Flaxseeds (you may also know them as linseeds) are a small brown or golden seed that are extraordinarily high in omega-3 fatty acids. And omega-3 is only one of the many health benefits these amazing seeds have to offer.
Flaxseeds are also a great way for vegetarians and vegans to incorporate omega-3 into their diets.
Where do they come from?
They come from a fibre crop called flax, it is believed to have first been farmed in North West Africa and The Far East. You may wonder why you’ve never heard of these apparently amazing healthy seeds before. I know I am always quite wary of new “trendy health” foods. The thing is that Flaxseeds have been consumed for their health benefits for 2000 years.
The famed Greek physician and philosopher Hippocrates used to prescribe Flaxseeds to his patients who were experiencing digestive problems.
1. Flaxseeds Are Good For Your Digestive System
Flaxseeds are an excellent source of soluble fiber (1).
Fiber is an integral part of a healthy diet. The benefits of fiber stretch from regular bowel movements to aiding in preventing heart disease, weight gain and even diabetes.
Promoting digestive health is one of the biggest advantages of including Flaxseeds in your regular diet. A healthy gut and digestive system is the sign of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Flaxseeds are a relatively inexpensive way to ensure that your digestive system keeps operating as it should.
2. Flaxseeds Reduce Sugar Cravings
The effects of obesity are severe and long lasting and obesity is currently the fifth leading cause of worldwide death (4). With nearly one third of the world's population currently overweight, it has never been more important to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.
As we already know from our first point, Flaxseeds are packed with fiber. It’s consuming fiber that helps you feel full quicker and stay feeling full for longer, thus reducing cravings and snacking on unhealthy, processed, sugary foods (5).
Too much sugar consumption is one of the leading causes of diabetes. When diabetes is not controlled can result in the loss of limbs, eyesight and even life.
Less refined sugar and more fiber rich foods such as flaxseeds in your diet are recommended for a sustainable, healthy lifestyle (6).
3. Flaxseeds Reduce Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a medical condition that results in your eyes not producing enough tears. Without enough moisture on the eyes, they begin to dry out and become red, swollen and irritated. It affects people with and without impaired vision, but can be more troublesome for those of us that wear contact lenses (7).
Flaxseeds and Flaxseed oil are extremely high in omega-3. This may sound familiar to you, as most people know about the omega-3 that is found in fish oil. Flaxseeds and Flaxseed oil pack so much omega-3 that it can be taken as an alternative to fish oil, which is great news for vegans and vegetarians.
When taken daily, ground Flaxseed or Flaxseed oil have been found to reduce the effects of dry eye syndrome (8), a natural and inexpensive remedy.
4. Flaxseeds Help Improve Blood Sugar Levels
Studies that have been carried out in numerous countries show that participants who had Flaxseed or Flaxseed oil incorporated into their diets, experienced consistently lowered blood sugar levels after meals (10).
In these recent studies, Flaxseed oil has been proving itself a natural, healthy tool for patients with rising blood sugar levels.
With the number of people being affected by diabetes yearly on the rise, it is important to do whatever one can to combat it.
5. Flaxseeds Are Full Of Antioxidants
Flaxseeds are a rich source of antioxidants. What are antioxidants? Well to answer that we must first talk about oxidants. If you google “What is an oxidant?”, you will be met with this answer “an oxidizing agent”.
So what does that mean? Basically, what you need to know about oxidants is that they are cells that are produced within your body to help protect you from germs and viruses, these cells sometimes lose electrons and become what is known as a “free radical” (11). These “free radicals” then wreak havoc on your body by damaging other calls and are said to contribute to the development of certain types of cancer.
So why are we counting antioxidants as one of our 15 health benefits of Flaxseeds? Well it’s the job of antioxidants to prevent the oxidants from causing too much damage, and while antioxidants do occur naturally in your body, there are many foods available to give you a bump in antioxidants, Flaxseeds being one of them! (12)
6. Flaxseeds Are Said To Help Lower Cholesterol
As previously mentioned, Flaxseeds contain soluble fiber. As well as aiding in digestion, soluble fiber has been linked to lowering cholesterol levels by forcing the low-density lipoprotein (the undesirable cholesterol in layman's terms) to dwindle within the body.
