What Is Flaxseed Good For?

Fabulous Flaxseed
Sciantific name: Linum usitatissimum


Out of all the superfoods in the world today, flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) may be one of the most ancient, dating back to 8000 B.C. Historians discovered flaxseed remains in Stone Age dwellings in Switzerland, and ancient Egyptians were believed to use it to manufacture linen.1 By the 1800s, the plant reached the United States in North Dakota when the early European settlers moved westward.2

Flaxseed comes from flax, a plant that blooms blue flowers and primarily found in the Canadian prairies and the Northern United States.3 The plant has an interesting life cycle, because its flowers only last for a day, but it can produce dozens of blossoms in the course of a month.

Afterward, the seedpods grow into the size of a pea, turn from green into gold, and the plant subsequently dries out and dies.4 Despite its short existence, flaxseed has been known to possess health benefits.

The Health Benefits of Flaxseed

With such a rich history of use in various cultures throughout the world, flaxseed captured the curiosity of modern science, resulting in numerous studies aimed to confirm if the claims of its health benefits are actually true. Researchers found that flaxseed may indeed help:

  • Boost your heart health and control inflammation — Flaxseed is one of the best sources of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid that may benefit your health in several ways.5 Several animal studies have shown that ALA may help inhibit cholesterol deposits from forming in the blood vessels, reduce inflammation in the arteries and reduce tumor growth.6,7,8
  • Potentially reduce your risk of cancer — Flaxseed contains lignans, a plant compound that has antioxidant and estrogen properties, which may help reduce your risk of cancer.9 What makes flaxseed great in this aspect is that it contains up to 75 to 800 times more lignans compared to other fruits and vegetables.10

    In one study involving 6,369 female participants, researchers suggested that those who consumed flaxseed had a significant reduction in breast cancer risk.11 In another study, 15 men who ate 30 grams of flaxseed per day had reduced levels of prostate cancer biomarkers, suggesting a lower risk of prostate cancer.12

  • Enhance overall digestive health — One tablespoon of flaxseed contains 3 grams of dietary fiber.13 Furthermore, flaxseed contains both soluble (20% to 40%) and insoluble (60% to 80%) fiber.

    Soluble fiber is crucial, as it can help maintain blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as feed the good bacteria in your gut.14,15 It can also help maintain digestive health by binding water to your stools, allowing them to pass through your intestines quicker. This may help lower your risk of constipation, as well as irritable bowel syndrome and diverticular disease.16

  • Optimize your overall health — Flaxseed contains a diverse mixture of vitamins such as E, K, C, B6 and B12. As for minerals, flaxseed has calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.17 All of these are essential to maintaining various functions in your body and supporting your overall well-being.

Nutritional Profile of Flaxseed

With its diverse fats, vitamins and minerals, flaxseed has many potential benefits for your health. The table below provides a good overview of flaxseed's nutritional profile aside from those already mentioned:18

Flaxseed Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 tablespoon, whole (10.3 grams)
  Amt. Per
Calories 55  
Calories from Fat 0  
Total Fat 4.34 g  
Saturated Fat 0.37 g  
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg  
Sodium 3.09 mg  
Total Carbohydrates 2.98 g  
Dietary Fiber 2.81 g  
Sugar 0.16  
Protein 1.88  
Vitamin A 0.03 mg Vitamin C 0.06 mg
Calcium 26.3 mg Iron 0.59 mg

Various Ways to Use Flaxseed

Flaxseed is mainly used in cooking for its healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber. If you're just starting out with flaxseed, here are some suggestions on how you can incorporate it into your diet:19,20

  • Use in place of breadcrumbs in various recipes
  • Use as an egg replacement for pudding dishes
  • Add to smoothies for additional flavor and fiber
  • Add to soups to enhance the nutritional profile 
  • Garnish on salads
  • Mix into your favorite sauces to make them thicker
  • Add to hummus to modify the taste while adding extra nutrients
  • Mix into yogurt to enhance the flavor and add more nutrients

Flaxseed Recipe:
Super Boost Power Smoothie Recipe

An easy way to obtain the healthy fats and the other nutrients from flaxseed is by adding it in a smoothie. You can try this recipe, which contains a mixture of other healthy ingredients, such as grass fed milk, blueberries, banana and lemon juice, to give you the essential vitamins and minerals you need for the day.

Flaxseed Healthy Recipe


2 tablespoons of flaxseeds

4 cups of raw, grass fed milk

1 large banana

2 tablespoons of whey protein powder or 4 pasture-raised eggs

1 tablespoon of bee pollen

1/4 cup of almond butter

1 teaspoon of spirulina

1 cup of organic blueberries

1-inch piece of fresh ginger

2 teaspoons of lemon juice

2 fluid ounces of aloe vera juice

2 cups of filtered water


  1. Place all ingredients into a blender. Mix until smooth.

(Recipe from Dr. Mercola)

Follow These Reminders Before Using Flaxseed Oil

One popular derivative of flaxseed is flaxseed oil. While most of flaxseed's benefits are found in this product, I recommend that you either consume whole flaxseed or use other oils instead, especially for cooking, as flaxseed oil has a delicate and easily oxidized nature.

Heating flaxseed oil past 225 degrees Fahrenheit breaks down the fatty acids, causing you to lose its health benefits, as well as the flavor and fragrance.21,22 If you still wish to incorporate flaxseed oil into your diet, you can add it into dishes such as salads and soups, and only at the end of the cooking process.

You will know if flaxseed oil has gone rancid when it gives off a slightly bitter odor similar to old, cooked oil. Other indicators of rancid oil include a strong, unpleasant, burnt-like taste. High-quality flaxseed oil should be clear and golden yellow with no cloudiness, and the bottle must not allow light to reach the oil to prevent the product from going bad.23

Potential Side Effects of Flaxseed

There are several side effects associated with the consumption of flaxseed. Commonly reported examples include:24,25

  • Allergies — Flaxseed and flaxseed oil may cause an allergic reaction when consumed. You may develop hives, itchy palms or eyes, and possibly nausea and vomiting. Digestive pain has also been reported.
  • Hypoglycemia — Flaxseed may lower your blood sugar levels to an alarming level, especially when it is mixed with diabetic medication.
  • Stool problems — The high amount of fiber in flaxseed may increase the frequency of your bowel movements. Be sure to limit your use of flaxseed in your recipes.

Before Buying Flaxseed, Remember These Tips

Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are readily available products due to their popularity. However, there are some things you need to know before buying either of them to ensure you're consuming a safe product. When it comes to flaxseed, it's better to buy whole seeds and grind them at home using a spice or a coffee grinder. This is because pre-ground flaxseed is more prone to going rancid, which can compromise the quality of the product.26

You can still buy pre-ground flaxseed if you don't have a grinder, but be sure to store it in a freezer immediately.27 If you're going to buy flaxseed oil, make sure that the container has opaque packaging, because light can destroy the nutrients and cause the oil to degrade.28