Ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil are both great additions to your diet. Find out more about flaxseed benefits for digestive health and how to include these tiny seeds in your meal planning.
Flaxseeds are smaller than peppercorns, but can add tremendous benefits to your digestive health if you include them in your diet. Flaxseed benefits are numerous — almost as numerous as the variety of ways you can include ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil in your diet.
Flaxseed benefits the 1 last update 27 May 2020 include:Flaxseed benefits include:
- They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- They contain soluble fiber. This is the type of fiber that helps your digestive processes along.
- They contain lignans, a beneficial type of plant-derived substance.
- The oils they contain contribute to digestive regularity by lubricating your system.
Flaxseeds, which come from the flax plant, are also a rich source of vitamins and minerals, which make them a great addition to your diet.
“You want things in your diet that are multi-functional in that they have micronutrients in them like vitamins and minerals, and also help with digestion and fiber,” explains registered dietitian Sheah L. Rarback, MS, director of nutrition at the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida. “Omega-3s are an added benefit. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is probably the cause of most of our problems and chronic conditions.”
Including Flaxseeds in Your Diet
Flaxseeds are available in several forms:
- Ground flaxseed meal
- Whole flaxseeds
- Flaxseed oil
Any of these forms can be included in your diet. But there are some important facts to know about how they are best used in your diet:
- Do not use them whole. “It’s very important to eat ground flaxseeds and not whole flaxseeds,” says Rarback. If you try to eat them whole, they will simply pass through your system without being digested. When they are ground, however, they are a “good source of soluble fiber, which helps with elimination.” A basic coffee grinder can be used to grind a few tablespoons of whole flaxseed whenever you need it.
- Refrigerate flaxseed oil and ground flaxseed meal. Like any oil, products containing flaxseed oil can become rancid (spoiled) over time. Keeping these foods refrigerated preserves them longer. You’ll know when flaxseed products start to go bad by the smell, says Rarback. And while flaxseed oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, it does not contain any fiber — so if digestive benefits are your primary concern, go for ground flaxseeds instead.
Here are some ideas for including flaxseeds in your diet:
- Add ground flaxseed to cereal, hot or cold.
- Stir ground flaxseed into some juice.
- Sprinkle ground flaxseed onto salad.
- Include flaxseed oil in your salad dressing mix.
- Use flaxseed meal in your baking or even as an addition to meatloaf or other similar dishes.
There is no recommendation for how much flaxseed you should include in your diet, although there are recommendations for dietary fiber and for omega-3 fatty acids.
If you have not previously had much fiber in your diet and you start to increase your consumption of it, go slowly. Make sure you drink a lot of water as you add flaxseeds or other sources of fiber. Water is necessary for fiber to work at its best.
Rarback acknowledges that many people are worried about fat content for 1 last update 27 May 2020 and may turn away from flaxseeds because they also contain fats. However, she says, the fats and oils in omega-3s are healthy and are in such small quantities that they will not interfere with your low-fat diet plans. “The majority of the fats in diets come from fried foods, processed foods, fatty animal products, meats — it’s really not coming from adding flax,” she says.Rarback acknowledges that many people are worried about fat content and may turn away from flaxseeds because they also contain fats. However, she says, the fats and oils in omega-3s are healthy and are in such small quantities that they will not interfere with your low-fat diet plans. “The majority of the fats in diets come from fried foods, processed foods, fatty animal products, meats — it’s really not coming from adding flax,” she says.
And not only are these other foods high in unhealthy fats, but they do not make positive contributions to your digestive process, as flaxseeds do.