Flaxseeds have also been linked to lowering triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are a form of fat found in the blood and having high triglyceride levels can put you at risk for heart disease. Heart disease is currently the leading killer in The United States. It is responsible for roughly 1 in every 4 deaths in the country (13).
So what do Flaxseeds do to help lower cholesterol levels? They are a good source of omega-3 and alpha-linolenic acid. Both work to lower your triglyceride and cholesterol as was proven in a small study (14).
7. Flaxseeds Are A Rich Source Of Vitamins And Minerals
Flaxseeds is rich in both Vitamin E and B, as well as iron, magnesium and potassium. That’s a whole lot of good for you! Let’s go through the health benefits of each of those one by one starting with Vitamin E.
The first thing you need to know about Vitamin E is that it acts as an antioxidant. We know all about antioxidants by this point in the article and all the good they do for your body. It’s also plays a role in ensuring that you keep your hair and eyes healthy (15). The second eye healthy benefit of Flaxseeds!
Let’s move onto Vitamin B. The most important thing that Vitamin B does for the body is keeping the nerves and blood cells healthy and operating at optimum levels. We refer to this as “cell metabolism” (16). Vitamin B is also crucial for healthy brain function and the continuous development of healthy red blood cells (17).
Now for iron. I have personally suffered from an iron deficiency throughout my life. This means that I’ve spent year experiencing fatigue, brittle nails, dizziness and strange cravings. These symptoms are only a few of what you could experience when you have an iron deficiency (18).
An iron deficiency can keep you from partaking in numerous activities, from playing sport to donating blood. So what exactly is an iron deficiency? Well your body creates a cell called a hemoglobin. This tiny cell is what carries the amount of oxygen to your muscles that you need to function at an optimum level. When you have low iron levels, it becomes difficult for the hemoglobins in your body to do their job, hence the fatigue and dizziness. Your muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen (19)!
Consuming flaxseeds daily will give you a natural injection of iron.
Do you experience regular muscle cramps, nausea or general muscle weakness? If so, you may be experiencing a magnesium deficiency (20). Magnesium is important for keeping your muscles and nerves functioning properly. Another crucial role of magnesium in the body is keeping your bones and heartbeat strong (21).
Last on our list of Vitamins and Minerals that are found in Flaxseeds in Potassium. A healthy level of potassium in our body ensures that our everyday muscular and digestive functions are running smoothly. There is also evidence to show that potassium is vital to healthy heart function.
8. Flaxseeds Are Known To Help With Menopausal Symptoms
Menopause is something that every woman will experience at some stage of her life. It is the time of a woman’s life when her menstruation cycle come to end and can have some rather unpleasant side effects including hot flashes, issues with bladder control, a shift in libido and depression, to name a few.
To talk about how Flaxseeds help curb menopausal symptoms we have to refer back to the fatty acid, omega-3. Evidence has shown that the intake of omega-3 reduces the effects of menopause. A study carried out in Japan found that many women there experience very little menopausal symptoms. This is thought to be the result of the large amount of omega-3 fatty acids Japanese women consume through a diet higher in fish than the diet of an average Western woman.
Lignans, a chemical compound also found in Flaxseeds, have been found to mirror the female hormone estrogen (23). Flaxseeds are a natural way to aid with alleviating the uncomfortable symptoms that accompany menopause. As previously mentioned Flaxseeds, Flaxseed oil and Flaxseed meal is suitable for vegetarians and vegans, so there is no one that cannot benefit from the natural menopause soothing advantages of Flaxseeds.
9. Flaxseeds Help Boost Your Immune System
Your immune system is made up of all your organs, tissues and cells and its primary function is to keep your body healthy and working. Your immune system is what protects you from germs and diseases. It is absolutely vital to survival, so we should without question be doing whatever we can it keep it in tip top shape!
