Flaxseed, also know as linseed, is a concentrated source of key health nutrients: omega-3, magnesium, mucilages and vitamin E. Have you ever tried this seed? Do you know the different benefits it offers? Most people consume flaxseed in order to take care of their heart, but this superfood has so much more to offer.

Healthy fats from flaxseed prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce blood cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of thrombosis (formation of blood clots). Additionally, thanks to its mucilage content, flaxseed normalises blood sugar (glycaemia) levels and relieves constipation.

Key Facts

  • Flax seeds are a simple, economical and effective option to improve heart, intestinal and brain health.
  • The nutritional profile of flax seed is very complete. It provides healthy fats, proteins of very good biological value, soluble and insoluble fibre, vitamin E and magnesium.
  • Flaxseed can be eaten whole, ground or in the form of flour. Flaxseed oil and flaxseed capsules are also available.

Ranking: The best flaxseed on the market

As with most seeds, flaxseed products are abundant. You can find oils, flours, capsules or even whole or crushed flaxseeds. Flaxseeds are brown or gold in colour. We have helped you by selecting the best flaxseed supplements available on the Australian market at the moment.

No. 1: Absolute Organic Organic Flaxseeds, 400g

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Coming in at #1 on our list of flaxseeds are these mild and nutty flavoured flaxseeds from health food brand Absolute Organic. These flaxseeds are ideal for making oats, yoghurts and smoothies and are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids in your daily diet. These specially produced seeds also can be used in a wide variety of recipes to enhance flavour and add significant nutricional value.

Being packaged in a handy 400g size packet with a resealable plastic seal to help avoid unwanted spills, this packet of flaxseeds would be a great addition to anyones pantry. With the added benefit of being produced by a reputable brand such as Absolute Organics, this is a must have product.

No. 2: Bob’s Red Mill Organic/Gluten Free Flaxseed Meal, 453g

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The second option on the list is this flaxseed meal (flour) by US owned company Bob’s Red Mill. This organic/gluten free flaxseed meal is freshly milled to preserve the natural oils and retain nutrients. This flaxseed flour has a nutty taste and contains omega 3 essential fatty acids. This product will help to reduce cholesterol, the risk of heart attacks and improve blood circulation in the body. It is also rich in fibre.

Being billed as dairy free, lactose-free, salt-free, vegan, vegetarian, yeast-free, egg-free, wheat-free, rice-free, gluten-free, corn-free, kosher, no added sugar, soy-free, organic, preservative-free, nut-free, this product has so much goodness that it really is a no-brainer. Go on, treat yourself.

No. 3: Blackmores Flaxseed Oil 1000mg (100 Capsules)

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Blackmores is Australia’s most trusted vitamin and supplement brand and is a world leader in producing quality and reliable supplement products. The Blackmores Flaxseed Oil capsules are an excellent source of beneficial omega-3, -6, and -9 fatty acids, which are important for healthy skin and hair. These capsules may also provide an anti-inflammatory action and may help maintain healthy heart function. It is interesting to note that these capsules are also halal certified.

Arriving in a bottle of 100 capsules, this product is so simple to include in your daily routine an improve the nutrients that you are consuming everyday. If you are looking for an economical yet reliable product, this could be the one for you.

No. 4: Australian NaturalCare 1000mg Flaxseed Oil Capsules, 100 Count

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Don’t compromise on quality when it comes to your health. Australian NaturalCare 1000mg Flaxseed Oil is a super rich oil for everything from heart to hair. For those people out there, perhaps vegans, who prefer not to consume seafood, these animal-product-free flaxseed capsules contain a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to support a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.

This product also contains omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, helping to maintain a healthy balance of essential fatty acids to help reduce inflammation, help maintain the structural integrity of the cell membranes and promote healthy hair, skin and nails. When is comes to your health, why cut corners? Check out this super economical product to boost your immune system and improve your overall health.

No. 5: Honest to Goodness Organic Linseed (Flaxseed) Brown, 200 Grams

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Lucky last on the list is this fantastic offering from natural food brand Honest to Goodness, a company that specialises in producing high-quality, organic products. This pack of linseeds contains Australian Certified Organic Brown Linseeds that are of course a great natural source of essential fatty acids including omega-3 and omega-6. With the added benefit of being manufactured in Australia, you have the confidence knowing that the product is made from only the highest quality products.

