In the mid-20th century, however, cotton took over as the United States’ fiber of choice, so these days, most places in North America that grow flax do so to produce seeds.
Its nutty-tasting seeds can be eaten on their own or crushed and cold-pressed to release flaxseed oil. For decades, it had been common to find flaxseed (also called linseed) used in things like cereal or bread. But it’s developed a niche in the health food scene in the past decade or so. People have become knowledgeable about the crop’s many health benefits and now have many ways to get their fill, whether as a supplement or as an ingredient they add to a variety of foods. You may even have noticed that flaxseed’s been incorporated into your pet’s food.
What Are the Nutrition Facts of Flaxseed?
The usual serving size of ground flaxseed is 2 tablespoons (tbsp). That serving includes:
- 80 calories
- 3 grams (g) protein (6 percent daily value, or DV)
- 4 g carbohydrate (1.33 percent DV)
- 6 g fat (9.23 percent DV). Flaxseed is one of the best sources of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
- 4 g fiber (16 percent DV)
- 100 milligram (mg) phosphorus (8 percent DV)
- 60 mg magnesium (14.28 percent DV)
- 120 mg potassium (2.55 percent DV)
What are the various ways in which you can eat flaxseeds?
Ideally, you should use the ground form of flaxseeds as a part of your daily diet. You can directly buy ground flaxseeds from the market. Alternatively, you can purchase whole flaxseeds, which are less expensive, and ground them in a coffee grinder or food processor.
You can also include flaxseeds in your diet by cooking with them or using them as toppings, such examples include:
- Baking items: You can make muffins, cookies and bread using ground flaxseeds.
- As add-ons to:
Health Benefits of Flaxseed
With its mild, nutty flavor and crisp, crunchy consistency, flaxseed is a versatile ingredient that can enhance the taste and texture of almost any recipe.
One way to use this seed is by mixing it into my morning smoothie. It also makes an excellent addition to pancake batter, homemade veggie burgers, and even overnight oats.
What’s more, it’s loaded with nutrients and linked to numerous benefits.
Here are 9 health benefits of flaxseed that are backed by science, along with some easy ways to increase your intake.
Flaxseed is one of the world’s oldest crops. There are two types, brown and golden, both of which are equally nutritious.
Just one serving provides a good amount of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids, along with several important vitamins and minerals.
One tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseed contains:
- Calories: 37
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Protein: 1.3 grams
- Thiamine: 10% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Copper: 9% of the DV
- Manganese: 8% of the DV
- Magnesium: 7% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 4% of the DV
- Selenium: 3% of the DV
- Zinc: 3% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 2% of the DV
- Iron: 2% of the DV
- Folate: 2% of the DV
Flaxseed is particularly high in thiamine, a B vitamin that plays a key role in energy metabolism as well as cell function. It’s also a great source of copper, which is involved in brain development, immune health, and iron metabolism.
Flaxseed is a good source of many nutrients, including protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamine, and copper.
Flaxseed is an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that’s important for heart health and found primarily in plant foods.
ALA is one of the two essential fatty acids that you must obtain from the food you eat since your body doesn’t produce them.
Animal studies suggest that the ALA in flaxseed may help reduce inflammation and prevent cholesterol from being deposited in your heart’s blood vessels.
A recent study in 8,866 people tied increased ALA intake to decreased cholesterol levels and a lower risk of ischemic heart disease — which is related to narrowed arteries — and type 2 diabetes.
Numerous studies have also linked ALA to a lower risk of stroke. What’s more, one large review of 34 studies even associated increased ALA intake with a decreased risk of dying from heart disease.
Flaxseed is rich in ALA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that may offer numerous benefits for heart health.
Flaxseed is rich in lignans, which are plant compounds that have been studied for their potent cancer-fighting properties. Interestingly, this seed boasts 75–800 times more lignans than other plant foods.
Some studies associate flaxseed intake with a lower risk of breast cancer, particularly for postmenopausal women
Animal and test-tube studies also show flaxseed to protect against colorectal, skin, blood, and lung cancer..
Flaxseed contains nutrients called lignans that may help decrease cancer growth. Some studies link this food to a lower risk of several types of cancer, but more research is needed.
Just 1 tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseed packs 2 grams of fiber, which is around 5% and 8% of the daily recommended intake for men and women, respectively.
What’s more, flaxseed contains two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble — which get fermented by the bacteria in your intestines to support gut health and improve bowel regularity
While soluble fiber absorbs water in your intestines and slows down digestion, which may help regulate blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool, which may prevent constipation and promote regular bowel movements.
With so much fiber packed into each tiny seed, flaxseed may help promote regular bowel movements and improve digestive health.
Flaxseed may also help lower cholesterol levels.
According to a 1-month study in people with peripheral artery disease, eating 4 tablespoons (30 grams) of milled flaxseed per day decreased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol by 15%
A 12-week study in 112 people with high blood pressure had similar findings, reporting that 4 tablespoons (30 grams) of flaxseed per day led to significant reductions in body mass index (BMI), total cholesterol, and blood pressure
These effects may be due to the fiber in flaxseed, which binds to bile salts before being excreted by your body. To replenish these bile salts, cholesterol is pulled from your blood into your liver, resulting in lower levels.