So how do Flaxseeds help us do that? Well once again we have the lignans and omega-3 fatty acids that Flaxseeds are so rich in to thank. It’s the lignans and omega-3 that heighten the functionality of the immune cells and help to keep them strong (24). There is strong evidence to suggest that Flaxseeds can be useful in the fight to prevent diseases such as lupus, crohn's and certain types of cancers.
A healthy balanced diet paired with a daily intake of Flaxseeds or Flaxseed oil has nothing but benefits to offer with regards to a strong and stable immune system.
10. Flaxseeds Have Been Found To Be Effective Against Skin Disorders
If you suffer from psoriasis, eczema or dry skin, we recommend trying Flaxseeds or Flaxseed oil to help suppress the symptoms and sometimes even alleviate them completely (25).
One way that Flaxseeds promote healthy skin is by hydrating and moisturising the skin. It basically gets the natural oils in your body working over time! When your body produces more of these natural oils, your skin looks and feels better (26).
Omega-3 fatty acids again play a role here in keeping your skin soft and preventing flaking. Did you know that Flaxseed oil is the highest omega-3 containing vegetable oil on the market?
Now to garner the full, amazing skin healing and protective effects of Flaxseeds! You can use a face or skin cream (there are actually many face and skin creams that contain Flaxseed oil), rub Flaxseed oil directly onto your skin or you can consume it through one of the delicious 8 recipes we have below, or however you wish.
11. Flaxseeds Help Promote Ovarian Health
Now onto a very important health benefit for women. Ovarian cancer affects nearly 22,000 women a year. It is most prevalent in women over the age of 50, but it is wise for women of all ages to have routine check ups and to do whatever they can to stay healthy and to try combat the chances of ever being diagnosed.
A 2010 study found that animals that had Flaxseeds introduced into their diets showed a noticeable contraction in present ovarian tumors. In addition to that, the animals also lived longer and were found to be in much better health those those who did not have the Flaxseeds in their diets.
We’ve already touched on the benefits that adding Flaxseeds to a diet can have for women experiencing menopause (reduction of symptoms such as hot flashes and a higher production of estrogen etc), but as it turns out, consuming Flaxseeds profits women still going through their menstruation cycles as well. When consumed regularly, Flaxseeds have exhibited the ability to inhibit changes in the menstrual cycle. Something many women struggle with. Women consuming Flaxseeds for their ovarian health properties have also reported a reduction in ovarian dysfunction (27).
Flaxseeds are recommended to women in all stages of menstruation or menopause as the ovarian health benefits they provide are many.
12. Flaxseeds Can Be Used To Help Protect Your Bone Health
Bone health becomes more and more important to us as we age, but to stave off the effects of poor bone health, such as osteoporosis (a condition where the bones turn brittle and become fragile as a result of loss of tissue. It is usually brought on by hormonal changes or vitamin deficiencies), it is wise to start including bone healthy foods in your diet today.
The lignans and omega-3 fatty acids in Flaxseeds are what help to prevent bone wear and tear and brittleness and there have even been claims that it is entirely possible to cure oneself of osteoporosis by just utilizing Flaxseeds (28).
To benefit from the full bone healthy effects of Flaxseeds, it is best to use ground Flaxseeds or Flaxseed oil. Whole Flaxseeds sometime spass right through your system and when this happens, your body is not able to absorb all of their healing qualities.
13. Flaxseeds Are A Dynamic Beauty Tool
The high concentration of lignans and omega-3 fatty acids in Flaxseeds and Flaxseed oil also spell out great news for hair! Flaxseed oil is a wonder tool that will leave your hair looking healthier and feeling noticeably stronger, as well as diminishing dandruff.
It is through a regular intake of Flaxseed oil that your hair grows stronger and healthier (29). Regular doses of Flaxseed oil in your diet is also said to help prevent baldness by limiting the damage done by an enzyme that shrinks hair follicles.