With a conveniently shaped package in a nifty 200g size, this flaxseed supplement can be added to those daily smoothies or breakfasts to add that little bit of extra nutricional kick that you need. At an extremely affordable price there is no better way to get on the flaxseed boat than with this excellent product.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about flaxseed

The most well known benefits of flaxseeds are those related to cardiovascular health, more simply put, a healthy heart. However, there are many other reasons for consuming flaxseed in its various forms. In this section we will explain the positive impact that flax can have on your entire body and how to consume it correctly.

Adding flaxseed/linseed to your breakfast is an ideal choice for incorporating fibre into your diet
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What exactly is flaxseed?

Flaxseed, scientifically known as linum usitatissimum, is a member of plant group Linum in the family Linaceae. The seeds are small, oval and flat. Their colour can vary from dark brown to light yellow. Some varieties of golden linseed have less alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3) compared to those that are brown.

What nutrients does flaxseed provide?

Flaxseed provides multiple nutrients, however its star nutrients are magnesium, lignan, soluble fibre, vitamin E and omega 3. These compounds are directly linked to the healthy properties of this superfood. In 100 grams of flaxseed you will find:

  • 40-41 grams of fat: 23 grams of which corresponds to the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It also contains omega-6 and omega-9.
  • 20 grams of protein: Sources of essential amino acids that our body must obtain from food. The qualities of the flax seed protein can be compared to that of soy protein.
  • 28 grams of dietary fibre: Flaxseed provides both soluble and insoluble fibre. Each type of fibre has different functions in the body and we will explain this later.
  • Just 1 gram of complex carbohydrates.
  • Magnesium, potassium, calcium and phosphorus.
  • Vitamins: Vitamin E and B-complex vitamins (B1, B3, B5 and folate).
  • Other important nutrients: flavonoids and lignans.

What are the benefits of flaxseed?

Raw flaxseeds and products made from flax have superfood properties. This means that in addition to offering us essential nutrients to our body, flaxseeds have the ability to contribute to the treatment of certain conditions and/or prevent disease. Flaxseed offers the following benefits:

Flaxseed and linseed flours must be mixed with other foods or liquids in order to be consumed
(Source: Geografika: 34736706/ 123rf.com).

  • It acts as a cardioprotective, i.e. it protects the heart from disease and keeps it healthy and functioning properly.
  • Prevents ischemia and strokes.
  • Lowers blood cholesterol levels.
  • It reduces the risk of developing atherosclerosis and, if the disease has already developed, helps to slow its growth. Atherosclerosis is the accumulation of fatty plaques (and other substances) inside the arteries. It reduces blood supply and can lead to total obstruction of the artery.
  • Helps to stablise blood glucose levels and, when included in food preparation, reduces post-meal blood glucose (the level of blood glucose after a meal).
  • Decreases blood pressure numbers in hypertensive/stressed people.
  • Reduces the risk of thrombosis (blood clots that form in the body and can cause a heart attack or stroke).
  • Combats inflammation and relieves joint pain.
  • Helps to prevent cancer, especially breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer.
  • Limits menopause-related bone demineralisation and protects against osteoporosis.
  • It enriches the flavour of salads, yogurts, pancakes, breads, smoothies and soups by providing proteins, fibre and fats of excellent quality.
  • They increase the feeling of fullness and satisfy your appetite for several hours.
  • They help the treatment of constipation and contribute to the balance of the intestinal well-being.

Why do flax seeds help cardiovascular health?

Flax seeds have a cardioprotective effect because they reduce the risk factors of the development of heart disease. In addition, flaxseeds contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that protect the heart, the arteries and blood vessels. The presence of omega-3, fibre, magnesium, flavonoids and vitamin E from flaxseeds help to improve heart health.

Lignan in flaxseed is an antioxidant that protects against oxidative damage involved in heart disease. The omega 3 helps to reduce cholesterol levels and prevents plaque from forming inside arteries. It also decreases inflammation in the body that can contribute to heart disease. The vitamin E in flax provides antioxidant benefits just like lignan.

Flax oil decreases the risk of thrombosis (formation of a blood clot that can cause a heart attack or stroke)
(Source: Koval: 30363781/ 123rf.com).

Soluble fibre also helps to lower blood cholesterol because it helps the elimination of cholesterol from foods through feces and reduces cholesterol absorption in the body. Magnesium is a key mineral to improve correct functioning of the heart.

