Ground flaxseed: Better than whole?

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Ground flaxseed: Better than whole?

Question

Does ground flaxseed have more health benefits than whole flaxseed?

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Answer

Most nutrition experts recommend ground flaxseed because your body is better able to digest it. Whole flaxseed may pass through your intestine undigested, which means you won't get all the health benefits.

Flaxseed is high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and phytochemicals called lignans. Flaxseed is commonly used as a laxative (to improve digestive health or relieve constipation). Both flaxseed and flaxseed oil have been used to help reduce total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels and, as a result, may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Although flaxseed oil also contains omega-3 fatty acids, it doesn't have the beneficial fiber that the seeds have.

You can purchase raw flaxseed in bulk — whole or ground — at many grocery stores and health food stores. Whole seeds can be ground in a coffee grinder and then stored in an airtight container for several months. Refrigerating whole seeds may also extend their freshness.

Although the Institute of Medicine has not set a recommended daily intake for omega-3 fatty acids, it has established adequate intake amounts of between 1.1 and 1.6 grams a day for adults. One tablespoon of ground flaxseed provides 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.

Tips for including flaxseed in your diet:

  • Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your hot or cold breakfast cereal.
  • Add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to mayonnaise or mustard when making a sandwich.
  • Mix a tablespoon of ground flaxseed into an 8-ounce container of yogurt.
  • Bake ground flaxseed into cookies, muffins, breads and other baked goods.
Last Updated: 2010-01-19
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