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Ask Tufts Experts April 2018 Issue

Q. Does ground flaxseed have more health benefits than whole flaxseed?

A. Tianmeng (Tammy) Zhou, Dietetic Intern, Tufts Medical Center, explains: “Flaxseed has several components that are beneficial for human health. First, it contains a relatively large amount of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, which is recognized as essential for human health. Second, flaxseed is rich in dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Third, it has the highest content of lignans of all plant foods used for human consumption. (Lignans are plant chemicals that some have suggested may have anti-carcinogenic and anti-viral properties.) Flaxseed is also a good source of magnesium and several B vitamins.

“The main difference between whole and ground flax seeds is digestibility. When whole seeds are consumed, they may pass through your intestine undigested because the outer shell of a flaxseed contains insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water. Studies have shown that crushing and milling flaxseed make it more likely the components will be available to be absorbed. Thus, flaxseed should be cracked or ground in order to obtain its full nutritional value and health benefits. However, ground flaxseed loses its freshness more quickly than whole seeds, so it’s best to refrigerate whole flaxseeds and then crush or grind them in a coffee grinder as needed.”

Comments (3)

Ground flaxseed has been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Its effect on BP can be as good as some antihypertensive medications.

For a summary with references, see healthyflax.org/quadrant/media/files/pdf/HEAL.factsheet_hypertension.pdf
(for the record, I purchase and consume flaxseed but have no financial (or other) interests in the industry).

Posted by: DenisBH | April 3, 2018 3:41 PM    Report this comment

My apologies. For some reason unknown to me, the word "hypertension" in the URL above needs to be in capital letters. So, healthyflax.org/quadrant/media/files/pdf/HEAL.factsheet_HYPERTENSION.pdf

Posted by: DenisBH | April 3, 2018 4:14 PM    Report this comment

I'd never heard of using flaxseed oil for baking. It has a low smoke point of 225 degrees F., so higher temps than that will lead to a breakdown (flavor and nutrients) in the oil.

Regarding your last question, it is my understanding that flaxseed oil has no lignans nor (of course) any of the soluble or insoluble fiber found in flaxseed itself.

Posted by: DenisBH | April 3, 2018 9:36 PM    Report this comment

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