Janet Bond BrillNutritionist

“The lignans in flaxseeds function as both an antioxidant and a plant hormone, extremely powerful [artery] plaque-fighting tools.”

How should flax be consumed to lower cholesterol?

Both whole or ground flaxseed and the flours, oils and capsules made from this superfood are beneficial for lowering cholesterol. The capsules and flaxseed oils consist of pure healthy fats, especially omega 3 and omega 9, which lower blood cholesterol.

Raw flaxseed comes in two formats, whole and ground
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However, omega-3 and omega-9 fats are not the only cholesterol lowering nutrient. The soluble fibre inside the flax seed also plays an important role. To take advantage of the effects of the soluble fibre and omega-3 presence, flaxseed must be ground and/or hydrated before consumption. Otherwise, the outer layer of the seed does not allow the digestive enzymes to process on the important nutrients inside it (fats, soluble fibre, proteins) and the flaxseed is eliminated without being digested.

Janet Bond BrillNutritionist

“Lignans are metabolised in the human intestine by friendly bacterial flora and are absorbed and circulated in the bloodstream. Here they exert powerful antioxidant effects that inhibit the process of atherosclerosis, cut LDL cholesterol, (potentially lower the risk of) certain types of cancers—specifically the hormone-related breast and prostate cancers—and can contribute to increased brain function much like estrogen replacement therapy.”

Should flaxseed be “activated” before consumption?

Yes, flaxseed is activated by grinding and/or soaking in water for 15-30 minutes before consumption. In this way, digestibility is increased and all its nutrients can be used. If flaxseed isn’t activated, the flaxseed only acts as an intestinal stimulus that helps you go to the bathroom, and all the other key benefits are not realised.

How can flaxseeds be consumed?

Flaxseed are so versatile that they can be used in sweet or salty recipes to add a little extra zing to your favourite meal. The seeds can be added to yogurts, veggie smoothies, shakes, soups, salads, cakes, quiches, biscuits and breads. When flaxseed is hydrated with water and forms a gel around it, it can even be used as an egg replacement in vegan preparations.

The flour form of flaxseeds can be mixed with other flours to make breads, cookies, bread sticks, scones and even the old Aussie favourite, Anzac biscuits. Linseed oil can be used raw as a salad dressing or to make a cheeky little vegan mayonnaise.

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It is not recommended to heat flax oil because its fats can deteriorate.

Why is the magnesium presence in flaxseed so important?

Magnesium is part of our teeth and bones, so a magnesium deficiency can create dental problems, bone demineralisation and increase the risk of osteoporosis. Magnesium is also an essential mineral for muscle, heart and nerve function. It also helps to reduce migraines and the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Can flaxseed help you lose weight?

There is no superfood or magical slimming supplement that exists in the world. However, flaxseed can facilitate weight loss because it reduces appetite. Mucilages, a type of soluble fibre present in flaxseed, captures water in the stomach and forms into a gel. This gel actually slows digestion, increases the feeling of fullness which in turn decreases appetite.

In a weight loss plan, it is recommended by dieticians to take 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds accompanied with 1 glass of water, half an hour before lunch and dinner. It is essential to accompany flaxseeds with plenty of water. The capsule and linseed oil form do not help reduce appetite.

Adding fibre to our diet is essential for our well-being
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Why do flaxseeds help regulate bowel function?

Flaxseed contains both types of dietary fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre (mucilages) absorbs water and gels, giving fecal matter greater volume and moisture. Insoluble fibre stimulates intestinal peristalsis (a series of wave-like muscle contractions in the intestines) and decreases intestinal transit time.

Together, soluble and insoluble fibre promote intestinal digestions without causing pain, discomfort or colic. To treat or prevent constipation, flaxseeds should be eaten ground or accompanied by plenty of liquid (water, milkshake, milk, vegetable drink).

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Remember that without liquid, flaxseed does not exert its soft laxative effect.

Who are flax supplements for?

It is recommended to consume linseed daily in cases of constipation and if there is a family history of breast cancer, osteoporosis or diabetes. The oil and flax capsules are intended for people who would really benefit from omega-3, omega-9 and vitamin E supplementation. It is recommended in the case of:

  • Heart disease or those with a family history of heart conditions
  • Arthritis (disease that leads to inflammation of joints) and osteoarthritis (deterioration of joint cartilage).
  • Hypercholesterolemia (blood cholesterol above what is considered normal)
  • Atherosclerosis.

