Can You Eat Flax Seeds Whole?

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Flaxseed oil and ground flaxseed are both excellent additions for your diet.  Learn more about the benefits of flaxseed for your digestive health along with how the tiny seed can be incorporated into your meal plans. 

Flaxseeds are smaller in size compared to peppercorns, but provide your digestive health with tremendous benefits if they are included in your diet.  There are numerous benefits to flaxseed – nearly as numerous as the various ways that flaxseed oil and ground flaxseed can be included in your diet. 

The benefits offered by flaxseed include the following:  

  • They are a great omega-3 fatty acids source. 
  • Flaxseeds contain soluble fiber.  It is the kind of fiber that helps the digestive processes.  
  • Lignans are contained in flaxseeds, which are a beneficial kind of plant-derived substance.  There are oils contained in them that lubricate your system to promote digestive regularity.  
  • Flaxseeds, which are derived from flax plants, are a rich source of minerals and vitamins as well, which make them an excellent addition for your diet. 

Sheah L. Rarback, registered dietitian and Mailman Center for Child Development director at Florida’s University of Miami Mill School of Medicine, says that you want to have multi-functional things in your diet in terms of them containing micronutrients like minerals and vitamins.  

They also help with fiber and digestion.  Omega-3s are an extra benefit. They are anti-inflammatory.  The cause of a majority of chronic conditions and problems is inflammation. 

There are several different types of flaxseeds:

  • Flaxseed oil
  • Whole flaxseeds
  • Ground flaxseed meal

Any of them may be incorporated into your diet. However, there are some very important facts that you to need to know about how to best use flaxseeds in your diet: 

Rarback says to not use them whole.  It is essential to consume ground flaxseeds instead of whole flaxseeds.  If you try eating them whole, they just pass through your entire system without them being digested.  However, when they are ground, there are a great soluble fiber source, and that helps with elimination.  You can use a basic coffee grinder to grind a couple of tablespoons of whole flaxseed as needed.  

Refrigerate ground flaxseed meal and flaxseed oil. Products that contain flaxseed oil, like any oil, over time may become rancid (spoiled). When those foods are kept refrigerated it preserves them for a longer period of time. The smell will let you know when flaxseed products are beginning to go bad.  Although flaxseed oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acid, there is no fiber contained in it – so if your main concern is digestive benefits, choose ground flaxseeds.       

The following are some ideas for incorporating flaxseeds into your diet: 

  • Flaxseed meal can be used in your baking or added to dishes like meatloaf. 
  • Flaxseed oil can be added to your salad dressing.
  • Sprinkle ground flaxseed on your salad.
  • Stir ground flaxseed into juice.
  • Add ground flaxseed to hot or cold cereal. 

There isn’t a set recommendation for the amount of flaxseed that should be included in your diet.  However, there are recommendations for omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber.  

If you haven’t had much fiber previously in your diet and you begin increasing how much you consume, go slowly.  Be sure to drink plenty of water as you are adding sources of fiber like flaxseeds.  You need to drink plenty of water in order for fiber to do its best work. 

Rarback recognizes that may people are concerned about fat content and might avoid flaxseeds due to the fact that they contain fats also.  However, she states that the oils and fats in omega-3s are healthy and in very small quantities so that they won’t interfere with any low-fat diet plans.  Most of the fat in diet comes from meats, fatty animal products, processed foods, and fried foods – and doesn’t really come from adding flax.

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