The Health Benefits of Flaxseed

Why this superfood might actually deserve the title.

Ground flax (also known as "flaxmeal") alongside whole flaxseeds. Kristin Duvall/Photolibrary/Getty Images

It seems like flaxseed, which is also known as linseed, is being touted by just about anyone with a TV show, newspaper column, or a Twitter account. But flaxseed is nothing new; it hasn't been created in a lab by some 21st century scientists who were looking for a new "superfood" to market. Flax has been an integral part of many cultures for millennia - there's evidence people were making clothes with the plant 30, 000 years ago.

So why the resurgence? Flax brings a tremendous variety of health benefits to the table, and adding it to your diet will fill a lot of nutritional gaps you may have - especially if you don't eat much fish.

The Fabulous Benefits of Flax

Flaxseed refers to the seeds from the flaxplant, a flowering type of plant that is grown specifically for its seeds. Flaxseed can be purchased as flour, oil, or in seed form. Capsules are also available if you'd rather take it as a supplement.

But, we hear you asking, why would I want flaxseed to begin with? Well, flax is an extraordinary source of Omega-3 fatty acids, a very healthy fat that's been linked to a wide variety of benefits that range from lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure to decreasing inflammation and joint pain, which are common symptoms of arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to prevent many types of cancer, including breast cancercolon cancer, prostate cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

 Most people are under the impression that they need to eat fish to obtain their Omega-3, but there are plenty of plant-based sources - and flax is one of the best.

But Omega-3s aren't the only reason to eat flaxseed. It's extraordinarily high in fiber, with almost 4 grams of the stuff in a two tablespoon serving.

This makes flaxseed a good choice for those of us suffering from constipation or even if you're simply having trouble meeting your daily requirements.

How to Use Flaxseed

Here are some ideas to add flax to your diet:

  • Ground flaxseed, also called flaxmeal, is easier to digest. You can sprinkle it on cereal or yogurt, French toast (before cooking), or you can use it to "bread" chicken when you're looking for a gluten-free, fiber-rich way to crisp up your poultry. 
  • Add flaxseed oil to salads, smoothies, yogurt, and breakfast cereal.
  • The adventurous folk can try using flax in their baking. Not only are there plenty of recipes for high fiber, low-carb flax bread, but the ground seed also has the unusual quality of forming a stretchy goo when it's added to water - which makes it a great egg substitute when baking. Two tablespoons of flax and two tablespoons of water should equal one egg.

Recommended Daily Amount for Adults

Experts recommend taking 1-2 tablespoons ground flaxseed or 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil daily. The daily requirement is easy to meet when incorporating flaxseed into your favorite foods.

Recipes Using Flaxseed