benefits of flax Flax seeds have been a hot topic these days. We often hear that they’ve got lots of fibre and are generally a good thing to add to our diet whenever we can. But many of us still have questions…How exactly should I use flax? Can I bake with it? Is there a difference between the golden and brown flax seeds? Should I buy whole or ground flax? Which is better, the seeds or the oil?

The following are answers to your most commonly asked questions about flax – hooray!

Q: Why should I be eating flax, anyway? Just tell me straight up.

A: Flax is the most concentrated plant-based source of omega-3! (Well, truthfully, it’s a source of alpha-linolenic acid, which our bodies use to make omega-3.) Why do you want omega-3 in your life? It’s a potent anti-inflammatory and helps keep our cell walls fit and happy. This makes it helpful for virtually all conditions. Not kidding! Omega-3s are used in the treatment of depression, ADHD, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, osteoporosis, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, inflammatory bowel disesases, skin conditions, asthma, macular degeneration, fatigue, menstrual pain, and many types of cancers. (Fun fact: the botanical name for Flax is a Latin term meaning ‘most useful’.)

Also, the other thing you may have heard about flax seeds is that they’re super high in fibre. You know what that means! Healthy bowels!! Also, the soluble fibre in flax helps balance blood sugar, which can help if you experience mood swings and energy fluctuations throughout the day. It also keeps us feeling satiated between meals, which helps in weight management! Plus, flax contains many vitamins, minerals, and has antioxidant properties. This is BIG nutrition in a tiny package.

Q: Okay, awesome. Where can I find these amazing seeds? What should I be looking for when I buy them?

A: You can always pick up flax seeds at a health food store. Most bulk stores sell them, too. And because they’ve become so mainstream, you can also find them in many grocery stores (probably in the baking aisle/section). You won’t have any trouble, that’s for sure. Just be careful when purchasing from large bulk bins – ask the store manager what the turnover rate is, and be sure the bin is sealed well. You don’t want to get flax seeds that have been sitting around for weeks or months because they can easily become rancid.

Q: Well, how long will they keep for? Should I put them in the fridge?

A: Yes, the fridge is a great idea! As long as the whole seeds are stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place, they’ll last for at least 3 months. If you have a lot, or don’t use them very often, consider keeping them in the freezer where they’ll stay fresh for 6 months.

Q: Is it true you have to grind flax seeds?

A: Yes, yes, yes. These lil’ things have such a tough outer shell, which cannot be broken down during digestion. If you don’t grind them, you won’t absorb the fatty acids or benefit from their fibre. That would be sad. Grind them well. Don’t buy pre-ground flax at the store – buy the whole seeds and grind as needed at home. If you grind up more than you need in one go, store the leftovers in the fridge right away, and use within 3 days.

Q: Do I really have to grind them, though? If I eat them whole, I’ll still absorb some of the goodness, right?

A: Unfortunately, you won’t. If you eat them whole, they’ll come out in your poop whole. True story. I should also mention here that when you eat them whole you get the mucilaginous benefit which helps to sooth the digestive system. So, they aren’t bad whole, they just have much more nutrition power when ground.

Q: Got it! Can I use my coffee grinder?

A: You know it! I have a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding non-coffee items like flax, cacao, and herbs/spices. A nut grinder, or a high-speed blender works too.

Q: That’s great. Next question. After I’ve ground my flax, what should I do with it? I know I can put it in smoothies, but I don’t always feel like a smoothie. Don’t be a smoothie-pusher; give me some other options!

A: Of course! Besides putting it in smoothies, there are lots of other things to add it to. Try sprinkling it on your cereal, granola, porridge or toast. For a snack, have almond butter on apple or celery slices, and dip in a small dish of ground flax. Put it on fruit or cooked vegetables. It also makes a good egg replacement in baking – to replace one egg, mix 1 tbsp ground flax and 3 tbsp water, and let sit until it reaches an egg-like texture. You can also add flax oil to your homemade salad dressings – 1 tbsp per 1 cup of dressing.

Q: Oh yes, flax oil! Thanks for reminding me. Which is better for me, the ground seeds or the oil?

A: They are both amazingly healthy choices, so just think about what kind of effect you want to have. Are you struggling with inflammation? The oil is a super concentrated source of the omega-3 precursor we talked about, so if you’re looking for that potent anti-inflammatory effect, the oil is probably the best choice because it will act much faster. When you eat the ground seeds, on the other hand, you’re also getting all of the fibre – you’re eating the whole food, not just an isolated component. The seeds will therefore have more of an effect on the bowels, blood sugar, and a feeling of satiety.

Q: Makes sense. Now, let’s say I choose to get some of the oil…anything I should be looking for when I go to the health food store?

A: Flax oil should ALWAYS be stored in a fridge at the store, in an opaque glass bottle. It should be expeller cold pressed. Do not (I repeat, do NOT) buy plastic bottles sitting on a non-refridgerated shelf. I did this once and it tasted absolutely nasty; it turned me off flax oil completely. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I’d bought rancid oil – yuck! Buy smaller amounts (a 250ml bottle is good) to make sure you have time to consume it all before it goes bad! Once opened, be sure to seal it tightly between uses and try not to expose it to light or oxygen for too long. Seriously, flax oil is highly sensitive – you kinda have to tip-toe around it and try not to upset it.

Q: So…if flax is as sensitive as you say it is, I probably shouldn’t bake with it. You’ve foiled my plans.

A: You can bake with the ground seeds. The oil, absolutely not, but the seeds are fine to use in baking. Studies show that the heat from baking doesn’t effect the omega-3 content of the seeds. Surprising!

Q: Okay. What’s the difference between brown and golden flax seeds? Does it matter which I choose?

A: The short answer is no, it doesn’t matter too much. Brown flax does have a slightly higher omega-3 content, but otherwise brown and golden flax are pretty much nutritionally equal.

Q: How much should I have in one day?

A: One serving of ground flax seeds is 2 tbsp. This is generally a good amount to have daily. As for the oil, because it’s more concentrated, a serving size is only 1 tbsp. Consult your holistic nutritionist to get more specific advice about what dose is right for you.

Q: Is there anyone who shouldn’t be having flax?

A: I’m really glad you asked. Flax does contain phytoestrogens, so those with estrogen dominant conditions may want to go easy on the flax. This could include endometriosis, cystic fibroids, thyroid dysfunction, and breast, ovarian, and cervical cancer. Additionally, if you’re dealing with a high level of inflammation, it may be wise to try fish oil instead of relying solely on flax, which does require a few steps in order to be conjugated into omega-3 in the body. As I mentioned, it’s always best to talk with a health practitioner you trust, for specific advice tailored to you and your body.

Do you have any other questions about flax that haven’t been covered here? Ask them in the comments section below! In the meantime, what’s your fave way to use flax? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter below!

Alex James Woohoo! The Naked Label loves Alex James. We love her passion for food, her sense of humour, and her awesome ability to undress food! If you haven’t done so yet, definitely check her out on her facebook page to see what daily inspiration she is sharing today. 

Book: The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan