It’s probably no news flash to you, but omega-3s have been one of the most talked about nutrients over the last few years. Several studies have placed these wonderful fatty acids at boosting a variety of the body’s vital functions. This may even extend to immune health.1
One unique and exceptional source of these wonderful nutrients is flaxseed. Edible both as a seed and as flaxseed oil, this plant is a great way to introduce omega-3s into your diet.
There are other plant-based omegas out there, like walnuts and canola oil, but flaxseed is among the best source.2,3 This is not only true in terms of nutrient content. Flaxseed also offers plenty of versatility. It can be included as part of a mealtime staple, a portable snack or even an addition to baked goods recipes.
When it comes to omega-3s, we know that they can be great for you. Studies on plant-based omegas show that they can support heart health, just like omegas from animal sources.4 Studies have also shown potential applications in other health areas as well.5
The reason that flaxseed stands above the alternatives in this category is quantity. At 7 grams per tablespoon, flaxseed is the richest source of ALA, by far. ALA, also known as alpha-linoleic acid, is the primary plant-based omega.6
Flaxseed is also a great source of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is an essential part of digestion, helping the body form and pass waste.7 It can also support healthy levels of blood sugar and cholesterol.8
Still on the fence? Flaxseed is especially helpful for filling gaps in special diets. For one, it’s gluten-free. Whether you have a sensitivity or are interested in following the trend, flaxseed is a staple of gluten-free artisan breads.9 In addition, it is also a great source of vegan protein, with 1.3 grams per tablespoon.10
Best of all, flaxseed counts for more when you eat it in terms of satiety. The combination of healthy fats and fiber means that people feel satisfied longer when eating flaxseed. This can lead to lower calorie consumption overall, which can help with weight management.11
Two Ways to Use Flaxseed
The first option is ground flaxseed. Flaxseed has a harder shell, or hull, than sesame and other similar seeds. Ground flaxseed involves grinding down the seed hulls, making them easier to eat. You can have your flaxseed coarse or fine, depending on what the recipe calls for.12 If you’re not interested in grinding your own flaxseed, you can use flaxseed meal.
The second option is flaxseed oil. The nice thing about flaxseed oil is that there’s little prep-work involved. However, you do lose the lignan and fiber content with this format.13 This is all the more reason for you to incorporate flaxseed into your diet in different ways.
As a note, some companies are jumping on the flaxseed bandwagon, incorporating it as a functional food ingredient. Keep an eye out on the shelf for foods with added flaxseed, including:
- Dry pasta products
Getting Flaxseed Into Your Diet
Here are some great ways to add flaxseed to your next meal:
1. Add it to water or a smoothie
If you’re in a rush and want the benefits of flaxseed, you can mix flax into water or juice. However, the strong taste may put you off. A more palatable way to get more flaxseed or flaxseed oil into your drink is incorporating in your post-workout or breakfast smoothie.15
2. Get baking.
Baking is probably the most common way to incorporate flaxseed into your diet. You can easily add ground flaxseed into muffins, bread, cookies, or cakes. It adds a nutty flavor.
3. Coat your proteins.
Trying to experiment with tempeh or tofu? Consider adding flaxseed to a crust for extra crunch, or use it as a coating for eggplant parmesan.15 You could either sprinkle it on when you are cooking or add it after you are done cooking for an extra crunchy factor.
4. Incorporate it in your favorite breakfast item.
Sprinkle flaxseed meal over cereal, oatmeal or yogurt to get a early morning dose of omegas and lignans with little effort.
5. Diversify your salad.
Who needs croutons (and the extra carbs!) when you can top your salad with flaxseed? This is a great way to combine flaxseed with healthy foods like kale or spinach. Try toasting them lightly for an extra boost of flavor.
6. Give your soups and stews a nutrient boost.
In the same vein as the salad idea above, a little garnish of flaxseed can provide a nutritious contrast of texture and nutty flavor. If you want to go a little heartier, considering stirring roughly a half to a full cup of flaxseed into stews or casseroles.
7. Get creative with your spreads.
If you’re planning a picnic, add a tablespoon of flaxseed to your sandwich spreads or dips, like hummus or guacamole. It adds a tasty twist to standard picnic or party eats.
8. Substitute for eggs.
Ideal for vegans: Flaxseed mixed with water can serve as an egg substitute in certain baking recipes.16
9. Create your own granola bars.
Homemade granola bars are a great, nutritious snack for the whole family. Add flaxseed, or ground flaxseed, to your favorite granola recipe.
10. Flaxseed oil for salad dressing.
Flaxseed oil isn’t commonly used as a cooking oil, but it can be used as a healthy alternative to salad dressing or as a dipping oil for bread. Simply drizzle some on, and enjoy.
Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil In Review
The popularity of omegas have helped the popularity of flaxseed, no doubt. However, even if you are taking an omega-3 supplement, there’s plenty of reasons to incorporate it in your diet — Whether you are using flaxseed meal, seeds, or oil, there’s a wide variety of ways to start reaping the benefits.17
Ryan Velez is a freelance writer and editor from New Jersey with a background in B2B journalism and natural health. Since picking up freelancing in 2015, he’s worked with clients across different fields and across the globe to create the content their audiences want to see. When not writing, he’s always trying to scope out a new restaurant to visit. Learn more about Ryan at his website, rrvelez.com.