Why is it said that flax is an anticarcinogenic food?

Flaxseed is rich in lignan and vitamin E, both antioxidants that neutralise the oxidative damage that often precedes the development of cancer. In addition, lignan is a phytoestrogen, a plant substance that works within the body through hormonal mechanisms.

A study of melanoma in mice showed that flaxseed reduces the number and size of cancer tumors and decreases the risk of metastasis (secondary cancer growths). Also the omega-3 of linseed helps prevent cancer by fighting inflammation. Flaxseed consumption has been linked to reduced cases of breast, colon and prostate cancer.

Alison MasseyClinical Dietitian and Diabetes Educator at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore

“Flaxseed contains a high percentage of lignans, phytochemicals that have been found to be beneficial to health.”

What is the recommended dose of flaxseed to obtain the above benefits?

For linseed and flax flour, the recommended daily amount (not to be exceeded) is 2 tablespoons (or about 15 grams). Young children should not consume more than 5 grams per day because they would exceed the recommended daily intake of fibre.

Flax capsules should be consumed in doses of 1 or 2 units per day depending on the concentration.

Are there any contraindications to flax supplementation?

Adverse effects after moderate flaxseed consumption are pretty rare. If consumed in excess, it may cause digestive discomfort (flatulence, swelling or colic). In addition, diabetics who use insulin or take insulin sensitisers (e.g. metformin) should not over-consume flaxseed to avoid hypoglycaemia.

Basically all supplements can have certain contradications if the recommended dosage isn’t followed, and flaxseed is no exception. Just as they can be very beneficial in helping to prevent certain diseases, they can worsen other conditions. Generally speaking, flax supplements are safe for the general population, but are not recommended in cases of:

  • Intestinal disease that leads to diarrhea, e.g., irritable colon. For many years people with diverticulosis (presence of diverticula in the colon) were prevented from consuming seeds because they could worsen the condition. Nowadays however, this notion is actually false.
  • Diverticulitis: When the intestines become inflamed and bleeding occurs, fibre-rich foods, including flaxseed, should be avoided.
  • People taking strong medication: This is because the gels that form around flaxseed in the stomach and intestine may decrease the absorption of the drug. A option is to consume flaxseed 2 to 3 hours after taking the medication.
  • Children, pregnant and lactating women: There are no studies to ensure that flax supplements are safe at these stages so its best to stay on the cautious side.
  • People who are suffering from breast, prostate or other cancers. Flaxseed lignan has a hormonal effect that may interfere with the course of the disease and ongoing treatment.

What is the difference between chia oil, linseed oil and cod liver oil?

While all 3 oils are rich in omega-3s, their healthy fats are not the same. Chia and flax oils are very rich in an essential omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Meanwhile cod liver oil is a source of other essential omega-3 fatty acids: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).

All 3 oils are omega-3, but flax and chia ALA does not replace the DHA and EPA of cod liver oil. The three types of omega-3 protect cardiovascular and joint health, and collectively contribute to lowering cholesterol.

Flax oil prevents cardiovascular disease
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Cod liver oil prevents neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s disease. It can also help promote eye health. However, this oil is not suitable for vegans and it may be contaminated with heavy metals if not produced under strict quality standards.

Flaxseed oil Chia oil Cod liver oil
Does it offer cardiovascular protection? Yes Yes Yes
Does it help lower blood cholesterol? Yes Yes Yes
Does it relieve joint disease pain? Yes Yes Yes
Suitable for improving brain function (memory and learning)? No No Yes
Does it improve visual health? No No Yes
Does it contain phytoestrogens? Yes No No
Risk of toxicity Very low Very low Very high (heavy metals and other toxicants). It is very important to review the manufacturing processes
Suitable for vegans Yes Yes No
Taste Mild, almost neutral Mild, pleasant, nutty Intense, odorous

What types of flax supplements are there and which one is right for me?

As we saw in the section above, there are different flax products and each of them has different uses and characteristics. Even if a supplement is of the highest quality, it may not be right for your needs. When buying a flax supplement you have the option between:

  • Whole flaxseed
  • Crushed flaxseed
  • Linseed
  • Linseed meal
  • Linseed oil
  • Flax oil capsules

Whole flaxseed

Whole flaxseed is a source of protein (20%), fibre (28%) and omega-3, 6 and 9 fats (40%). If it is not crushed or hydrated before consumption, it will only act as a general laxative and will not release its most important nutrients: lignans, mucilages, vitamin E, magnesium, proteins and healthy fats.