The omega-3 fatty acids and linolenic acids in Flaxseeds and Flaxseed oil are what keeps your nails strong and healthy. They help to prevent breakage, tearing and flaking.
As mentioned in benefit no.10, Flaxseeds inject moisture into the skin and combats dryness, so Flaxseeds and Flaxseed oil are a beauty triple threat.
14. Flaxseeds Have Anti Inflammatory Properties
When something is describes as an anti inflammatory, that means that it is able to in some capacity reduce swelling and inflammation within the body. Most of the anti inflammatories you take are probably in the forms of pills and powders you buy over the counter.
Flaxseeds and Flaxseed oil have natural anti inflammatory properties. Flaxseeds contain alpha-linoleic-acid, or ALA. A recent study suggest that it is this acid that substantially decrease pro-inflammatory compounds in the body (30).
Anti inflammatory foods and diets are recommended for patients who experience long term or chronic pain. You may be consuming a large amount of inflammation causing foods without even being aware of it (31).
15. Flaxseeds Are A Useful Tool In Helping To Control Acne
Adolescents and adults alike can suffer from acne. It usually a painful ordeal and can cost you a pretty penny what with the skin care regiments, make up and medication.
Unbeknownst to many, inflammation is actually one of the roost causes of acne (32), and Flaxseeds are naturally anti inflammatory, high in anti inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids which work to curb and sooth inflammation in the skin.
Androgens are a hormone that is produced in both male and females. They are made up of androstenedione and testosterone. An excess of androgens in the body can have a multitude of side effects including excessive hair growth, early balding and acne. The lignans found in flaxseeds work to balance the amount of androgens the body makes (33), thus helping to keep painful and uncomfortable outbreaks at bay.
Many people enjoy clear skin thanks to ingesting a regular dose of Flaxseeds or flaxseed oil.
8 Delicious Flaxseed Recipes
To help you incorporate flaxseed into your diet, we have compiled a list of 8 healthy and delicious recipes to get you started.
All the ingredients in the following recipes are wholesome and healthy. To reap the full benefits that Flaxseeds have to offer, it is best to consume it along side nutritious, heart healthy ingredients. These recipes include no refined sugar. Flaxseeds, Flaxseed meal and Flaxseed oil are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and are gluten free. Some of these recipes may require a blender.
1. Flaxseed Pizza Crust
Cauliflower, spinach, whole wheat wraps. The demand for healthy pizza bases are resulting in so many options. But have you thought of Flaxseed?
¾ Ground Flaxseed
1 tsp Baking powder
¼ Cup water
2 tsp Olive oil
½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Oregano (feel free to add any spices or herbs you like)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit (218 degrees celsius) and grease a nonstick baking pan.
2. Mix all your dry ingredients together in a bowl.
3. Slowly stir your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and keep stirring thoroughly to combine them.
4. Once your ingredients are combined, spread your dough into a circle onto your pan before putting it into the oven. We recommend that you do this completely by hand.
5. Bake for 14-15 minutes, checking to see if it is cooked through. Be sure to keep an eye on your pizza bases to avoid accidentally burning them.
6. After setting your Flaxseed pizza base aside to cool, add your desired toppings. (Tomato base, cheese, pepperoni, chicken etc) Once you’ve added your toppings, return your pizza to your oven and bake for a further 8-10 minutes.
The options when it comes to filling your pizza base are endless. This is a relatively guilt free way to enjoy a timeless comfort food while reaping all the health benefits that flaxseeds have to offer. Use organic tomato paste and less cheese to make it really healthy.
2. Banana, Oat And Flaxseed Muffins
These muffins are made without butter or refined sugar. That combined with the health benefits of flaxseed make this a delicious muffin so healthy you can have it for breakfast. You will need a blender for this recipe.
