Incorporating flaxseed into your diet is a simple yet powerful step towards enhancing your overall health. Whether you are aiming to support heart health, boost brain function, or maintain a healthy weight, the nutritional profile of flaxseed makes it a valuable addition to any well-balanced diet.
Medically reviewed by Jared Meacham, Ph.D., RD, PMP, MBA, CSCS — By Rachael Ajmera, MS, RD and Verena Tan, RD, PhD —
The Top 9 Health Benefits of Flaxseed
One serving of flaxseed provides a good amount of protein, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids. It may help lower the risk of some cancers, help maintain a health weight, and reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.
With its mild, nutty flavor and crisp, crunchy consistency, flaxseed is a versatile ingredient that can enhance the taste and texture of almost any recipe.
One way to use this seed is by mixing it into my morning smoothie. It also makes an excellent addition to pancake batter, homemade veggie burgers, and even overnight oats.
What’s more, it’s loaded with nutrients and linked to numerous benefits.
Here are 9 health benefits of flaxseed that are backed by science, along with some easy ways to increase your intake.
Flaxseed is one of the world’s oldest crops. There are two types, brown and golden, both of which are equally nutritious (1Trusted Source).
Just one serving provides a good amount of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids, along with several important vitamins and minerals.
One tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseed contains (2Trusted Source):
- Calories: 37
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Protein: 1.3 grams
- Thiamine: 10% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Copper: 9% of the DV
- Manganese: 8% of the DV
- Magnesium: 7% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 4% of the DV
- Selenium: 3% of the DV
- Zinc: 3% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 2% of the DV
- Iron: 2% of the DV
- Folate: 2% of the DV
Flaxseed is particularly high in thiamine, a B vitamin that plays a key role in energy metabolism as well as cell function. It’s also a great source of copper, which is involved in brain development, immune health, and iron metabolism (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
SUMMARYFlaxseed is a good source of many nutrients, including protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamine, and copper.
ALA is one of the two essential fatty acids that you must obtain from the food you eat since your body doesn’t produce them.
A recent study in 8,866 people tied increased ALA intake to decreased cholesterol levels and a lower risk of ischemic heart disease — which is related to narrowed arteries — and type 2 diabetes (7Trusted Source).
Numerous studies have also linked ALA to a lower risk of stroke. What’s more, one large review of 34 studies even associated increased ALA intake with a decreased risk of dying from heart disease (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10).
SUMMARYFlaxseed is rich in ALA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that may offer numerous benefits for heart health
Flaxseed is rich in lignans, which are plant compounds that have been studied for their potent cancer-fighting properties. Interestingly, this seed boasts 75–800 times more lignans than other plant foods (6Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that more research is needed in humans.
SUMMARYFlaxseed contains nutrients called lignans that may help decrease cancer growth. Some studies link this food to a lower risk of several types of cancer, but more research is needed.
Just 1 tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseed packs 2 grams of fiber, which is around 5% and 8% of the daily recommended intake for men and women, respectively (2Trusted Source).
What’s more, flaxseed contains two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble — which get fermented by the bacteria in your intestines to support gut health and improve bowel regularity (16Trusted Source).
While soluble fiber absorbs water in your intestines and slows down digestion, which may help regulate blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool, which may prevent constipation and promote regular bowel movements (16Trusted Source).
SUMMARYWith so much fiber packed into each tiny seed, flaxseed may help promote regular bowel movements and improve digestive health.
Flaxseed may also help lower cholesterol levels.
According to a 1-month study in people with peripheral artery disease, eating 4 tablespoons (30 grams) of milled flaxseed per day decreased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol by 15% (17Trusted Source).
A 12-week study in 112 people with high blood pressure had similar findings, reporting that 4 tablespoons (30 grams) of flaxseed per day led to significant reductions in body mass index (BMI), total cholesterol, and blood pressure (18Trusted Source).
These effects may be due to the fiber in flaxseed, which binds to bile salts before being excreted by your body. To replenish these bile salts, cholesterol is pulled from your blood into your liver, resulting in lower levels (19Trusted Source).
SUMMARYFlaxseed’s high fiber content may help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health.
A review of 15 studies found that supplementing with flaxseed products, including flaxseed powder, may significantly lower levels of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure — the top and bottom numbers on a reading, respectively (21Trusted Source).
This seed may be especially effective for those with high blood pressure levels. In fact, a small, 12-week study showed that taking 4 tablespoons (30 grams) of flaxseed per day reduced blood pressure in those with high levels (18Trusted Source).
Furthermore, according to a large review of 11 studies, taking flaxseed daily for more than 3 months may lower blood pressure levels by 2 mmHg (22Trusted Source).
