Flaxseed is a nutritional supplement reputed to confer dramatic health benefits, ranging from constipation relief to cancer prevention. You can buy flaxseed already ground or cold-milled, or you can buy it whole and grind it yourself. Once it is ground, sprinkle it on your breakfast cereal or add it to home-baked treats. Be aware that some of flaxseed's purported benefits still require more research. If you have schizophrenia, diabetes or cancer, use flaxseed only after consulting with your health-care provider.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Preservation of Nutritional Compounds
Eating whole flaxseed won't introduce this supplement's important nutrients into your system. To get at the lignans and omega-3 fatty acids, you need to grind the seeds up.
Proponents and vendors of flaxseed products recommend the cold-milling process to prevent the heat destruction of the food's most healthy components. According to Barlean's Organic Oils, cold milling "delicately liberates naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, amino acids, lignans, and phytonutrients without damaging delicate omega-3 fatty acids." Jarrow Formulas, one of many vendors of ground flaxseed, says that cold milling "chops the seed without heating the mill blades, so the essential fatty acids remain intact."
However, medical and educational sources such as the North Dakota State University Extension Service and the University of Maryland Medical Center indicate that you'll get all the nutritional benefits of flaxseed simply by grinding it in your coffee grinder. You can preserve ground seeds for several months. If you buy whole seeds, store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to grind them may extend their freshness.
- Eating whole flaxseed won't introduce this supplement's important nutrients into your system.
- Jarrow Formulas, one of many vendors of ground flaxseed, says that cold milling "chops the seed without heating the mill blades, so the essential fatty acids remain intact."
Benefits of Ground Flaxseed
Lignans from flaxseed may offer protection against some forms of cancer. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, one study involving prostate cancer found that "men who consumed a low-fat, flaxseed-supplemented diet for one month had slower tumor progression than those who did not consume the diet." Some studies with animals suggest that lignans may prevent melanoma from metastasizing from the skin into the lungs.
But this possible protection may come with a price. The University of Maryland Medical Center mentions another study that linked ALA omega-3 fatty acids with faster growth of tumors in men with advanced prostate cancer. The advanced stage of the cancer also correlated with higher levels of ALA "from nonanimal as well as meat and dairy sources." UMMC recommends using flaxseed products only after consulting a qualified health-care provider if you suffer from prostate problems or breast cancer.
- Lignans from flaxseed may offer protection against some forms of cancer.
- The advanced stage of the cancer also correlated with higher levels of ALA "from nonanimal as well as meat and dairy sources.
Preventing Heart Disease
According to Jane U. Edwards, Ph.D., LRD, a nutrition specialist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service, flaxseed helps reduce incidence of heart disease. Its high dietary fiber content lowers LDL, or "bad," cholesterol. Meanwhile, its omega-3 fatty acids reduce blood pressure and stroke risk while increasing the time it takes blood to clot.
- According to Jane U. Edwards, Ph.D., LRD, a nutrition specialist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service, flaxseed helps reduce incidence of heart disease.
- Meanwhile, its omega-3 fatty acids reduce blood pressure and stroke risk while increasing the time it takes blood to clot.
Herbs to Shrink Colon Polyps
The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed have an anti-inflammatory effect, says Dr. Edwards. This benefits sufferers from rheumatoid arthritis and other similar diseases.
Acting as a Laxative
Flaxseed, thanks to its high fiber content, is often used as a laxative to relieve constipation as well as to promote overall digestive health.
Reducing Blood Glucose
According to Dr. Edwards, flaxseed may have a beneficial effect for people with diabetes. "The fiber in flaxseed has been shown to reduce the blood glucose response to carbohydrate intake in healthy individuals," she writes. However, flaxseed's effect on diabetes requires more study. The University of Maryland Medical Center cautions those taking insulin or other medicines for diabetes to consult with a qualified health-care provider before using flaxseed.
- According to Dr. Edwards, flaxseed may have a beneficial effect for people with diabetes. "
- The fiber in flaxseed has been shown to reduce the blood glucose response to carbohydrate intake in healthy individuals," she writes.
Benefits of Ground Flaxseed
Herbs to Shrink Colon Polyps
Can Flaxseeds Make You Sick?
The Effect of Flaxseed on Hypothyroidism
Does Flaxseed Contain Soluble or Insoluble Fiber?
Flaxseed Allergy Symptoms
What Is the Difference Between Fenugreek Extract and Fenugreek Seed?