2 cups Old Fashion oats (quick oats are also fine)
2 tsp Baking powder
2 Large and ripe bananas
1 Cup greek yogurt
1 Pinch kosher salt
2 tsp Vanilla extract
¼ Cup Flaxseed meal
1 tsp Melted coconut oil
2 tsp Honey
(Optional add in; a cup of chocolate chips, blueberries, nuts, coconut shavings etc)
1. Grease your muffin tin or silicon muffin mould and preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit, or 204 degrees celsius. To keep on the healthier side, grease your tin or mould with a small amount of coconut oil.
2. Throw all your ingredients (salt, oats, banana, vanilla extract, baking powder, eggs, honey, yogurt, flaxseed meal and coconut oil) into your blender and blend on high. Make sure to scrape anything that collects on the wall of your blender back down in order to achieve an overall smooth consistency in your batter.
3. Empty your batter into a mixing bowl and allow to cool. If you are adding chocolate chips, it is recommended that you wait for the batter to cool down after blending. This keeps the chocolate from melting.
4. Add any optional ingredients you desire.
5. Pour your batter ¾ of the way into your muffin tin or moulds and place into your preheated oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes before testing with a toothpick. Once your muffins are baked through, remove and let cool before enjoying! You can store them in an airtight container for up to a week.
This recipe is a tried and tested favorite in my household. Feel free to add whatever extra ingredients you like to your mixture. For a more chocolate taste, be sure to add cocoa powder to your muffin batter before baking. Berries make for a sweeter, yet equally delicious alternative. Or you could just enjoy them as plain old healthier banana Flaxseed muffins.
3. Mixed Berry And Flaxseed Smoothie
As if your morning smoothie could get any healthier. Add some ground Flaxseed and really kick start your day. You will need a blender for this recipe.
½ Cup frozen strawberries
½ Cup frozen blueberries
½ Cup frozen raspberries
1 Handful spinach
1 tsp Ground Flaxseed
1 Cup Almond milk
1. Put all your ingredients into a blender and blend on high. You can add more almond milk if you prefer a thinner consistency to your smoothie.
Don’t be afraid to mix up the fruit you use, just don’t forget the ground Flaxseed!
A tip or “life hack” for smoothies that I have picked up along the way is prepping your ingredients for the week and putting them into separate ziplock or plastic bags before freezing. This way you can pull a bag out in the morning and pour it straight into your blender. If you decide to do this, please do not add your ground flaxseed until right before blending.
You can also switch your almond milk for coconut milk, regular milk, or even water.
4. No Bake Flaxseed, Banana Energy Balls
Easy, delicious and nutritious. Three words to describe these no bake energy balls.
2 Large, ripe bananas
2 Cup oats
½ Cup almond/peanut butter
3 tsp Ground Flaxseed
2 tsp Honey
1 Cup chocolate chips
¼ Cup shredded coconut
1 tsp Vanilla essence
1. Combine all your ingredients into a bowl and mix well. The peanut butter and honey make things quite sticky, so be patient when mixing. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
2. Remove your bowl from the refrigerator and use your hands to roll the chilled batter into balls. You decide how big or small you would prefer your energy balls to be. You can keep the no bake energy balls in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze them.
These balls are not called “energy balls” for no reason! The Flaxseed and oats provide these balls with a ton of fiber to keep you fuller for longer. You can add nuts, berries or dried fruit if desired.
If you are feeling extra decadent, you can melt some dark chocolate and coconut oil together. Stir the chocolate and oil together and use a fork to cover your energy ball in the chocolate mixture. Place the chocolate coated ball on a wire rack or a piece of wax paper and allow to cool and harden.
5. Oat And Flaxseed Cookies
Put a healthy spin on an all time favourite. The dark chocolate chips give these chewy cookies an indulgent taste, while the oats and flaxseeds aid with digestion. A delicious win-win!
1 Cup oats
1 tsp baking powder
½ Cup honey
1 Cup dark chocolate chips
2 tsp Flaxseed meal
2 tsp Melted coconut oil
½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 Cup almond flour
1. Combine your dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
2. Slowly add in your wet ingredients and stir well. When your ingredients are thoroughly combined, fold in the dark chocolate chips.
