9 Ways to Eat Flaxseed for Healthy Benefits

Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on March 9, 2016Written by Gretchen Stelter

Flaxseed for Healthy Benefits

There are many superfood fads out there these days.

Kale swooped in and took over in the greens. Coconut water and oil is being used for everything from rehydrating after a workout to rehydrating dry hair and cleaning teeth. And breakfast bowls have tried to capitalize on a number of the superfood trends, combining smoothies with fresh fruits, seeds, and supplements.

Flax contains nutrients like calcium, vitamin E, iron, niacin, and phosphorous. It also has lignans, which may regulate hormone levels. The tiny seeds are high in antioxidants among other things, and contain a healthy dose of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which help with everything from bone health to hair and skin health.

Delightfully, flaxseeds are one of the superfood trends that actually live up to the hype. If you don’t want to just go out and buy some flaxseed crackers and want to know exactly how much flax you are getting, there are three great ways (and many recipes) to add it to your diet: flaxseeds, ground flaxseeds (or flaxseed meal), and flaxseed oil. Whole flaxseeds provide minimal benefit because the intestines cannot break down the tough outer shell of the seed.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that serving sizes be kept to less than 5 tablespoons of whole flaxseed since they can contain certain toxins. Here are some great recipes to try out that are tasty, easy, and will get you a good boost of flax without going over the recommended daily amount.

1. Drink It!

Flaxseed can be consumed as simply as drinking it in some water. Put about a teaspoon of ground seeds into at least 8 ounces of water and let the seeds soak for at least 10 minutes. Then, drink the water the seeds have been soaking in as well as the seeds themselves. This is a great way to add them to your diet if you’re trying to get more fiber.

2. On Salads

You can sprinkle raw ground flaxseeds on salad. They have a slightly nutty flavor and since they don’t go soggy easily, they add great texture to salads.

You can also use flaxseed oil as a base for dressings. AmeriFlax has a couple of great dressing recipes that use a mix of flaxseed oil and olive oil. You can do a dressing of your own if you do one part olive oil to one part flaxseed oil to one part vinegar, and then whatever other flavors you want, like garlic or basil.

View the recipe.

3. Add It to Your Breakfast

Different types of flaxseed can be added to many different quick breakfast foods. You can sprinkle raw ground seeds on oatmeal or stir in some flaxseed oil. You can sprinkle raw ones on yogurt or mix in ground flaxseed or oil into your morning yogurt.

A delicious apple oatmeal recipe is one way to start.

View the recipe.

Also, pancakes are a favorite vehicle for flaxseed, and the below recipe includes whole-wheat flour and chia seeds, so you can really up your nutrition with this breakfast. Remember to use ground flax for maximum benefit.

View the recipe.

Or you can even roll your French toast in ground flaxseed before you put it in the skillet.

4. Put Flax in Smoothies and Juices

Smoothies are popular these days. That’s another superfood fad that can live up to its popularity if you add the right things to it. Like chia seeds, flaxseed added to smoothies can help thicken up the consistency.

View the omega-3 tummy tamer juice recipe.

View the super raw brain juice smoothie recipe.

5. Add It to Your Meat Recipes

One of my personal favorites is to add flaxseed to meat-based recipes and give them a boost of amazing nutrients. For example, it can be used both as a binder and a thickener in your meatball or meatloaf recipes.

It also makes a great crust for baked chicken. View the recipe.

6. No-Bake Energy Bites

Recipes for no-bake energy bars and bites are all over the Internet. Dry ingredients (oats, ground flaxseed, coconut flakes, chia seeds, etc.) are combined with a binding ingredient (honey, nut butter, etc.) and rolled into balls or into a pan and then cut.

They’re a wonderful homemade alternative to granola bars, and you can definitely satisfy a craving for sweets with these.

View the cinnamon raisin no-bake bites recipe.

View the oatmeal energy bites recipe.

7. Baked Goods

Ground flaxseed can go in any baked good recipe that you want to add that slight nutty flavor and extra nutrition to. You can reduce the flour in most recipes by 25 percent and replace it with ground flaxseed. Or you can find a flax-specific recipe, like one for gluten-free blueberry banana bread.

View the recipe.

8. Substitute Flaxseed for Eggs

For a flaxseed twist on any recipe, or a vegan twist for your baking recipes, replace one egg in any recipe with 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal and 3 tablespoons of water. Let it set for five to 15 minutes before using.

View the recipe.

9. Add It to Dip

Ground flaxseed retains a lot of its oil, so it stays pretty moist. It’s not a “dry” ingredient in the same way we typically think of them. Adding a tablespoon or two to most dips will thicken them and add flavor without just drying it out. Below is a recipe for overdrive mustard dip that specifically calls for flaxseed to get you started, but don’t be afraid to start with a teaspoon in any dip, mix, or taste, and see where it takes you.

View the recipe.

For those feeling particularly ambitious, you can make your own flaxseed crackers to go with any dip as well.

View the recipe.

The Takeaway

Flax is high in fiber, lignans, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s commonly used for digestive health and lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which may lower the risk of heart disease. One tablespoon of milled flax contains the same amount of magnesium as a banana, the same amount of potassium as a slice of pumpernickel, and vitamin E that functions as an antioxidant.

Flaxseeds contain high amounts of lignans, which act as phytoestrogens, or substances that partially mimic the hormone estrogen in the body. Though research is limited, it appears that these phytoestrogens are more beneficial than detrimental to the body, including reduction of cancer risk, blood pressure, and blood sugar regulation. Some with estrogen dominance or imbalanced hormones may need to reduce their flaxseed intake if symptoms arise.

With all those benefits — and possibly more, as the research isn’t all in on flax yet — and how easy it is to add it to your daily diet, how can you resist? 

Gretchen Stelter
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