Expert Q&A

Flaxseed: Which form should you eat?

Which should I use? Flaxseed oil, ground flaxseeds, or whole flaxseeds :

-Brenda from Kentucky

Flaxseeds can be effective medicine when used in the proper form. The answer to which form is best depends on what the flaxseed is being used for.

Organic, unrefined, cold-pressed, and refrigerated flaxseed oil is an amazing source of omega 3 fatty acids—essential fatty acids—which the body uses as components of nerve cells, cellular membranes, and to make hormone-like substances. Omega 3 fatty acids help to decrease inflammation in the body and have been proven beneficial in cardiovascular disease, allergies and cancers. Vegetarians and people who cannot tolerate fish oil—which is also high in essential fatty acids—may prefer flaxseed oil as their source of omega 3 fatty acids.

Flaxseed oil also is high in estrogen-like substances that can work with the female hormone system in some instances, such as hormonal irregularities and menopausal or PMS symptoms. However, since flaxseed oil can actually exacerbate some hormonal conditions, it is a good idea to check in with a dietitian or naturopathic doctor in such instances.

Ground flaxseeds also contain fiber in addition to essential fatty acids. This fiber is healthy for the digestive system and helps to balance the hormonal system by decreasing the re-absorption of hormone metabolites from the intestines. Ground flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber and are helpful for health conditions that benefit from additional fiber. The beauty of using ground flaxseeds as your fiber source is that they contain essential fatty acids as well.

Whole flaxseeds are difficult for the body to digest. Often the body will digest the outer dark fiber covering and eliminate the rest of the seed without utilizing it. However, whole flaxseeds make for a compact, protected, air-tight package in which the oils in the flaxseed do not degrade. The whole flaxseeds can then be ground when needed.

Use flax oil to ensure essential fatty acid intake, ground flaxseeds to take in fiber with essential fatty acids, and whole flaxseeds for storage. Watch the expiration date on flaxseed oil as this type of oil goes bad quickly. If you have a question about your particular condition, talk to a dietitian or naturopathic doctor.

Wendy Hodsdon, ND
Contributing Expert

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