The health benefits of flaxseed

Flaxseeds may be small, but they are powerful! This small seed is a whole grain known for its anti-inflammatory properties and other health benefits. Flaxseed, or flax, is found in many forms, and often sold in the grocery store as whole flaxseed, ground flax meal, or flax oil.

Health benefits of flax: omega 3’s and fibre

Flaxseeds are a plant-based source of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3’s are an essential nutrient, meaning our body cannot make them on their own, and we must get them from dietary sources. Omega 3’s play a number of vital roles in the body, such as decreasing inflammation and maintaining cell wall membranes.

All about omega 3’s

There are three common types of omega 3: ALA, EPA and DHA.

ALA is the type of omega 3 commonly found in plant foods, while EPA and DHA can be found in foods such as fatty fish or supplements.

EPA and DHA are the biologically active forms of omega 3. Our body works to convert the plant-based ALA into the active EPA and DHA form, however, the conversion rates vary. Some research shows the conversion rate to be around 8-21% range for EPA and 0-9% for DHA.  In order to meet your omega 3 needs from ALA sources, men should aim for a minimum of 1.6g per day and women 1.1g per day (note: these needs change  pregnancy).

 

Type of flaxseed:

Amount of ALA

Ground flaxseed 1.6g per tablespoon
Whole flaxseed 2.4g per tablespoon
Flaxseed oil 2.5g per teaspoon

The importance of fibre

In addition to their high omega 3 content, flaxseeds are a great source of fibre. Flaxseeds contain a combination of two different types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre helps to manage cholesterol and blood sugars. Insoluble fiber helps to move food through the colon, which keeps you regular! If that’s not enough to get you thinking about fibre, adding more fibre to your diet also helps with your body’s satiety cues after eating and helps to feed the good bacteria that live in your gut.

How to increase your flax intake

  • Add ground flax meal as a nutritional topper. Try it sprinkled on yogurt, oatmeal, or smoothies.
  • Make a flax egg: “flax eggs” can be used in place of traditional eggs in various recipes. To make a flax egg, combine 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal to 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 2-3 minutes before adding to the recipe.
  • Add flax to baking for an extra boost of fibre. You can use it in baking as a flax egg or as an add-on in most baked goods.
  • Fat replacer: Use ground flax meal in a 3:1 ratio for other fats, such as butter, in a recipe. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of butter you could replace it with 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed.

How to store flax

Freshly ground flax: if you choose to grind your own flax meal from whole flax seeds, it is suggested that you grind just enough at the time it is needed. If you have some excess, store it in an air-tight container in the freezer.

Store bought packaged flax meal: it is suggested that flax meal be stored in the fridge or freezer to help preserve freshness. You should also follow the manufacturer’s “best before” date.

 

Looking to add more fibre and omega 3’s into your diet? To get your daily dose of flaxseed, try this recipe for griddle cakes. If you have further questions about incorporating flaxseed into your diet, reach out to your dietitian today.