Wheat Bran: What Foods are High in Wheat Bran Fiber?
How Much EPA & DHA Are in Chia Seeds?
Vitamins & Flax Seeds
- Goyal A, Sharma V, Upadhyay N, Gill S, Sihag M. Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. J Food Sci Technol. 2014;51(9):1633-53. doi:10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9
- Ren GY, Chen CY, Chen GC, et al. Effect of flaxseed intervention on inflammatory marker C-reactive protein: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrients. 2016;8(3):136. doi:10.3390/nu8030136
- Okinyo-Owiti DP, Dong Q, Ling B, et al. Evaluating the cytotoxicity of flaxseed orbitides for potential cancer treatment. Toxicol Rep. 2015;2:1014-1018. doi:10.1016/j.toxrep.2015.06.011
- Lowcock EC, Cotterchio M, Boucher BA. Consumption of flaxseed, a rich source of lignans, is associated with reduced breast cancer risk. Cancer Causes Control. 2013;24(4):813-6. doi:10.1007/s10552-013-0155-7
- Ramos CI, Andrade de Lima AF, Grilli DG, Cuppari L. The short-term effects of olive oil and flaxseed oil for the treatment of constipation in hemodialysis patients. J Ren Nutr. 2015;25(1):50-6. doi:10.1053/j.jrn.2014.07.009
- Styrczewska M, Kostyn A, Kulma A, et al. Flax fiber hydrophobic extract inhibits human skin cells inflammation and causes remodeling of extracellular matrix and wound closure activation. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:862391. doi:10.1155/2015/862391
- Ibrügger S, Kristensen M, Mikkelsen MS, Astrup A. Flaxseed dietary fiber supplements for suppression of appetite and food intake. Appetite. 2012;58(2):490-5. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.12.024
- Cetisli NE, Saruhan A, Kivcak B. The effects of flaxseed on menopausal symptoms and quality of life. Holist Nurs Pract. 2015;29(3):151-7. doi:10.1097/HNP.0000000000000085
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil. Updated September 2016.
- O'Keefe A, Kapur S, Rex G, Watson W. Flax seed allergy in children: an emerging allergen? Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2010; 6(Suppl 2):P6. doi:10.1186/1710-1492-6-S2-P6
- Hackshaw-McGeagh LE, Perry RE, Leach VA, et al. A systematic review of dietary, nutritional, and physical activity interventions for the prevention of prostate cancer progression and mortality. Cancer Causes Control. 2015;26(11):1521-50. doi:10.1007/s10552-015-0659-4
- Carleton AJ, Sievenpiper JL, De Souza R, McKeown-Eyssen G, Jenkins DJ. Case-control and prospective studies of dietary α-linolenic acid intake and prostate cancer risk: a meta-analysis. BMJ Open. 2013;3(5). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002280
- Setayesh M, Sadeghifar AR, Nakhaee N, Kamalinejad M, Rezaeizadeh H. A topical gel from flax seed oil compared with hand splint in carpal tunnel syndrome: A randomized clinical trial. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017;22(3):462-467. doi:10.1177/2156587216677822
- UW Medicine Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. Medications to avoid before surgery.
- Mount Sinai Health Library. Flaxseed oil.
- Kajla P, Sharma A, Sood DR. Flaxseed--a potential functional food source. J Food Sci Technol. 2015;52(4):1857-71. doi:10.1007/s13197-014-1293-y
- Cockerell KM, Watkins AS, Reeves LB, Goddard L, Lomer MC. Effects of linseeds on the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome: a pilot randomised controlled trial. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2012;25(5):435-43. doi:10.1111/j.1365-277X.2012.01263.x
- Kaithwas G, Majumdar DK. Effect of L. usitatissimum (flaxseed/linseed) fixed oil against distinct phases of inflammation. ISRN Inflamm. 2013;2013:735158. doi:10.1155/2013/735158
- Ward HA, Kuhnle GG, Mulligan AA, Lentjes MA, Luben RN, Khaw KT. Breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Norfolk in relation to phytoestrogen intake derived from an improved database. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(2):440-8. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28282
Nicole LeBoeuf-Little is a freelancer from New Orleans, writing professionally since 1994. Recent short stories appear on Ideomancer.com and in Ellen Datlow's anthology "Blood and Other Cravings." She has published articles in "Pangaia Magazine" and eGuides at StyleCareer.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of Washington and attended the professional SF/F workshop Viable Paradise.