3. Cover your mixing bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes.
4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit (178 degrees celsius) and grease a nonstick baking pan. Use a tablespoon to scoop out batter and push them down onto your baking pan.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them to ensure that they do not burn. You can store your cookies in an airtight container for up to one week.
These cookies are wonderfully filling and will no doubtedly become a fast favorite. You can even sprinkle some Flaxseeds over the top of the cookies right before baking for extra goodness if desired. Once again, feel free to experiment and add any favorite extras to the cookies.
6. Greek Meat Balls With Flaxseeds
After mostly sweet recipes, here’s an idea for a savoury dinner that the whole family will enjoy!
1 ½ Pound ground beef or lamb
1 Beaten egg
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Parsley
1 Minced onion
2 tsp Ground Flaxseed
1 Clove garlic
1 tsp Mint
½ tsp Salt (or to taste)
½ tsp Pepper (or to taste)
1 Cup feta cheese (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit (176 degrees celsius).
2. Combine all your ingredients in a mixing bowl. It’s messy, but the best way to mix these up is by hand.
3. Once all your ingredients are well combined, use a tablespoon to scoop out some of the mixture and roll it into a ball in the palm of your hands.
4. Grease a nonstick baking pan and arrange your meat balls on the pan evenly before sticking them in the oven. Bake your meatballs for 20-25 minutes. If desired, you can add a tomato sauce to the meat ball mixture halfway through baking.
There are many ways to enjoy meatballs, one of which is with spaghetti. Did you know that you can buy Flaxseed pasta? Available in health stores and online, this is one way to up the health benefits of an already nutritious meal.
7. Chocolate, Coconut Chia Flax Pudding
Chia seed puddings have become a popular (and delicious) healthy substitute for those late night (or anytime!) sweet cravings. Here is an easy to follow pudding recipe that’s loaded with those extra 15 health benefits thanks to the added Flaxseeds.
¼ Cup Flaxseed meal
¼ Cup chia seeds
1 Cup coconut milk
1 tsp Honey
1 tsp Raw cacao
¼ Cup shredded coconut
1. Combine all your ingredients (apart from the shredded coconut) in a bowl and mix well.
2. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 mins to overnight. The chia seeds and Flaxseed meal will absorb the added liquid and take on a gelatinous consistency.
3. Garnish your pudding with as much shredded coconut as desired and enjoy!
The texture of chia and flax pudding can be strange to some! It may take a try or two to become accustomed to, but when you do, we guarantee that this dessert will become a staple after dinner treat in your home.
8. Flaxseed Hummus
Switch out sesame seeds for flaxseed and your favorite, healthy snack just got even healthier!
1 Can chickpeas (you may know them as garbanzo beans)
2 Cloves of garlic
1 Cup greek yogurt
2 tsp Lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tsp Flaxseeds
2 ½ tsp Olive oil
For the tahini
1. Combine the Flaxseeds and olive oil in a blender and blend until you reach a smooth consistency. Add more olive oil to achieve this if necessary.
For the hummus
1. Drain the chickpeas, setting aside a cup of the chickpea brine.
2. Add the drained chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, yogurt and salt and pepper to the tahini and blend well. If the hummus mixture is too thick, you can add some of the chickpea brine to thin it out. Enjoy with carrot sticks, celery, on sandwiches or pita bread. The sky's the limit!
As mentioned above, pita bread is a favorite to enjoy with hummus. Ground Flaxseed is a wonderful addition to an otherwise standard pita bread recipe. So if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try making your own to accompany your Flaxseed hummus!
Where can I get them?
The good news is that Flaxseeds are widely available. You can buy them at most food stores and online. Apart from being easily accessible and fairly inexpensive, Flaxseeds come in many different forms. We will be talking about the whole seeds, ground Flaxseed, Flaxseed meal and Flaxseed oil.
Please be advised that pregnant women should not consume Flaxseeds in any form due to the high level of estrogen it contains. Once you have opened a bag of Flaxseeds, be sure to keep it in the refrigerator, preferably in an airtight container.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.