SUMMARYFlaxseed may be especially useful for those with high blood pressure, as it may help lower this marker of heart health.
Flaxseed may stabilize blood sugar levels and promote blood sugar control.
According to a review of 25 studies, whole flaxseed may decrease blood sugar and prevent insulin resistance, a condition that impairs the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels effectively (24Trusted Source).
This blood-sugar-lowering effect may be due to this seed’s soluble fiber content. Research shows that soluble fiber slows the absorption of sugar in the blood, which may reduce blood sugar levels (6Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).
As such, flaxseed may be particularly helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.
Keep in mind that the benefits of flaxseed for blood sugar control apply mostly to whole flaxseed rather than flaxseed oil. This is because flaxseed oil lacks fiber (24Trusted Source).
SUMMARYFlaxseed may lower blood sugar due to its soluble fiber content. Thus, it’s a beneficial addition to your diet if you have type 2 diabetes.
Several studies suggest that flaxseed may aid weight management.
SUMMARYFlaxseed may help you feel full for longer, which may support weight management.
Both flaxseed and flaxseed oil are easy to use and can be added to a variety of recipes. Here are a few simple ways to increase your intake:
- Add flaxseed powder to water or sprinkle it into your smoothies.
- Drizzle flaxseed oil on fresh salads in place of salad dressing.
- Sprinkle ground flaxseed over hot or cold cereal for extra fiber and flavor.
- Mix flaxseed into your favorite yogurt.
- Give baked goods a healthy twist by mixing flaxseed into cookies, muffins, or breads.
- Combine flaxseed with a bit of water for a simple egg substitute.
- Incorporate flaxseed into meat or veggie patties next time you fire up the grill.
SUMMARYFlaxseed is versatile and easy to add to yogurt, salad, smoothies, baked goods, and numerous other foods.
Here are some tips for how to add these tiny seeds to your daily diet.
Consume ground seeds instead of whole
Ground flaxseed is much easier to digest than whole flaxseed. That’s partly because your intestines are unable to break down the tough outer shell of whole seeds.
That said, you can still buy whole flaxseed, grind it in a coffee grinder, and store the ground flaxseed in an airtight container for easy use.
What about flaxseed oil?
Flaxseed oil is usually produced by a process called cold pressing, which helps extract the oil from the seeds effectively (6Trusted Source).
Since this oil is very sensitive to heat and light, it’s best kept in dark glass bottles and stored in a dark, cool place like a kitchen cabinet (6Trusted Source).
Because some of its nutrients are heat sensitive, flaxseed oil isn’t suitable for high heat cooking methods, such as frying. Nevertheless, some studies show that light stir-frying of up to 350°F (177°C) didn’t cause any reduction in the oil’s quality (6Trusted Source).
It’s worth noting that flaxseed oil contains more ALA than ground flaxseed. Just 1 tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseed contains 1.6 grams of ALA, while 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of flaxseed oil boasts around 7 grams (2Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source).
Nonetheless, flaxseed contains a host of other beneficial nutrients that aren’t found in its oil, such as fiber. To fully reap this food’s health benefits, ground flaxseed should be your first choice.
How much do you need?
Many of the health benefits noted in the studies above were observed with just 1 tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseed per day.
However, it’s best to limit your intake to around 4–5 tablespoons (28–35 grams) of flaxseed per day — so you don’t get too much fiber — and enjoy as part of a healthy, balanced diet (30, 31Trusted Source).
SUMMARYGround flaxseed provides the greatest health benefits. If you use flaxseed oil, remember to store it in a cool, dark place and cook with it at low temperatures.
Although flaxseed is associated with many health benefits, there are a few downsides to consider.
For starters, keep in mind that ground flaxseed is high in fiber, with 2 grams packed into each tablespoon (7 grams). While fiber is beneficial, increasing your intake very quickly can lead to digestive issues, including gas and bloating (2Trusted Source, 30, 31Trusted Source).
Additionally, flaxseed may interact with several medications, including blood thinners and antiplatelet medications (35Trusted Source).
Because certain flaxseed compounds may mimic the effects of estrogen, those on hormone therapy or with hormone-sensitive cancers should talk with their doctor before adding it to their diet. You’re also advised to exercise caution if you’re pregnant or nursing (5Trusted Source).
SUMMARYFlaxseed is high in fiber and may cause digestive issues if eaten in high amounts. In rare instances, it may also produce an allergic reaction and may interact with certain medications.
Flaxseed is loaded with nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and beneficial plant compounds like lignans, all of which boast many potential health benefits.
This tiny seed may improve digestive health, protect against certain types of cancer, stabilize blood sugar levels, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
It’s also versatile, delicious, and easy to include in your diet.