Flaxseed’s high fiber content may help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health.
Flaxseed is renowned for its ability to decrease blood pressure levels
A review of 15 studies found that supplementing with flaxseed products, including flaxseed powder, may significantly lower levels of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure — the top and bottom numbers on a reading, respectively.
This seed may be especially effective for those with high blood pressure levels. In fact, a small, 12-week study showed that taking 4 tablespoons (30 grams) of flaxseed per day reduced blood pressure in those with high levels.
Furthermore, according to a large review of 11 studies, taking flaxseed daily for more than 3 months may lower blood pressure levels by 2 mmHg.
While that might seem insignificant, some research suggests that a reduction of 2 mmHg decreases the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease by 14% and 6%, respectively.
Flaxseeds Side Effects
If you are new to this food, you may be concerned about the potential flaxseed side effects. Because flaxseeds are high in fiber, many of the downsides are related to digestive problems.
According to Mayo Clinic, flaxseeds can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea. To avoid these side effects, do not over consume flaxseeds. When consuming fiber-rich foods like flaxseeds, drink plenty of water throughout the day. This will prevent the fiber from causing constipation or other uncomfortable symptoms.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health advises to avoid raw flaxseeds as they may contain toxic compounds prior to cooking. They also report that pregnant women should avoid flaxseeds, flaxseed oil and flaxseed supplements due to the mild hormonal effects.
Fortunately, the flaxseeds’ side effects can be prevented. Allergic reactions to flaxseeds are rare. When consumed responsibly, the risk of experiencing these side effects is low.
Flax Seeds: How Much Per Day?
A typical serving size of flaxseeds is two tablespoons.
Flaxseeds are known for being high in fiber and full of heart health benefits. To experience some of the health benefits of flaxseeds for yourself, it is helpful to know the serving size of flaxseeds that you should consume per day. Making flaxseed recipes may help you reach that threshold.
You can opt for ground flaxseeds or whole flaxseeds. Both are full of nutrients and benefits, but the experts at Mayo Clinic note that ground flaxseeds are typically easier to digest than whole flaxseeds. You can purchase ground flaxseeds or grind them yourself using a blender, food processor or coffee grinder.
Since flaxseeds have a mild nutty flavor, you have to get creative with flaxseed recipes. To encourage yourself to consume flaxseeds every day, you can blend flaxseeds in smoothies, sprinkle them on oatmeal or make flaxseed muffins.
A typical serving size of flaxseeds is two tablespoons. Overconsuming flaxseeds can cause digestive discomfort.
Flaxseed vs. Chia Seeds: How Do They Compare Nutritionally?
Flaxseed isn’t the only trendy seed around: Chia seeds are out there too and give flaxseed a run for its money. Both have earned their superfood reputation and are sources of a variety of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
But which one’s better? Here’s how they stack up:
- Protein and potassium levels are pretty similar between the two seeds.
- Chia seeds have slightly fewer calories than flaxseed.
- Chia seeds have slightly more grams of carbohydrates and fiber per serving than flaxseed.
- Chia seeds win in the calcium department.
- Flaxseed contains more omega-3 fatty acids.
- Chia seeds have an edge on flaxseed in terms of promoting fullness, likely because of their higher-fiber viscosity.
It’s a tough one to call, but what it comes down to is this: There’s a place for both in a healthy diet. You can choose your seed based on what you need more of. If it’s omega-3s, go for flaxseed. If you need more calcium or fiber, chia seeds are a good bet.
Does Flaxseed Lose Nutrients When It Is Cooked?
A close-up of whole flaxseeds.
Adding flaxseeds to your diet boosts your intake of fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. You can put raw, ground seeds in smoothies or sprinkle over cereal. You can also benefit from consuming baked goods containing flaxseeds. Heating flaxseeds does not measurably change the nutritional content.
Flaxseeds provide 37 calories and 3 grams of heart-healthy fat per 1-tbsp. serving. A tablespoon also offers 2 grams of fiber – much of which is soluble, making it helpful in treating constipation. Flaxseeds are a source of thiamine, phosphorus and manganese. They also provide small amounts of iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, vitamin B-6 and folate. Flaxseeds contains lignins – plant phytonutrients – that may help combat cancer.
The fat in flaxseed is known as alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid, important to brain development and function and crucial to the prevention of heart disease. The ALA in flaxseed withstands temperatures involved in baking – meaning that muffins and breads with ground flaxseed can still offer this heart-healthy fat.
Effect of Heat on Other Nutrients
Lignins also remain stable when heated to temperatures consistent with baking, so flaxseed-containing muffins, breads and crackers continue to provide these phytonutrients. The fiber content of flaxseeds is also not affected by heating. Protein may be broken down by heat, but this makes it more easily digested. Thiamin may be destroyed by high temperatures, however