Ground flaxseed

Ground flaxseed provides protein (20%), fat (40%) and fibre (26%). When crushing the seed, a small amount of fibre is lost. However, ground flaxseed is highly digestible, especially if soaked in water (germination) prior to consumption. Again, soaking in water makes it possible to take advantage of all the nutrients present in the seed.

Ground flax seeds are ideal for adding to shakes and other drinks
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Flaxseed flour

If flaxseed is pressed to extract flax oil, the dry mass which is left over, after grinding, will become flaxseed flour. As a result of this process, the flour has a higher concentration of protein (38%) and fibre (35%) than the raw seed, and it is lower in fat (23%). It is recommended to mix flaxseed flour with other flours.

Flaxseed oil

Linseed/flaxseed oil contains practically pure omega 3, 6 and 9. From a production perspective, in order to preserve the excellent quality of the fats in the linseed, it is crucial that the oil is obtained by cold pressing. High temperatures alter the quality of the fatty acids in the oil and it loses all that good stuff.

Linseed oil capsules

Linseed capsules (also called flaxseed capsules) are composed of flaxseed oil surrounded by a plant component called hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, which is suitable for vegans. Like flaxseed oil, they don’t provide fibre or protein, just raw omega 3, 6 and 9 fats, and vitamin E.

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The concentration of omega varies between different brands.

Shopping Criteria

Although the nutritional and medicinal properties of flaxseed are high, you should consider multiple buying criteria before making your purchase. Assessing the different buying aspects really is part of your obligation as a responsible consumer and is important to follow in order not to risk your health. Basic purchasing criteria includes:

  • Flavour
  • Form of consumption
  • Storage
  • Use
  • Certifications

Flavour

Raw flaxseed has a bland, nutty taste. Flaxseed flour also retains this flavour, which should be taken into account when using it in the preparation of breads, cakes, biscuits and pancakes. Flaxseed oil is more intense than sunflower oil, but if it tastes bitter it could be out of date. The flaxseed capsules generally have a neutral taste.

Form of consumption

It’s relatively obvious that flaxseed flours must be mixed with other foods or liquids to be consumed. The seed form should be ground to take advantage of the nutrients. The oil can be used as an ingredient of recipes or as a raw dressing. It can also be consumed alone. The capsules are easy to take, just accompany them with a glass of water.

Storage

All linseed-based products should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place without excessive ventilation. Oxygen, light and high temperatures may deteriorate the fatty acids and ruin the product. Out of date products generate a very unpleasant smell and taste. The capsules come in a bottle and should always remain in this form.

Use

Flaxseed and its supplements are very healthy. However, each individual health or disease condition must be considered first. For example, it is useless to take linseed oil if you want to normalise blood glucose or treat constipation. The following table summarises the use of each supplement.

Whole flax seed Ground flax seed Flaxseed flour Flax oil Flax oil capsules
Flavour Mild, walnut-like Mild, walnut-like Mild, walnut-like Mild, although more intense than sunflower oil Neutral
Fat percentage 40-41% 40-41% 23% 100% 100%
Presence of mucilages and lignans (fibre) Yes Yes Yes No No
Recommended use If not crushed only useful for cases of constipation.To enrich preparations. Control and prevention of diabetes Same use as whole flaxseed Decrease blood cholesterol Reduce inflammation and soothe joint pain Same as flaxseed oil

Certifications

Those consumers who only want to consume organic products should look on the nutritional label for the seal that guarantees the absence of agrochemicals and artificial additives. Vegans should verify in the list of ingredients that none are of animal origin. Celiacs may only consume products certified as gluten-free.

Summary

Flaxseed and its supplements offer important health benefits, especially for those who suffer from constipation, high cholesterol or cardiovascular issues/history. Regular flaxseed consumption can also have a positive impact on diabetic, stressed and overweight individuals.

Flaxseeds are very versatile and can adapt to a variety of recipes. Their taste is pleasant and their price is reasonably economical. Therefore, they are a valuable way of improving the nutritional health of both children and adults, without needing major changes in eating habits or costing a fortune.

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(Source of featured image: Opule: 55245855/ 123rf.com)

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