Flax Facts

Quick tips for this new trend.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
3-minute read
Episode #24

This week’s show topic was suggested by Debbie, in Okinawa, Japan.

I keep hearing a lot about flaxseed and how wonderful it is for you. I found some ground flaxseed in my grocery store and bought it. But I have no clue on what to do with it. Can you explain what flaxseed is supposed to do for you and give me some ideas on how to use it?

Konnichiwa, Debbie! Thanks for your question. And I know what you mean! Whoever is running PR for flax is doing a great job. You could probably sprinkle a few flax seeds on a deep-fried Twinkie and sell it as health food. What exactly makes these tiny little seeds so good for you, anyway?

Like most seeds, flaxseeds are a good source of fiber and pack a fair amount of protein into a very small package. But you don’t see sesame seeds wearing this kind of health halo. So it must be something else.

Flaxseeds also contain lignans, compounds that seem to provide extra protection against many types of cancer. Other seeds and nuts contain these compounds as well, but flaxseeds are particularly rich in lignans.

Another Way to Get Omega-3 Fats

And, finally, flaxseeds are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have all kinds of beneficial effects, such as reducing inflammation and protecting against heart disease, bone loss, cancer, and diabetes.

Omega-3s are hot, hot, hot! You can now buy peanut butter, eggs, mayonnaise and other products that are enhanced with extra omega-3 fats—and flax is what they’re using to pump up the omega-3 levels in these products. They simply blend flax oil into the peanut butter or mayonnaise. To get more omega-3 into eggs, they add flaxseed to the chicken feed.

These omega-3 enhanced products are nice, because most of us don’t get nearly enough omega-3 fats in our diet. Besides flaxseeds, the other primary source of omega-3 fats is oily fish, such as salmon, herring, sardines, or mackerel.

Now, I should point out that the omega-3s in flax are not exactly the same as the omega-3s you get in fish. They’re both in the same family. But the omega-3s in fish are in a more potent form. Still, for vegetarians or people who don’t like fish, flaxseeds are the go-to source of omega-3s. Plus, with flax, you’re also getting the added benefits of the lignans and the fiber.

As health food trends go, I have to say that flaxseeds seem to be worthy of their reputation. Eating a couple of tablespoons of flaxseed a day is a great health habit to develop.


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.